Those Darn Tenant Losses: Solutions
With all of the fire causes and losses, what are the landlords and their insurers to do? In Part One, I discussed the drivers for tenant fires and now I’ll propose a solution.
Every day, there seems to be more and more news about fires throughout the country. In some cases, they are beyond our control (for example, arson), but all examples I outlined in Part One seem to be preventable causes of fires.
However, it is beyond a landlord’s control to actually prevent these accidental fires from starting in the first place. As much as landlords want to police tenants and think they can control them, they regrettably can’t stop the negligence and mistakes that lead to these accidental and potentially fatal losses. Unfortunately, it is unrealistic to think that we can prevent these fires completely. But what can we do?
Yes, there is but a small amount of premium to pay for a $1 million tenant policy limit and it creates administrative burdens for landlords, but in today’s smart-app world, I know there must be a simple and straightforward solution.
Landlords do have control of management of the associated losses and preparing for the extent of the damage and loss caused by the fires. In my view, there are two choices available for landlords to deal with and proactively manage this issue:
1. Landlords fund the costs of tenant negligence through their insurance program; or
2. Tenants are held responsible for their negligence.
Many people might say the answer is obvious and the tenant should be held responsible, but why then, in many cases, does the tenant carry no insurance or insufficient limits?
Rarely is the tenant held responsible for the fires that he or she caused. The answers I receive range from administrative costs to the competitive rental market that landlords face while managing vacancies.
Yes, there is but a small amount of premium to pay for a $1 million tenant policy limit and it creates administrative burdens for landlords, but in today’s smart-app world, I know there must be a simple and straightforward solution. There are solutions for tenants to fund these types of losses.
So, what’s stopping us?
I believe the solution is that landlords need to join the insurance community, with insurance companies and landlords aligned. Through collaboration, we can roll out a solution to shift the costs of these losses back to those who cause them: tenants.
They should be held financially responsible for their negligence and the resulting damage. By working together, we can provide an effective solution to minimize landlords’ losses caused by these fires.
Not only will it save money, but it may also save lives. By holding tenants financially responsible for their misconduct, it gives them incentive to be more cautious.
If they cause a fire, not only will they lose their possessions, but they would now be required to pay for the building damage as well. If we can’t prevent all of these fires from starting in the first place, then we can focus on preventing the frequency of resulting losses they cause.
We can work together to make the world a better and safer place for both landlords and tenants.
Dealing with Civil Unrest
Retailers and other companies across the country are looking for a Plan B in the wake of riots that destroyed stores in Ferguson, Mo. and now Baltimore.
Meanwhile, carriers might seek to recover their losses from damage and business disruption claims by suing cities that tell their police to stand down to give space to protesters who “wished to destroy.” What’s unknown at this point is whether carriers would prevail.
Companies need to develop contingency plans specific for each location to manage events such as riots, as well as situations that could lead to them and the resulting consequences, said Sean Ahrens, security consulting services practice leader for Aon Global Risk Consulting in Chicago.
A key part of such planning includes determining under what circumstances onsite managers or a crisis management team should close retail locations.
“Now is also the time to review contingency plans to understand what other locations can be used during a time of unrest, as well as making sure companies that supply goods to them have alternative ways to make their goods available.” — Lance Becker, vice chairman, Northeast region, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
“Organizations that have robust plans and contingencies may actually have shelter in place to protect employees during civil unrest,” Ahrens said.
“But if a company has no policies or procedures in place, then in the worst case scenario, they should close the store and evacuate. Ultimately, a company’s duty of care is to protect their employees from all hazards.”
Post-event, companies should also provide counseling for employees who were caught up in a riot, though a lot of them might not want to come back, he said.
Tracy Knippenburg Gillis, global reputational risk and crisis management leader for Marsh Risk Consulting in New York City, said there are a lot of factors that determine when to close a facility, such as whether it serves a critical function in the community, or whether employees would lose needed income if the store closed prematurely during peaceful protests.
“Most organizations should have their crisis management teams on alert, if not actively engaged, monitoring and potentially making decisions on delayed openings or closures over the course of events,” Gillis said.
“They should be communicating to employees what they are doing and ideally monitoring what authorities are doing, so they can make the right judgment at the right time.”
