Reputational Crises Put CEOs at Risk

When reputational crises hit, market cap, sales, margins and profits are all on the line. And these situations are becoming more frequent—and more costly—than ever, with a recent study showing an increase in losses from reputational attacks increasing by more than 400% in the past five years.

But it is not only the corporate entity facing challenges, individuals in leadership—particularly CEOs—face personal risk as well. It has become clear that CEOs need tools to protect themselves as well as their companies’ reputations. Since damage from reputational attacks takes place in the court of public opinion, traditional liability solutions, such as directors and officers coverage, are not effective. But new tools are available in the form of a reputation assurance solution that can help deter attacks from even happening and bundled insurances to mitigate the damage when they do occur.

Research by Steel City Re has found that:

  • Financial losses related to reputational attacks have increased by more than 400% in the past five years, a trend that continues.
  • There is an increase in public anger and, as a result, more blame is being cast upon recognizable targets, such as CEOs.
  • Anger by stakeholders is fueled by disappointment—the gap between expectations and reality—which is all too often fueled by the company’s own actions.

Against that backdrop, the turnover rate among CEOs is increasing, with 58 of the S&P 500’s CEOs transitioning out of their jobs in 2016 according to SpencerStuart (although not all as a result of reputational crises). That is the highest number since 2006, a 13% increase over 2015, and a 57% increase over 2012.

If that weren’t enough reason for concern, history shows that when strong companies and their brands come under fire, their reputations eventually recover, despite the initial and medium-term impacts. Individual reputations of those companies’ leadership are not nearly as resilient, however, especially at a time when society; be it the media, social media, politicians or direct stakeholders; seems intent on personifying crises and affixing blame on individuals in positions of authority. And for CEOs, a reputational crises can affect their career and compensation for many years ahead.

In this environment, it is essential that risk managers understand the tools that are available to protect both companies and senior executives personally. Serving as a third-party warranty and available only to highly qualified insureds, reputation insurance attests to the efficacy of the company’s governance and operational practices, as adopted and overseen by the board and implemented by the CEO. Such coverage can deter reputational attacks in much the same way as a security sign on the front lawn deters burglars. It is a sign of quality governance. And when incidents do occur, it provides a built in alternative narrative to counter the attacks that are bound to occur. Finally, it gives the company and key individuals financial indemnification to mitigate any damage that ultimately does take place.

Just as “doing the right thing” did not protect directors and officers from liability in the era before the wide adoption of D&O insurance, it is no guarantee that attacks in the court of public opinion won’t take a significant financial toll. But it is one of the few solutions proven in the court of public opinion. In today’s culture, reputations are in jeopardy as never before and risk managers must utilize all tools available to protect those on the front lines.

Lessons from Distracted Driving Awareness Month

June is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and while it is quickly drawing to a close, the message remains: Distracted driving is escalating, with 25% more vehicle accidents resulting from drivers talking or texting on cellphones. More cars on the road, especially during summer months, also translates to more accidents.

Organizations with fleets should take note as motor vehicle crashes are the number-one cause of work-related deaths, accounting for 24% of all fatal occupational injuries, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). On-the-job crashes are also costly, with employers sustaining costs of more than $24,500 per property damage crash and $150,000 per injury crash.

Zurich sums up NSC statistics:
Employers can and are being held liable for damages resulting from employee accidents. “We might expect an employer to be held liable for a crash involving a commercial driver’s license holder who was talking on a cell phone with dispatch about a work-related run at the time of an incident—especially if the employer had processes or a workplace culture that made drivers feel compelled to use cell phones while driving,” the NSC said.

The lines believed to exist between employment-related and personal or private life get blurred in some cases involving:

  • Cell phones owned by employees as well as employer-provided equipment
  • Vehicles that were employee-owned as well as employer-owned or leased
  • Situations where employees were driving during non-working hours or were engaged in personal phone calls

To protect themselves and their employees, the NSC recommended that organizations implement and enforce a total ban policy.

“The best practice is to prohibit all employees from using any cell phone device while driving in any vehicle during work hours or for work-related purposes. Regarding off-the-job hours, precedent has been set by lawsuits. Thus employers may want to extend their policies to cover off-the-job use of company-provided wireless devices, use of personally-owned devices that are reimbursed by the company, and use of devices in company-provided vehicles. All work-related cell phone use while driving should be banned 24/7,” the NSA advised.

