Zombieland

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It’s a little unfortunate that months and years of good work to close the gap at the NAIC, and with others, on the misconceptions of the regulation of Risk Retention Groups can be set back in what amounts to an instant.

As many of you know, with the hard work and leadership of Sandy Bigglestone and Christine Brown of Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation, and Sean O’Donnell of the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, there was much progress on creating a common regulatory approach to RRGs and educating non-domiciliary states to that end under the auspices of the NAIC’s RRG Task Force.

Over the past year, the Task Force has been working diligently to provide additional guidance to both state insurance regulators and industry regarding the registration process for RRGs in non-domestic states. The process started last year with a letter from the National Risk Retention Association (NRRA) citing concerns regarding fees and delays in the review of registration forms, supported by a letter from the VCIA. The discussion that followed also raised concerns from non-domiciliary states, such as incomplete registration forms or potentially non-compliant RRGs. As a result, a drafting group was formed to develop frequently asked questions (FAQ) and best practices documents, and updates to the NAIC Uniform Risk Retention Group Registration Form, which made great progress toward the goal.

Unfortunately, in response to a bill that would expand the Liability Risk Retention Act to allow certain, narrowly defined, RRGs to provide property, zombie tropes about how well RRGs are regulated rose again from the grave. The NAIC sent a letter opposing H.R. 4523, the Nonprofit Property Protection Act, and stated in the letter “RRGs have historically had a higher insolvency rate when compared to admitted insurers.”  The letter was signed by the current NAIC president-elect, Ray Farmer, Director of South Carolina Department of Insurance, among others.

As a joint response from VCIA, CICA and NRRA pointed out, this is simply untrue.  According to a study conducted by the Risk Retention Reporter, which uses data from A.M. Best for the period 1987 to 2017, RRGs had a yearly insolvency rate of 1.2% as opposed to 1.5% for the entire property-casualty and life and health marketplace.  In brief, RRGs during this 30-year period were less likely to become insolvent that traditional carriers.

It is noteworthy that the NAIC did not cite any authority for its conclusion.  And at the actual hearing for the bill this week Chlora Lindley-Myers, Director of the Missouri Department of Commerce & Insurance, repeated the claim – again with no backup data!  RRGs are subject to a different regulatory regime than traditional insurers, but that does not mean that the standard is “lower”. RRG regulation by the domiciliary state is subject to the accreditation process by the NAIC itself.

I hope this does not mean a complete move backward at the NAIC regarding RRGs. I have immense faith in Vermont’s regulators, and other allies in the industry, to keep pushing forward – and finally burying these long-discredited zombies.

To view a copy of the joint letter click here.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

And We Are Off!

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Thanks to all of you who joined us for another successful VCIA Legislative Day this week at Vermont’s State House in bustling Montpelier! Our members, including many who came from afar, got to hear from Vermont’s new Secretary of Commerce Lindsay Kurrle, as well as Vermont’s Commissioner of Financial Regulation Mike Pieciak during our luncheon. Later in the day our members met and heard from Vermont’s Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, and House Minority Leader Patty McCoy. Although these dignitaries represent different parties under the Gold Dome, what they do have in common is their unwavering support of the captive insurance industry in Vermont.

At our luncheon, special guest economist Jeff Carr unveiled a recently completed economic contribution study of the captive insurance industry in Vermont. Suffice it to say that this industry is a tiny powerhouse here in Vermont! Immediately following, the folks from DFR provided a Q & A session for our members on recent updates and activities at the department. We provided a live stream via Facebook for our members.

In the afternoon, we testified before the House Commerce Committee, where Vermont’s Director of Financial Services, Ian Davis, and I gave updates on VCIA and the state of the industry. New VCIA Board Member, Tracy Hassett, President of EdHealth, did a terrific job describing her organization and the reasons they formed a captive in Vermont. In Senate Finance, Ian and I repeated our testimony and Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost concluded with a review of this year’s captive bill, S-255.