Marsh has several clients in retail, hospitality and other entertainment-related industries that were impacted in last month’s Baltimore riots. Several suffered business disruptions due to curfews imposed by the city, said Bob O’Brien, a managing director in Marsh’s national claims practice in Washington, D.C.
“Companies should practice situational awareness,” O’Brien said.
“They have to go through several steps continuously, identifying exposures to the company and their supply chain. They should be aware of what’s going on all around them that could potentially impact them if they are caught up in a freeze zone or a closure zone.”
Companies should also review their insurance coverage to make sure they have the proper terms, limits and retention, he said. After an event, they should apply all possible triggers that could impact a claim, whether direct damage or civil authority that results in service interruption and ingress/egress issues.
Companies should make sure to secure documents to better ensure payment of their claims, he said.
Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. also had clients that suffered losses and filed claims as a result of the upheaval in Baltimore, said Lance Becker, vice chairman, Northeast region in New York City.
Becker said the recent riots that impacted area businesses serve as “an education” for companies to make sure their insurance policies cover “civil authority and unrest,” which would pay for either physical damage or losses for not being able to gain entry to the store.
“Now is also the time to review contingency plans to understand what other locations can be used during a times of unrest, as well as making sure companies that supply goods to them have alternative ways to make their good available,” he said.
Carriers might seek to recoup their losses by suing Baltimore, as several news outlets have reported that the police there were ordered to “stand down” and not prevent rioters from looting, burning or destroying stores, including a CVS pharmacy and an Ace Cash Express store.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake denied there was a stand down order, and she also told “Meet the Press” last Sunday that she regretted saying in an earlier press conference that space was given to protesters who “wished to destroy.”
Terrence Graves, a shareholder at Sands Anderson PC law firm in Richmond, Va., said that any city that experiences civil unrest might have sovereign immunity for those sorts of actions dealing with the police force.
“If a city government — like any other governmental entity — takes action within what is considered its governmental sphere, such as making political decisions, as opposed to its proprietary sphere such as providing water services or maintaining city streets, then a city might have governmental immunity,” Graves said.
“There is an interesting test that most courts would run though in order to determine whether the city was acting as a government or as a landlord.”
Pathogens, Allergens and Globalization – Oh My!
In 2014, a particular brand of cumin was used by dozens of food manufacturers to produce everything from spice mixes, hummus and bread crumbs to seasoned beef, poultry and pork products.
Yet, unbeknownst to these manufacturers, a potentially deadly contaminant was lurking…
What followed was the largest allergy-related recall since the U.S. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act became law in 2006. Retailers pulled 600,000 pounds of meat off the market, as well as hundreds of other products. As of May 2015, reports of peanut contaminated cumin were still being posted by FDA.
Food manufacturing executives have long known that a product contamination event is a looming risk to their business. While pathogens remain a threat, the dramatic increase in food allergen recalls coupled with distant, global supply chains creates an even more unpredictable and perilous exposure.
Recently peanut, an allergen in cumin, has joined the increasing list of unlikely contaminants, taking its place among a growing list that includes melamine, mineral oil, Sudan red and others.
“I have seen bacterial contaminations that are more damaging to a company’s finances than if a fire burnt down the entire plant.”
— Nicky Alexandru, global head of Crisis Management at AIG
“An event such as the cumin contamination has a domino effect in the supply chain,” said Nicky Alexandru, global head of Crisis Management at AIG, which was the first company to provide contaminated product coverage almost 30 years ago. “With an ingredient like the cumin being used in hundreds of products, the third party damages add up quickly and may bankrupt the supplier. This leaves manufacturers with no ability to recoup their losses.”
“The result is that a single contaminated ingredient may cause damage on a global scale,” added Robert Nevin, vice president at Lexington Insurance Company, an AIG company.
Quality and food safety professionals are able to drive product safety in their own manufacturing operations utilizing processes like kill steps and foreign material detection. But such measures are ineffective against an unexpected contaminant. “Food and beverage manufacturers are constantly challenged to anticipate and foresee unlikely sources of potential contamination leading to product recall,” said Alexandru. “They understandably have more control over their own manufacturing environment but can’t always predict a distant supply chain failure.”
And while companies of various sizes are impacted by a contamination, small to medium size manufacturers are at particular risk. With less of a capital cushion, many of these companies could be forced out of business.
