Congress Overwhelmingly Passes TRIA Bill

After a last-minute failure by the Senate to pass the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) in December, the bill was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate on Jan. 8, with a vote of 93 to 4. The House of Representatives had voted 416 to 5 to pass TRIA in December. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature.

H.R. 26, which is the same as last year’s amended S. 2244, reauthorizes TRIA through the end of 2020. Under the six-year extension, starting in 2016, there will be phased-in increases to the program’s trigger, raising it from $100 million to $200 million in annual aggregate insured losses, and the insurer co-share will be raised from 15% to 20%. The bill also phases in an increase in the aggregate amount of insured terrorism losses that must be borne by the private sector from the current $27.5 billion to $37.5 billion. Taxpayer dollars to fund those losses would be recouped post-event.

Several industries were quick to praise TRIA’s passage, as the Senate’s failure to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act in December left insurance buyers facing renewals on terrorism coverage with unanswered questions.

The Commercial Real Estate Development Association (NAIOP) praised the bill’s passage, saying, “This is sound policy because it enables insurers and private sector capital to provide coverage for losses that otherwise would fall upon the taxpayer. This vital security blanket could help save billions of dollars that would otherwise be spent in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Renewing TRIA for six years represents a major victory for the commercial real estate industry and the millions of jobs and economic growth it supports. Today’s vote gives developers the peace of mind to invest in an industry that contributed $376 billion to GDP last year, supported 2.8 million jobs, and produced $120 billion in personal earnings.”

The Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism (CIAT) said in a statement, “CIAT members are pleased the Senate has acted quickly to approve TRIA reauthorization as one of the first orders of business in the new Congress. We commend Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid for their leadership in seeing this critical legislation through to completion, and are encouraged by the strong bipartisan support for reauthorization in both chambers.”

Marsh & McLennan said it “applauds the new Congress for its swift reauthorization of this critically important public-private partnership, which will help to ensure a reliable marketplace for terrorism coverage in the event of attack. We are pleased that TRIPRA directs the Treasury Department to review the protocols for certification which would help to protect the nation’s economic security in the event of a terrorist attack.”

Leigh Ann Pusey, president and CEO of the American Insurance Association (AIA), said in a statement that the “terrorism risk insurance program will remain in place protecting our nation’s economy, policyholders and taxpayers. Congress’ timely reauthorization of TRIA will preserve a well-functioning private terrorism insurance marketplace.” She added, “As with previous TRIA reauthorizations, the primary responsibility for financial recovery is placed on the private sector in all but the most catastrophic of events.

“Congress’ bipartisan action on TRIA this week will help ensure the continued availability of terrorism risk insurance, providing stability for the broad range of businesses of all sizes that depend on this essential coverage,” noted the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT). “We strongly urge President Obama to sign this legislation into law at the earliest opportunity.”

ISO announced that it is filing revised terrorism forms in response to passage of the act. The revised forms will be for insurer use in most states shortly after President Obama signs the bill, known as the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2015.

Insurance Industry ‘Disappointed’ by Senate’s Non-Renewal of TRIA

Last week’s optimism about the possible reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act was replaced by “disappointment” today, as the insurance industry sounded off about the Senate’s failure to pass the House-approved TRIA bill before adjourning. TRIA, the federal insurance backstop that requires insurers to offer terrorism insurance coverage to policyholders, is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2014. More than 60 percent of all U.S. businesses purchase terrorism insurance coverage, according to Marsh USA.

“A major terrorist attack occurring without a TRIA law on the books will be far more disruptive to the U.S. economy than one where TRIA is in place,” Robert Hartwig, Ph.D., president of the Insurance Information Institute and economist said in a statement. “Terrorism insurance policies are going to lapse in 2015, and insurers will be under no obligation to renew them, adversely impacting the construction, energy and real estate industries, among others. For instance, a theatre owner hosting a controversial movie premiere on Christmas Day may have insurance coverage for losses triggered by an act of terrorism but this same business might not have it if a comparable attack were to occur on New Year’s Day.”

The Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism (CIAT) spokesperson Marty DePoy said, “CIAT is incredibly disappointed that the Senate chose to adjourn without reauthorizing the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, a program that since 9/11 has provided critical stability to the marketplace against another terrorist attack. This is a bipartisan failure; the 113th Congress has let down American workers, American businesses and jeopardized U.S. economic and national security. CIAT urges the new Congress to make TRIA reauthorization its top priority in January and immediately vote to extend the program for the long-term.”

RIMS President Carolyn Snow echoed disappointment. “We are extremely disappointed that Congress failed to pass an extension of TRIA, despite strong bipartisan support. The program’s expiration will have many negative repercussions for commercial insurance consumers, the countless organizations they represent and the U.S. economy as a whole.”

She noted that since its inception, “TRIA has stabilized the marketplace by providing adequate capacity at affordable rates. Its expiration will almost certainly cause rates to rise, placing many lending agreements in jeopardy and forcing some organizations to self-insure or simply go without.”

Leigh Ann Pusey, president and CEO of the American Insurance Association (AIA), said AIA is “incredibly disappointed,” adding that by letting TRIA lapse, “Congress has failed to protect taxpayers and the economy.”

She said, “Without TRIA in place on Jan. 1, insurers will be forced to assess their exposures. The program’s lapse will significantly jeopardize the terrorism insurance marketplace that currently protects our nation’s economy against major acts of terrorism. We strongly urge the new Congress to take up the House-Senate negotiated TRIA reauthorization package as its first item of business when it returns in January in order to minimize marketplace disruptions.”

Global risk advisor, Willis expressed disappointment as well, noting that its biggest concern is that Clients “will need help in reevaluating their risk exposures according to the changed environment where TRIA is no longer available as a back stop for the insurance market place. Of particular concern is where clients have loan covenants that determine the type and amount of terrorism insurance coverage that is required.”

Mike Becker, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents observed, “Disagreement won the day and politics took precedence over protecting the American people. There was overwhelming bipartisan support to renew TRIA, with both parties showing strong leadership to get a compromise deal done in recent weeks. That support was nearly unanimous, with the House approving the TRIA renewal deal 417-7 last week, and the Senate having already passed a similar version 93-4 last July.”

Snow concluded, “RIMS and many other organizations have been pushing Congress to pass an extension for the past two years but Congress senselessly ignored those concerns and waited until the very last moment. This delay has ultimately led to the worst possible outcome.”

Key Differences Remain Between House and Senate on TRIA Extension

As the December 31, 2014 expiration of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act inches closer, both chambers of Congress are moving forward with their version of a long-term extension. The Senate is expected to pass its version of an extension as early as Thursday while the House Financial Services Committee approved its version of an extension along party lines on June 20th. The House proposed extension would make substantial changes to TRIA that can be seen in the following table:

House Republicans Draft TRIA Proposal Could Mean Big Changes to Come

Last week, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Chairman of the House Insurance Subcommittee, released to his fellow Republicans a draft proposal to extend the federal terrorism insurance program. That proposal, now made public, would bring drastic changes to a program that has helped to stabilize the market since its 2002 creation. At this point, the proposal is only in outline form with bill language expected over the next few weeks.

The proposal, entitled the Terrorism Risk Insurance Modernization Act of 2014, would extend the TRIA program for only three years while significantly increasing the program trigger limit to $500 million from $100 million, for non-NBCR events, and reducing the annual government assistance cap from $100 billion to $75 billion. The government’s co-share of losses would decrease from its current 85% to 75% beginning in 2017, for non-NBCR events. The government’s responsibility and trigger would remain the same for NBCR certified acts.

The industry has been expecting adjustments to be made to TRIA, upon its extension; however, the numbers included in the Republican proposal are more drastic than many envisioned. Beyond concerns with the changes to the program trigger and co-share percentages, there are additional concerns with language in the proposal allowing for small insurers to opt-out and an implication that domestic terrorism events would no longer be covered by the program. The requirement that insurers offer terrorism coverage is the backbone of the program, and allowing some insurers to opt-out of offering such coverage could lead to reduced capacity and higher prices for consumers. Excluding domestic terrorism would also be a mistake, as history has shown us that terrorists can come from inside and outside the United States.

If there is a positive in the House Republican proposal, it is in changes to the certification process. Many industry groups, including RIMS, have been asking for a timeline for events to be certified as “acts of terrorism.” The proposal includes a deadline of 90 days.

The House Republican proposal is a far cry from the recent Senate agreement. That bi-partisan legislation, S.2244, would extend the program for seven years while making much smaller adjustments to the program. If both chambers pass bills along current lines, then the conference committee would have a lot of work to do in order to rectify the two pieces of legislation into a compromise extension.