The great news is that the following day, Senate Finance voted out the bill 7-0 clearing the first hurdle in the legislative process. There are several sections of the bill, including lowering the minimum capital for sponsored captives from $250,000 to $100,000. The bill also proposes to expand to sponsored cell captives what we passed last year to all captives: provide flexibility in investments by giving companies the option to follow the old rules or develop a plan for DFR approval. Finally, the bill proposes to clarify disclosure requirements for agency captives – we may have been too prescriptive in the disclosure requirement built into the statute when passed last year.

Please click here to access a copy of the bill.

Thank you again to all of you who participated, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Mixy Business

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Many thanks to all you who joined us Wednesday night for VCIA’s annual Holiday Mixer. We had around 120 of nearest and dearest friends attend at the Hilton taking time to greet and socialize with fellow VCIA members on a cold and ultimately snowy Vermont evening.

Many thanks to our sponsors of the event: our friends at Crowe right up the street, and the folks of NAMIC Insurance Solutions (NAMICO) who came all the way from Indianapolis! Tim Sullivan, Kristen Strasser, and Ted Doughman braved the “friendly” skies to join us.  It is one of my favorite nights of the year, when friends come together with no agenda except to enjoy each other’s company as we head into the holiday season.

I also want to congratulate David Guerino as SVP & Managing Director of KeyState Captive Management.  Dave was there with some of his fellow KeyState colleagues as well, Jeff Vigne and Alicia Huskes. KeyState is a relatively new VCIA member and just announced plans to establish an office in Burlington, Vermont in early 2020.

Thank you again and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

 

Taxing Talk

2019-tax-panelJoin us next week As VCIA presents its annual captive taxation update! On December 12th, a group of noted captive tax specialists will inform you of the latest 2019 tax developments impacting captive insurers. Our panel will provide details on specific tax authorities and court rulings released over the past year to provide further insight into the ever-shaping landscape of captive taxation. The panel will also explore the latest changes from the U.S. Tax Reform bill enacted a couple of years ago, its impact on captives, and how best to plan for year-end.

Our panelists will be Saren Goldner, Partner at Eversheds Sutherland, Kristen Hazel, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery, and Alicia Miller, Tax Senior at Crowe.  Each of these experts are considered respective authorities of captive taxation in their various capacities, and all are members of firms who have a strong presence in the captive industry and work tirelessly for the benefit of all.

This webinar offers a great opportunity for all stakeholders to keep up with the latest tax developments in efforts to make informed decisions at the highest level of corporate governance for your captive.  You will walk away learning about recent changes from the U.S. Tax Reform bill that will affect the status of captive insurers; Washington State’s recent approach toward taxing captive entities and some results of recent court cases;  the basics of Johnson & Johnson’s successful appeal in its $55 million NJ Self Procurement Tax Refund Case; recent developments involving insurance characterization, including risk pools and alternative premium characterization; and the IRS’s continued focus on smaller captive insurance companies and understand best practices learned from the cases in this area.

Click here for more information. I hope you will be able to join us!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

On The Road Again…

Richie-NelsonVCIA is on the road again, coming to Boston on November 14 at the Seaport Hotel & Conference Center for our “world famous” VCIA Captive Road Show, where we preach the gospel of captive insurance in cities across the U.S. (and will even be presenting in Mexico City next year!)

The VCIA Road Show is an excellent chance to learn about captive insurance and enjoy a great reception afterwards, to connect with others in the industry.

The educational session will feature representatives from two captive programs, who will share their experiences.  Tracy Hassett, SPHR, is President and CEO of Educators Health, LLC where she played a key role in the launch of edHEALTH, a unique entity, a first of its kind consortium of colleges and universities with the mission of reducing health care costs while enhancing consumer knowledge of options, plan design, disease management and wellness programs. Gail Newman, Vice President of Risk Management for Bright Horizons Family Solutions is our second captive owner panelist. Gail’s program excels in providing best-in-class family-care solutions across North America, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and India. Gail is passionate about business process improvements and creating risk mitigation strategies that not only support healthy financials and the “right” insurance program, but also keep employees and clients of the business safe. With the inception of Bright Horizon’s captive (APEX) in 2017, the business has been able to realize better flexibility and financial health for their insurance program and innovate insurance coverage strategies that are unique to the business.