Companies should also pay attention to other common distractions that can lead to accidents, Zurich adds:

Lloyd’s Plans for Post-Brexit Subsidiary

Just one day after the U.K. set in motion its process for withdrawal from the European Union by triggering Article 50, Lloyd’s announced it was establishing a subsidiary in Brussels, intending to be able to write EU business for the Jan. 1, 2019, renewal season.

The new company will write risks from all 27 European Union countries and three European Economic Area states once Brexit is completed. Because Britain remains a full member of the EU for at least two more years, there will be no immediate impact on existing policies, renewals or new policies, including multi-year policies written during this period of time, the insurer said. The Brussels subsidiary will have its own board of directors and, unlike some banks that have said they will move hundreds of employees to the EU, it will only employ dozens of staff in areas such as information technology and compliance.

Hank Watkins, president of Lloyd’s North America spoke to Risk Management about the company’s plans and the why it chose Belgium as its new location.

RM: How did the process of finding a new EU base begin?

Watkins: Within a week or two of [the Brexit vote] last June, Lloyd’s was on its way, looking across Europe for a new domicile, if you will, for our European business. We are not moving out of London—what we have done is set up an insurance company in Brussels, purely to allow us to passport around the European Union. Because we are not necessarily confident that the U.K. will be able to negotiate passporting rights with the other countries, we are assuming they are not. If they are ultimately successful, then we will just close up and go back home, but that probably will not be the case.

RM: How will the subsidiary work?

Watkins: If you are a policyholder with Lloyd’s, where you previously would have received a policy with all of the syndicates subscribed to it, and that would have been stamped by each of those syndicates, you will also receive an identical policy for the European exposures. It will have the Lloyd’s insurance company name on it and the syndicate stamp of that insurance company and the Lloyd’s syndicates. It is just a little more paperwork for us. The policy is the same—it does not change coverage and it does not change pricing—It is more of an administrative effort to align with what the regulator expects. And our ratings are not affected, we are still S&P-, AM Best- and Fitch-rated A or better and the central fund is still very strong.

RM: Why Belgium?

Watkins: We found a regulator there who is allowing us basically to cede 100% of the premium and the risk back to the syndicate in London. Every other country has some variation of wanting to maintain part of the risk in their country but that does not work for us. So Belgium is a very strong regulator centered in the heart of Europe and a great talent pool as we build out the platform—which won’t be that large, by the way, because we are not necessarily moving people there.

RM: How will insureds be impacted?

Watkins: Companies with no risks in the European Union will see no impact, and it will be seamless for international companies with risks in the EU. Also, it is probably not as well known, but because we are not just large, commercial risks, we do insure a lot of homeowners on the coastlines and a number of private yachts and aircraft, so this is a way to seamlessly include coverage for them in Europe as well.

More Insurers Opting to Form EU Subsidiaries

A growing list of insurers are choosing to form subsidiaries in the European Union to ensure continuous coverage for their European clients following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU in June 2016. They wish to protect themselves in case Brexit impacts their ability to sell insurance policies and products across the EU from bases in Britain.

FM Global recently announced it is opening an office in Luxembourg, noting that the license allows it to “continue to deliver seamless insurance coverage to its policyholders” throughout the European Economic Area (EEA), where it has operated for more than 50 years.

“We chose Luxembourg as our EEA hub because it’s a multinational business-friendly financial center with regulatory expertise that enables us to remain true to our mutual insurance company business model,” Chris Johnson, executive vice president who will serve as its managing director said in a statement. “Most notably, Luxembourg is a hub that permits EU passporting—which fits our business model perfectly.”

Lloyd’s said in March it will establish an EU base in Brussels that will allow its markets to continue to write risks from all 27 EU and three European Economic Area states post-Brexit. “It is important that we are able to provide the market and customers with an effective solution that means business can carry on without interruption when the U.K. leaves the EU,” Lloyd’s Chief Executive Inga Beale said in a statement. She added that Brussels met the critical elements of providing a robust regulatory framework in a central location.

Lloyd’s said its intention is to be ready to write business for the Jan. 1, 2019, renewal season.

U.S. insurer AIG also announced recently that it is moving its headquarters from London to Luxembourg; and Lloyd’s insurer Hiscox said in May that it has decided to establish a subsidiary in Luxembourg, after debating between Luxembourg and Malta.

Luxembourg has said that as well as insurers, it is in talks with firms including asset managers, banks and financial tech companies.