FLU PREP LACKING
A new Mercer Global avian-flu survey shows a striking gap between employer concern and pandemic preparedness. According to the survey, some 70 percent of businesses believe a pandemic would damage profitability, but only 47 percent have a business continuity plan in place and just 17 percent have budgeted for pandemic preparedness. Companies in Asia are the best prepared--25 percent have established a pandemic preparedness budget compared to 12 percent in Europe and 7 percent in the United States. Telecommunications and pharmaceutical companies are the most likely to have developed a pandemic preparedness budget. The survey covered 450 companies in 38 countries and 26 industries.
NEW HEALTH/SAFETY HEAD
The U.S. Senate has confirmed Edwin G. Foulke Jr. as assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. Foulke served on the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission from 1990 to 1995, chairing the commission from March 1990 through February 1994. Foulke will take over the post currently held by Jonathan Snare, who stepped up from his post as deputy assistant secretary when John L. Henshaw resigned as assistant secretary at the end of 2004.
Zurich American Insurance Co. has reached a $171.7 million settlement with a group of regulators in nine states to resolve allegations that it engaged in bid-rigging. ZAIC also allegedly paid improper commissions to those who brokered the deals in exchange for lucrative business. ZAIC doesn't admit to any violation of law, but it will pay policyholders in the nine states $151.7 million in refunds. An additional $20 million will go to regulators to cover investigative costs. The insurer also has agreed to disclose contingent commission payments in the future and to reform its business practices.
CAT STUDY RELEASED
While North America only experienced 13.6 percent of the total number of natural catastrophes that took place throughout the world in 2005, it suffered 87.1 percent of the worldwide total insured losses of $83.40 billion, according to research by Swiss Reinsurance Co. Swiss Re said that during 2005, 92.4 percent of all fatalities from natural disasters occurred in Asia, but only 3.2 percent of the worldwide insured loss total from natural catastrophes occurred there. Last year was the costliest ever for insurers from natural and manmade disasters, with insured property losses of $83 billion, up from about $48 billion the previous year. Of that total, Hurricane Katrina alone caused insured losses of $45 billion.
A Mississippi federal judge denied Allstate Insurance Co.'s dismissal motion in a wind vs. flood lawsuit stemming from Hurricane Katrina. Insurers are pleased--in part--with the ruling because the judge called flood exclusions "valid and enforceable policy provisions." At issue for insurers are several lawsuits in Mississippi seeking to have insurers pay for flood losses from Katrina, despite long-standing flood exclusions dating back to the creation of the National Flood Insurance Program.
--Compiled by staff from news and wire reports.
May 1, 2006
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