Historically, manufacturing executives were hindered in their risk mitigation efforts by a perceived inability to quantify the exposure. After all, one can’t manage what one can’t measure. But AIG has developed a new approach to calculate the monetary exposure for the individual analysis of the three major elements of a product contamination event: product recall and replacement, restoring a safe manufacturing environment and loss of market. With this more precise cost calculation in hand, risk managers and brokers can pursue more successful risk mitigation and management strategies.
Product Recall and Replacement
Whether the contamination is a microorganism or an allergen, the immediate steps are always the same. The affected products are identified, recalled and destroyed. New product has to be manufactured and shipped to fill the void created by the recall.
The recall and replacement element can be estimated using company data or models, such as NOVI. Most companies can estimate the maximum amount of product available in the stream of commerce at any point in time. NOVI, a free online tool provided by AIG, estimates the recall exposures associated with a contamination event.
Restore a Safe Manufacturing Environment
Once the recall is underway, concurrent resources are focused on removing the contamination from the manufacturing process, and restarting production.
“Unfortunately, this phase often results in shell-shocked managers,” said Nevin. “Most contingency planning focuses on the costs associated with the recall but fail to adequately plan for cleanup and downtime.”
“The losses associated with this phase can be similar to a fire or other property loss that causes the operation to shut down. The consequential financial loss is the same whether the plant is shut down due to a fire or a pathogen contamination.” added Alexandru. “And then you have to factor in the clean-up costs.”
Locating the source of pathogen contamination can make disinfecting a plant after a contamination event more difficult. A single microorganism living in a pipe or in a crevice can create an ongoing contamination.
“I have seen microbial contaminations that are more damaging to a company’s finances than if a fire burnt down the entire plant,” observed Alexandru.
Handling an allergen contamination can be more straightforward because it may be restricted to a single batch. That is, unless there is ingredient used across multiple batches and products that contains an unknown allergen, like peanut residual in cumin.
Supply chain investigation and testing associated with identifying a cross-contaminated ingredient is complicated, costly and time consuming. Again, the supplier can be rendered bankrupt leaving them unable to provide financial reimbursement to client manufacturers.
“Until companies recognize the true magnitude of the financial risk and account for each of three components of a contamination, they can’t effectively protect their balance sheet. Businesses can end up buying too little or no coverage at all, and before they know it, their business is gone.”
— Robert Nevin, vice president at Lexington Insurance, an AIG company
Loss of Market
While the manufacturer is focused on recall and cleanup, the world of commerce continues without them. Customers shift to new suppliers or brands, often resulting in permanent damage to the manufacturer’s market share.
For manufacturers providing private label products to large retailers or grocers, the loss of a single client can be catastrophic.
“Often the customer will deem continuing the relationship as too risky and will switch to another supplier, or redistribute the business to existing suppliers” said Alexandru. “The manufacturer simply cannot find a replacement client; after all, there are a limited number of national retailers.”
On the consumer front, buyers may decide to switch brands based on the negative publicity or simply shift allegiance to another product. Given the competitiveness of the food business, it’s very difficult and costly to get consumers to come back.
“It’s a sad fact that by the time a manufacturer completes a recall, cleans up the plant and gets the product back on the shelf, some people may be hesitant to buy it.” said Nevin.
A complicating factor not always planned for by small and mid-sized companies, is publicity.
The recent incident surrounding a serious ice cream contamination forced both regulatory agencies and the manufacturer to be aggressive in remedial actions. The details of this incident and other contamination events were swiftly and highly publicized. This can be as damaging as the contamination itself and may exacerbate any or all of the three elements discussed above.
Estimating the Financial Risk May Save Your Company
“In our experience, most companies retain product contamination losses within their own balance sheet.” Nevin said. “But in reality, they rarely do a thorough evaluation of the financial risk and sometimes the company simply cannot absorb the financial consequences of a contamination. Potential for loss is much greater when factoring in all three components of a contamination event.”
This brief video provides a concise overview of the three elements of the product contamination event and the NOVI tool and benefits:
“Until companies recognize the true magnitude of the financial risk and account for each of three components of a contamination, they can’t effectively protect their balance sheet,” he said. “Businesses can end up buying too little or no coverage at all, and before they know it, their business is gone.”
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Lexington Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.