Others all-stars presenting that day will be:  Michael O’Malley, managing director for Strategic Risk Solutions; Dave Provost, Vermont’s Deputy Commissioner of Captive Insurance; and Ian Davis, Director of Financial Services for the State of Vermont.

If you are in the Boston area, I hope you will be able to join us! Click here for more information and to register.

Thank you very much, I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

It’s Your Reputation on the Line

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On Monday, August 19, a group of high-powered American executives, including seven of the large commercial insurers, published a statement on the role of shareholders in corporate governance that departs sharply from tradition.  The “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” put forth by the Business Roundtable asserts that corporations have greater obligations beyond generating profits for shareholders. In short, they are responsible for creating better lives for all their stakeholders.  Putting these parties first and treating them ethically is ultimately what keeps businesses going and the economy growing.

Shareholders have long been corporations’ top priority because disappointing them means withdrawal of their investment at best, and at worst, the potential for securities class action lawsuits. Businesses now operate in an environment of heightened reputation risk that has a tangible impact on income statements. Loss of customer loyalty and diminished brand value are real consequences of social irresponsibility, and these ultimately impact revenue and profit.  As important as the change in priority might be overall, it will add to the growing reputational risk profile of every organization.  That is one of the main reasons VCIA is hosting a webinar on reputational risk and how captive programs can help mitigate it, on October 23rd.

It can be said that reputation is a product of expectations. Often misunderstood and inadequately addressed, reputation risk is the peril of economic harm from leaving stakeholders disappointed and angry. Negative media and social media coverage are often a byproduct, amplifying that disappointment and anger. When reputational crises occur, they impact businesses commercially and financially, and their leadership personally. The August 2019 Business Roundtable declaration raises the stakes.

A captive program can be an effective vehicle for insuring reputational risk. A captive is in the unique position of being able to fund potential losses associated with stakeholder anger and disappointment, and by doing so signal to key stakeholders (employees, creditors & analysts, and regulators) that the company’s governance apparatus is very aware of the peril, and is confident that it is managing the risk well. And if the captive is at least partially reinsured in the open market, it then also demonstrates that an objective third-party has reviewed the company’s practices and is essentially “warrantying” the company’s governance.

So, join us on October 23rd for our webinar featuring Dr. Nir Kossovsky, CEO of Steel City Re, a leading source of integrated reputation risk mitigation solutions and insurances, and Machua Millett, Chief Innovation Officer for FINPRO U.S. and the General Partner Liability Product Leader at Marsh.  Ably moderated by Maigh Wright, an associate actuary with Milliman, this webinar is guaranteed to burnish your reputation!

Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

10-Day Countdown

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Just ten days until we open Burlington, Vermont to all you captive insurance professionals! If you have not already done so, please make plans to join us for a week of wonderful education, networking and friendship.

Here is just a smattering of some of the captive owners who will be presenting this year:

  • Andrew Baillie, AES of Global Insurance Company
  • Sean Barnes of United Educators
  • Julie Bordo of PCH Mutual Insurance Co., Inc., a RRG
  • Tracy Hassett of Educators Health Insurance Exchange of New England
  • Tim Herr of Recreation Risk Retention Group
  • Karen Hsi of the University of California
  • Jan Klodowski of Agri-Services Agency LLC & Agrisurance Inc.
  • Troy LePage of HAI Group
  • Heather McClure of Oklahoma University Medical
  • Bill Murray of Church Insurance
  • Tim Padovese of Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC)
  • Joshua Reding of Life Time Captive Insurance Company
  • Paul Smith of National Insurance and Indemnity Corporation

I hope you all can join us! Click here to register for the VCIA Conference today.

Thank you all very much, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith