Water Crisis

Water Crisis Damages Flint Businesses

Flint businesses are seeing a loss of revenues and continue to face reputational damage.
By: | March 11, 2016 • 3 min read
Flint water crisis

Early this year, President Obama declared a state of emergency due to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., making the city and its residents eligible for federal disaster aid.

Officials eventually took action to make Flint’s water supply safer, but businesses still face reputational damage, loss of revenue and for the most part, no insurance coverage due to pollution exclusions.

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In April 2014, Flint switched from using Detroit’s water system to draw its own drinking water from the Flint River. Since then, the river’s acidic water corroded lead pipes, leaking lead into the city’s drinking water.

While residents began complaining in 2015 about the odd smell, taste, and discoloration of the water, public officials insisted it was safe to drink. That was until a September 2015 study by the Hurley Medical Center found that the number of children with above-average levels of lead in their blood nearly doubled after the city changed its water source.

Flint officials acknowledged the problem and the city started getting water from Detroit again the following month.

But the damage had already been done, not just to the thousands of residents who were exposed to high levels of lead, but to homes and businesses with lead plumbing that began to corrode from the acidity.

While a safer source of water is now in place, the physical and economic damages could mount for years.

Businesses in the city are “significantly impacted,” said George Wilkinson, group vice president of the Flint and Genese Chamber of Commerce.

The event is not only a public health crisis but an economic crisis that is resulting in a loss of sales and a halting of business operations, he said. It has been especially problematic for restaurants, hotels and those in the hospitality industry.

“They’re seeing a significant decline in [revenue]. There’s also an increase in expenses because they’re buying bottled water and having to install filtration systems,” Wilkinson said.

Flint’s restaurants now regularly test their water and some installed filtration systems that can cost up to $2,000 each.

While business owners can act to ensure their water is lead-free, the real problem is the reputational damage that the city faces, he said.

“They can be cleared by the Health Department but the real problem is the negative perception. The media is portraying Flint as a war zone,” Wilkinson said.

Flint business owners are largely left exposed because business interruption insurance has stringent pollution exclusions, said Micha Knapp, a producer at the Graham Co. in Philadelphia.

Most general liability and property policies preclude any business interruption or property damage arguments a customer could make, he said. In addition, commercial general liability policies do not cover risks associated with polluted water as they often contain an Absolute Pollution Exclusion or a Total Pollution Exclusion specific to lead.

“From a liability and property perspective, there’s often a suite of pollution exclusions that will remove any coverage for a pollutant or containment like lead. It can leave a company susceptible,” Knapp said.

Dave Walker, president of Hartland Insurance Agency in Hartland, Mich., said few businesses in Flint have the specialized insurance necessary to cover businesses losses.

“They would have to have expected this to have that kind of coverage in place. It’s not something most businesses carry,” he said. “Most will have to [cover losses] out of pocket.”

Knapp said it’s important for Flint businesses to continue to effectively test the water for environmental hazards that could impact customers’ health. He recommended they also consider eventually removing and replacing lead pipes on their properties.

Companies can also consider a Pollution Legal Liability insurance policy, which is geared specifically to the restaurant, hospitality and real estate sectors. Such coverage will also protect companies against liability and property damage associated with Legionella.

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“Most don’t have it but there are markets out there that will pick up that coverage,” Knapp said.

Flint’s water crisis could be a glimpse into a mounting national problem, according to experts.

Fitch Ratings said in early-March that there are more than 6 million lead water service lines in existence around the country, most of which are located in the Northeast and Midwest.

Dr. Jeffrey Griffiths, a professor of public health at Tufts University and a former chairman of an advisory board for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water Committee, said in an article for the Detroit Free Press that many of the nation’s pipes can not be located or tested.

Craig Guillot is a writer and photographer, based in New Orleans. He can be reached at [email protected]
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Risk Insider: Dan Holden

Oklahoma’s Pretzel Logic

By: | March 2, 2016 • 2 min read
Dan Holden is Manager of Corporate Risk & Insurance for Daimler Trucks North America (formerly “Freightliner”). He manages the risk management program in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. He can be reached at [email protected]

As a veteran of the workers’ compensation claims trenches, I saw first-hand how the expensive nature of the system drove employers out of business. Not only was it sad to see businesses go belly-up, it was equally sad for the workers who were suddenly unemployed.

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It was definitely a case of lose-lose.

One way to combat the high costs of workers’ compensation was to opt-out of the traditionally expensive system in states that allowed it. By opting out, employers were forced to be more engaged in the administration of their program and focus more on the outcomes.

The result was a less expensive system; providing quality benefits to the injured workers; thus improving the overall outcome.

Oklahoma was one of the states that seemed to have found the right mix. So I was quite dismayed to learn of the recent decision by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC).

The case, Vasquez v. Dillard’s Inc., involved a worker for Dillard’s who was denied benefits after a work injury that was determined to be an aggravation of a pre-existing injury.

Oklahoma was one of the states that seemed to have found the right mix. So I was quite dismayed to learn of the recent decision by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC).

The WCC declared the opt-out portion of the workers’ compensation system unconstitutional because they felt it created a dual system whereupon the injured worker is treated differently.

The most intriguing facet is how the WCC abandoned their traditional administrative role for that of a judiciary in deciding what law is, and is not, constitutional.

That, I suppose, is another story.

However, they completely ignored the already approved opt-out option and remanded the case back to the Administrative Law Judge within the traditional workers’ compensation system.

Not only am I concerned about that sort of pretzel logic, but I also see it as another attack on exclusive remedy.

Right now my company doesn’t do business in any of the opt-out states. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t consider it if that option presented itself down the road.

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But that is probably on hold as any state considering moving forward with the opt-out system has now been stopped dead in their tracks. Best to sit tight for now.

As for whether the Oklahoma ruling will change what I do in regards to workers’ compensation remains to be seen. As I’m sure many employers will do now, I’ll wait on the sidelines and see how this plays out.

This is basically what I was doing before the Oklahoma ruling … observing from afar to see if the opt-out system (if/when it came to my states) was not only cost-effective but also fair to the workers.

To be honest, I would never consider an alternate workers’ compensation system unless I was convinced it offered our injured workers the same, or better, benefits as the traditional system. I would also need to be convinced that it produced better outcomes.

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Sponsored: Liberty International Underwriters

Helping Investment Advisers Hurdle New “Customer First” Government Regulation

The latest fiduciary rulings create challenges for financial advisory firms to stay both compliant and profitable.
By: | May 5, 2016 • 4 min read
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This spring, the Department of Labor (DOL) rolled out a set of rule changes likely to raise issues for advisers managing their customers’ retirement investment accounts. In an already challenging compliance environment, the new regulation will push financial advisory firms to adapt their business models to adhere to a higher standard while staying profitable.

The new proposal mandates a fiduciary standard that requires advisers to place a client’s best interests before their own when recommending investments, rather than adhering to a more lenient suitability standard. In addition to increasing compliance costs, this standard also ups the liability risk for advisers.

The rule changes will also disrupt the traditional broker-dealer model by pressuring firms to do away with commissions and move instead to fee-based compensation. Fee-based models remove the incentive to recommend high-cost investments to clients when less expensive, comparable options exist.

“Broker-dealers currently follow a sales distribution model, and the concern driving this shift in compensation structure is that IRAs have been suffering because of the commission factor,” said Richard Haran, who oversees the Financial Institutions book of business for Liberty International Underwriters. “Overall, the fiduciary standard is more difficult to comply with than a suitability standard, and the fee-based model could make it harder to do so in an economical way. Broker dealers may have to change the way they do business.”

Complicating Compliance

SponsoredContent_LIUAs a consequence of the new DOL regulation, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will be forced to respond with its own fiduciary standard which will tighten up their regulations to even the playing field and create consistency for customers seeking investment management.

Because the SEC relies on securities law while the DOL takes guidance from ERISA, there will undoubtedly be nuances between the two new standards, creating compliance confusion for both Registered Investment Advisors  (RIAs)and broker-dealers.

To ensure they adhere to the new structure, “we could see more broker-dealers become RIAs or get dually registered, since advisers already follow a fee-based compensation model,” Haran said. “The result is that there will be likely more RIAs after the regulation passes.”

But RIAs have their own set of challenges awaiting them. The SEC announced it would beef up oversight of investment advisors with more frequent examinations, which historically were few and far between.

“Examiners will focus on individual investments deemed very risky,” said Melanie Rivera, Financial Institutions Underwriter for LIU. “They’ll also be looking more closely at cyber security, as RIAs control private customer information like Social Security numbers and account numbers.”

Demand for Cover

SponsoredContent_LIUIn the face of regulatory uncertainty and increased scrutiny from the SEC, investment managers will need to be sure they have coverage to safeguard them from any oversight or failure to comply exactly with the new standards.

In collaboration with claims experts, underwriters, legal counsel and outside brokers, Liberty International Underwriters revamped older forms for investment adviser professional liability and condensed them into a single form that addresses emerging compliance needs.

The new form for investment management solutions pulls together seven coverages:

  1. Investment Adviser E&O, including a cyber sub-limit
  2. Investment Advisers D&O
  3. Mutual Funds D&O and E&O
  4. Hedge Fund D&O and E&O
  5. Employment Practices Liability
  6. Fiduciary Liability
  7. Service Providers D&O

“A comprehensive solution, like the revamped form provides, will help advisers navigate the new regulatory environment,” Rivera said. “It’s a one-stop shop, allowing clients to bind coverage more efficiently and provide peace of mind.”

Ahead of the Curve

SponsoredContent_LIUThe new form demonstrates how LIU’s best-in class expertise lends itself to the collaborative and innovative approach necessary to anticipate trends and address emerging needs in the marketplace.

“Seeing the pending regulation, we worked internally to assess what the effect would be on our adviser clients, and how we could respond to make the transition as easy as possible,” Haran said. “We believe the new form will not only meet the increased demand for coverage, but actually creates a better product with the introduction of cyber sublimits, which are built into the investment adviser E&O policy.”

The combined form also considers another potential need: cost of correction coverage. Complying with a fiduciary standard could increase the need for this type of cover, which is not currently offered on a consistent basis. LIU’s form will offer cost of correction coverage on a sublimited basis by endorsement.

“We’ve tried to cross product lines and not stay siloed,” Haran said. “Our clients are facing new risks, in a new regulatory environment, and they need a tailored approach. LIU’s history of collaboration and innovation demonstrates that we can provide unique solutions to meet their needs.”

For more information about Liberty International Underwriters’ products for investment managers, visit www.LIU-USA.com.

Liberty International Underwriters is the marketing name for the broker-distributed specialty lines business operations of Liberty Mutual Insurance. Certain coverage may be provided by a surplus lines insurer. Surplus lines insurers do not generally participate in state guaranty funds and insureds are therefore not protected by such funds. This literature is a summary only and does not include all terms, conditions, or exclusions of the coverage described. Please refer to the actual policy issued for complete details of coverage and exclusions.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty International Underwriters. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




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LIU is part of the Global Specialty Division of Liberty Mutual Insurance.
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