Greenberg, New York State Settle Long-Running Civil Case

One of Wall Street’s longest-running dramas closed Feb. 10 as New York State and Maurice “Hank” Greenberg finally ended a legal clash which began in 2005 under the stewardship of then Attorney General Elliot Spitzer.

Former American International Group, Inc. CEO Greenberg and the Attorney General’s office reached a settlement over accusations that the company engaged in fraudulent transactions to boost reserves and hide losses.

Greenberg, who was chairman and CEO of AIG from 1967 until his ouster in 2005 and now serves as chairman and CEO of C.V. Starr & Co., will pay some $9 million to end his role in the saga. Also, Howard Smith, former AIG CFO and Greenberg’s lieutenant will pay $900,000 to settle the charges stemming from two alleged transactions designed to misrepresent company finances.

This included a $500 million deal in the year 2000 with reinsurer General Re, part of businessman Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., to pad AIG’s loss reserves. Greenberg allegedly initiated the Gen Re deal with a call to the company’s CEO.

The two former AIG leaders were also said to be involved in a deal with Capco Reinsurance Co., which masked a $210 million underwriting loss as an investment loss.

The sums paid by the men are related to performance bonuses earned from 2001 to 2004, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who inherited the long-running conflict. Schneiderman sought to ban the men from the securities industry and from serving as directors and officers of public companies as part of the settlement, which ultimately did not include these provisions.

Schneiderman had previously dropped a $6 billion damage claim against Greenberg and others, once a class action settlement was approved in 2013 under which Greenberg paid $115 million to AIG shareholders.

A 2009 settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over charges related to AIG‘s accounting saw Greenberg pay $15 million and Smith $1.5 million to the agency.

Late last year Greenberg and the Attorney General’s office turned to mediation after trial testimony had already begun in state court. The mediation, which ultimately produced the settlement, was run by alternative dispute resolution specialist Kenneth Feinberg.

The finale to the case was perhaps more of a whimper than a bang, with settlements hardly headline-grabbing and no one admitting to much more than accounting slips.

In a press release from the N.Y. State Attorney General’s Office, Schneiderman sounded a triumphant tone. “Today’s agreement settles the indisputable fact that Mr. Greenberg has denied for 12 years: that Mr. Greenberg orchestrated two transactions that fundamentally misrepresented AIG’s finances,” Schneiderman said in the statement. “After over a decade of delays, deflections, and denials by Mr. Greenberg, we are pleased that Mr. Greenberg has finally admitted to his role in these fraudulent transactions and will personally pay $9 million to the State of New York.”

Greenberg, who was unapologetic, in his statement said, “The Gen Re transaction was done for the purpose of increasing AIG’s loss reserves, and the Capco transaction was done for the purpose of converting underwriting losses into investment losses. I knew these facts at the time that I initiated, participated in and approved these two transactions…As a result of these transactions, AIG’s publicly-filed consolidated financial statements inaccurately portrayed the accounting, and thus the financial condition and performance for AIG’s loss reserves and underwriting income.”

The pundits had their say as well, split as to what it all meant.

“The taxpayers of New York State should be furious,” said the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot, editorial page editor. “The $9 million fine amounts to pin money for Mr. Greenberg…It won’t come close to covering the state’s costs for pursuing the case over so many years…The real lessons of the Greenberg case start with the absurd lengths that progressive prosecutors will go to punish capitalists they don’t like,” Gigot said.

Mr. Greenberg’s lawyer David Bois called the deal with the Attorney General a “nuisance settlement,” according to the New York Times.

Others were less forgiving of Mr. Greenberg. “Just because he hasn’t pled guilty to fraud doesn’t mean he’s been vindicated,” David Schiff, a former insurance analyst who followed AIG, told the Times.

Can ORSA Work For All Businesses?

In addition to impacting the way countless organizations conduct business, the 2008 financial crisis was an awakening for regulators charged with reviewing and setting the rules that shape the way organizations assume risk. Insurance, perhaps the riskiest business of them all, did not go unscathed.

Not only are insurers responsible for managing their own internal risks, but careful calculations and guidelines are built into their business models to ensure that the risks fall within set parameters. Regulators will argue, however, that this wasn’t always the case.

Own Risk Solvency Assessment (ORSA) was adopted and now serves as an internal process for insurers to assess their risk management processes and make sure that, under severe scenarios, they remains solvent.

U.S. insurers required to perform an ORSA must file a confidential summary report with their lead state’s department of insurance.  The assessment aims to demonstrate and document the insurer’s ability to:

  • Withstand financial and economic stress with a quantitative and qualitative assessment of exposures
  • Effectively apply enterprise risk management (ERM) to support decisions
  • Provide insights and assurance to external stakeholders

While ORSA is requirement for insurers, a new study by RIMS and the Property Casualty Insurers Association, Communicating the Value of Enterprise Risk Management: The Benefits of Developing an Own Risk and Solvency Assessment Report, maintains that ORSA can be used for all organizations looking to strengthen their ERM function.

According to the report:

Whether or not required by regulation or standard-setting bodies, documenting the following internal practices is a worthwhile endeavor for any company in any sector to utilize in their goal to preserve and create value:

  • Enterprise risk management capabilities

  • A solid understanding of the risks that can occur at catastrophic levels related to the chosen strategy

  • Validation that the entity has adequately considered such risks and has plans in place to address those risks and remain viable.

The connection between the ORSA regulation imposed on insurers and the development of an ERM program within an organization outside of the insurance industry is apparent.

ORSA and ERM both require the organization to strengthen communication between business functions. Breaking down those silos are key to uncovering business risk, but perhaps more importantly, is the interconnectedness of those risks.

Secondly, similar to ERM in non-insurance companies, ORSA requires risk management to document its findings, processes and strategies. Such documentation allows for the process of managing risks to be effectively communicated to operations, senior leadership, regulators and stakeholders. Additionally, documentation enhances monitoring efforts, the ability to make changes to the program and is a benefit that allows ERM to reach a “repeatable” maturity level as defined by the RIMS Risk Maturity Model.

Developing an ERM program has become a priority for many organizations as senior leaders recognize the value of having their entire organization thinking, talking and incorporating risk management into their work. Examining and implementing ORSA strategies can be an effective way for risk professionals to get their ERM program off the ground and operational.

2016 Ends with 1% Average Rate Reduction

The year ended with few surprises in commercial insurance pricing in the United States, after 2016 started out with a composite rate decrease of 4%. In ms-barometerApril, rates began to moderate and continued reductions of 1% to 2% per month. The year closed with a composite rate reduction of 1%, according to MarketScout.

While the soft market has been going for 16 months, that period seems longer because for the first eight months of 2016, the composite rate was flat to plus 1% before dropping into negative territory, MarketScout said.

“We have been tracking commercial property and casualty rates since 2001. Generally, the soft or hard market cycles last at least three years,” Richard Kerr, CEO of MarketScout, said in a statement. “We expect more moderate rate reductions for the coming year for all but a few lines of business.” An increase in interest rates could accelerate rate reductions, he added.

By coverage classification, commercial property moderated in December, from down 3% to down 2%. Workers’ compensation rates dropped from down 1% to down 2%. EPLI and crime were the only coverages that saw rate increases—both lines of coverage went up by 1% to up 2%. The composite rate for all other coverages was unchanged.
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By account size, there were no changes from November to December 2016.
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By industry classification, contractors adjusted from down 1% to flat. Transportation accounts saw ongoing rate increases across the board, jumping from up 3% in November to up 5% in December.
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Annual Report Card Finds Vermont Has the Best Insurance Regulatory System

Examining a matrix of variables affecting a state’s insurance regulations, the R Street Institute determined that Vermont has the best regulatory system for insurance and that vermontNorth Carolina has the worst, according to the Insurance Regulation Report Card.

The annual report grades each state across seven dimensions. The three fundamental questions the report seeks to answer are:

1. How free are consumers to choose the insurance products they want?

2. How free are insurers to provide the insurance products consumers want?

3. How effectively are states discharging their duties to monitor insurer solvency and foster competitive, private insurance markets?

“We believe states should regulate only those market activities where government is best-positioned to act; that they should do so competently and with measurable results; and that their activities should lay the minimum possible financial burden on policyholders, companies and, ultimately, taxpayers,” Senior Fellow R.J. Lehmann said in a statement.

According to the report:

The insurance market is both the largest and most significant portion of the financial services industry to be regulated almost entirely at the state level. While state banking and securities regulators largely have been preempted by federal law in recent decades, Congress reserved to the states the duty of overseeing the “business of insurance” as part of 1945’s McCarran-Ferguson Act. On balance, we believe states have done an effective job of encouraging competition and, at least since the broad adoption of risk-based capital requirements, of ensuring solvency. As a whole and in most individual states, U.S. personal lines markets are not overly concentrated. Insolvencies are relatively rare and, through the runoff process and guaranty fund protections enacted in nearly every state, generally quite manageable. However, there are certainly ways in which the thicket of state-by-state regulations leads to inefficiencies, as well as particular state policies that have the effect of discouraging capital formation, stifling competition and concentrating risk. Central among these are rate controls.

For the third straight year, the report found that Vermont had the best insurance regulatory environment in the United States, receiving the only A+ score. Other states receiving either an A or A- were Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Utah and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, North Carolina had the worst score, receiving a failing grade for the third year in a row. States ranking a D include Alaska, Massachusetts, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota and New York.

R Street found the most significant shift to be the continued expansion of North Carolina’s two property insurance residual market entities, even as Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance Corp.—previously the nation’s largest residual market entity—has continued to shrink.

“Not coincidentally, when R Street issued its first regulation report card in 2012, Florida ranked dead last and North Carolina was somewhere in the middle. This year, North Carolina is dead last and Florida is somewhere in the middle,” Lehmann wrote.