Flood-Prone Homes Could Lose Federal Insurance Under FEMA Plan

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/fema-urges-congress-to-drop-flood-insurance-for-highest-risk-areas-11655384400

Excerpt:

Mr. Toomey asked Jerry Theodorou of the R Street Institute, a conservative-leaning Washington-based think tank, how seriously Congress should look at paying repetitive loss claims. “Indeed, this is a very serious problem,” Mr. Theodorou said. “The numbers speak for themselves, to have such a small percentage of policyholders accounting for close to 40% of the claims dollars paid.”

The flood insurance program — which is the main provider of flood coverage in the U.S. and has issued more than five million policies — has paid out more money to property owners and other expenses than it has collected in premiums from policyholders since Congress created it in 1968. It collects about $4.6 billion in annual revenue from policyholders in premiums, fees and other charges, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Flooding ranks as the country’s most common natural disaster. Scientists predict floods will happen more frequently in neighborhoods that face new risk from rising sea levels and extreme rainstorms due to climate change.

Author(s): Katy Stech Ferek

Publication Date: 16 June 2022

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

R Street Institute Testifies Before Senate Banking Committee on National Flood Insurance Program

Link: https://www.rstreet.org/2022/06/16/r-street-institute-testifies-before-senate-banking-committee-on-national-flood-insurance-program/

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Additional link: https://www.rstreet.org/2022/06/16/five-solutions-to-help-fix-the-national-flood-insurance-program-from-r-street-testimony-to-the-u-s-senate-banking-housing-and-urban-affairs-committee/

Excerpt:

Regarding the second objective, there is no equitable sharing of costs between the public and private sectors. The private sector is only peripherally involved in bearing flood risk. The involvement of the private insurance sector is restricted to administration of the program, for which insurers are remunerated by the NFIP. The participation of private insurers in flood insurance as a risk-bearer is de minimis, writing less than a tenth the premium collected by the NFIP.

Instead of attaining the overarching goal of reducing economic losses caused by flooding, flood-
related economic losses have increased. In the past decade, U.S. economic losses caused by flooding were $943 billion, close to five times more than the $211 billion cumulative flood-related losses in the prior decade. In this testimony, we highlight five issues standing in the way of the NFIP falling short of achieving its mission, and propose solutions to remedy those problem areas.

Author(s): Jerry Theodorou

Publication Date: 16 June 2022

Publication Site: R Street Institute

WHAT’S THE PRICE OF FORGETTING FAT LEONARD?

Link: https://inkstickmedia.com/whats-the-price-of-forgetting-fat-leonard/

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Excerpt:

“How is this not a movie?”

This is the common response when people learn about the US Navy’s Fat Leonard scandal. The high stakes drama and salacious details do seem made for the silver screen, but what’s more surprising is how many people — among them Hill staff, Pentagon budget experts, and other defense policy participants — are unaware of the crimes that proliferated up and down the ranks of the 7th Fleet less than a decade ago. That military leaders, Congress, and the public seem to have forgotten this affair that took down rising leaders, defrauded the US government, and undermined our national security is at least as troubling as the events themselves. 

Here’s the short version of events: 

The US Navy contracted with Glenn Marine Group (GMG), a ship husbanding company that assisted the Navy with port security, repairs, fueling, restocking and other dockside needs. The president of GMG, Francis Leonard (aka Fat Leonard), overbilled the Navy for things like fresh water and redirected carrier movements to ports where he could charge the most. He bribed officers with $18,000 meals and extravagant hotel stays, prostitutes, parties, cash, and luxury goods. He gained access to sensitive information and paid off people in roles who could help avoid investigations into his activities. Only after the US Department of Justice stepped in — to investigate a suspected mole within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) who was tipping off Leonard — did the enterprise start to unravel. 

In 2013, federal agents arrested Leonard in San Diego and charged another 33 people with various crimes, though Leonard’s activities cast a much wider net. In 2018, the Washington Post reported that: “According to the Navy, an additional 550 active-duty and retired military personnel — including about 60 admirals — have come under scrutiny for possible violations of military law or ethics rules.” 

Author(s): Nan Swift

Publication Date: 18 March 2022

Publication Site: Inkstick Media

Event: Risk-Based Rating in Personal Lines Insurance

Link: https://www.rstreet.org/2022/04/05/event-risk-based-rating-in-personal-lines-insurance/

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Excerpt:

The insurance industry is unique in that the cost of its products—insurance policies—is unknown at the time of sale. Insurers calculate the price of their policies with “risk-based rating,” wherein risk factors known to be correlated with the probability of future loss are incorporated into premium calculations. One of these risk factors employed in the rating process for personal automobile and homeowner’s insurance is a credit-based insurance score.

Credit-based insurance scores draw on some elements of the insurance buyer’s credit history. Actuaries have found this score to be strongly correlated with the potential for an insurance claim. The use of credit-based insurance scores by insurers has generated controversy, as some consumer organizations claim incorporating such scores into rating models is inherently discriminatory. R Street’s webinar explores the facts and the history of this issue with two of the most knowledgeable experts on the topic.

Author(s): Jerry Theodorou, Roosevelt Mosley, Mory Katz

Publication Date: 5 April 2022

Publication Site: R Street Institute

Risk-Based Rating in Personal Lines Insurance

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPYSSZkP-Oo&ab_channel=RStreetInstitute

Video:

Description:

The insurance industry is unique in that the cost of its products—insurance policies—is unknown at the time of sale. Insurers calculate the price of their policies with “risk-based rating,” wherein risk factors known to be correlated with the probability of future loss are incorporated into premium calculations. One of these risk factors employed in the rating process for personal automobile and homeowner’s insurance is a credit-based insurance score.

Credit-based insurance scores draw on some elements of the insurance buyer’s credit history. Actuaries have found this score to be strongly correlated with the potential for an insurance claim. The use of credit-based insurance scores by insurers has generated controversy, as some consumer organizations claim incorporating such scores into rating models is inherently discriminatory. R Street’s webinar explores the facts and the history of this issue with two of the most knowledgeable experts on the topic.

Featuring:

[Moderator] Jerry Theodorou, Director, Finance, Insurance & Trade Program, R Street Institute
Roosevelt Mosley, Principal and Consulting Actuary, Pinnacle Actuarial Services
Mory Katz, Legacy Practice Leader, BMS Group

R Street Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government.

We believe free markets work better than the alternatives. We also recognize that the legislative process calls for practical responses to current problems. To that end, our motto is “Free markets. Real solutions.”

We offer research and analysis that advance the goals of a more market-oriented society and an effective, efficient government, with the full realization that progress on the ground tends to be made one inch at a time. In other words, we look for free-market victories on the margin.

Learn more at https://www.rstreet.org/
Follow us on Twitter at @RSI

Author(s): Jerry Theodorou, Roosevelt Mosley, Mory Katz

Publication Date: 4 April 2022

Publication Site: R Street at YouTube

Why SWIFT Sanctions on Russia Might Not be Enough

Link: https://www.rstreet.org/2022/03/01/why-swift-sanctions-on-russia-might-not-be-enough/

Excerpt:

The news immediately following the removal of some Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network has been a moment of victory for the international community in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Soon after the sanctions took effect, the ruble sunk 21 percent compared to the U.S. Dollar (USD). Russia’s central bank is in damage control mode, raising interest rates to 20 percent. At a glance it might seem like these punishing sanctions could force Russia to change course, but any optimistic takes should be tempered by a review of the effect of sanctions after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

….

Unlike the United States and other western nations where oil and gas production are controlled by private companies, Russia’s oil and gas production is managed by state-owned enterprises. Oil and gas production in Russia directly finances Russia’s budget, including its military budget, and in 2019 oil and gas exports accounted for 39 percent of Russia’s federal budget revenue. Part of the reason oil and gas is such a lifeline to the Russian budget can be attributed to the effect of the sanctions. In January of 2014, the ruble was $0.03 USD, and by December 2014 it fell to $0.019 USD. In that same year, Russia was the largest producer of crude oil and exported 4.7 million barrels per day. The price of oil in January 2014 was $108/barrel, and by December had fallen to $62/barrel—thanks to high U.S. production. The value of Russian oil exports went from 16.9 billion rubles per day in January to 15.4 billion rubles per day in December, as the sharp decline of oil prices was counteracted by the rising ruble value of oil from the sanctions. If oil prices had remained constant, then the effect of the sanctions would have been to increase Russian export value in the local currency to 26.7 billion rubles per day. In plain English, the harder the sanctions hit, the more valuable Russian energy exports become and the better they are able to sustain the Russian budget.

Author(s): Philip Rossetti

Publication Date: 1 Mar 2022

Publication Site: R Street

Jerry Theodorou Presents on Social Inflation to the Business Insurance World Captive Forum

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HahkUnXje1A

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Description:

R Street Institute Director of Finance, Insurance and Trade Jerry Theodorou presents on social inflation and his latest policy study to the Business Insurance World Captive Forum in Miami in February.

Author(s): Jerry Theodorou

Publication Date: 23 Feb 2022

Publication Site: YouTube and R Street Institute

Insurance Companies – Heels or Heroes?

Link:https://www.rstreet.org/2022/01/24/insurance-companies-heels-or-heroes/

Excerpt:

The insurance industry is far from the economy’s most-admired sector. A Forbes survey found insurance ranking low in popularity in the public eye. Three main reasons are responsible for insurers’ relatively poor rating. First is the intangible nature of the insurance product. Unlike a car one can drive home from the dealership, or a chocolate bar whose taste can be savored, purchase of an insurance policy does not lead to immediate physical gratification. To be sure, if there is no loss, one may never get a flavor of its value. Second, insurance is associated with life’s tragedies, its most physically, emotionally and financially distressing experiences—a home damaged by a storm, a car totaled, being sued, a death or dread disease, or a crippling workplace accident. Insurance payments can take away the sting with financial recovery, but loss remains painful, especially if one discovers the loss is not 100 percent covered. And third, the insurance industry has become an easy target for critics who regularly vilify it.

…..

Why do we maintain that insurance, R Street’s inaugural research program, is fundamentally exciting? Three reasons.

First, insurance is the economy’s financial first responder. When the wind blows, the earth shakes and large-class action lawsuits are decided in plaintiffs’ favor, the insurance industry pays. 

….

Second, insurers are significant investors in the capital markets. They provide much of the financial muscle to power the economy. Property-casualty insurers hold $1.1 trillion in bonds, and life and health insurers hold another $3.6 trillion. Collectively, insurers hold $4.7 trillion in bonds, 10 percent of the U.S. bond market of $47 trillion.

….

Third, insurance is the grease in the engine of the economy. Without clinical trials insurance, pharmaceutical companies would not take the risk of developing vaccines. Without ocean marine or inland marine insurance, ships would not sail and trucks would not take the risk to carry loads. Airplanes would not fly, people would be afraid to drive, and inventors would not create new products for fear of lawsuits. 

Author(s): Jerry Theodorou

Publication Date: 22 Jan 2022

Publication Site: R Street

THE SCOURGE OF SOCIAL INFLATION

Link:https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/RSTREET247.pdf

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Excerpt:

If unchecked, social inflation, driven by the myriad factors discussed in this study, will become a self-perpetuating phenomenon that sends improper signals regarding the value of damages to jurors, judges and defendants. This will lead to higher insurance premiums, financial strain on insurers, depletion of municipal resources and disincentives for businesses to take risks. This hidden “tort tax” benefits no one except plaintiff attorneys and their clients who engage in practices that lead to social inflation.

There are two broad responses that need to be pursued to combat the perpetuation of social inflationary pressures. One is to influence the development of public policy at the state and federal levels to reveal and control excesses. The second is for insurers and defense counsel to adopt and deploy more aggressive strategies that push back and formally object to tactics violating existing norms of courtroom behavior.

Author(s): Jerry Theodorou

Publication Date: December 2021

Publication Site: R Street

The Federal Insurance Office: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Link: https://www.rstreet.org/2021/05/19/the-federal-insurance-office-looking-back-looking-forward/

Full pdf: https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Final-No-231-FIO.pdf

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Excerpt:

1) The FIO was created in the wake of the financial crisis, as part of the Dodd-Frank Act. It has since been active on two fronts: as a source of information about the insurance industry for the U.S. Department of the Treasury and other branches of government, and as a representative of the insurance industry in international negotiations.

2) The FIO has had a challenging first decade. Since its launch, insurers have been concerned that the introduction of a new federal body, like all bureaucracies, is the camel’s nose in the tent, which would eventually lead to attempted expansion of its scope. Today, even though many have come to accept the FIO—provided it does not attempt to exceed its authority—there are still efforts to abolish it.

3) In the past, government restrictions of the free market with involvement in insurance have proven inefficient and anticompetitive. Should the FIO advance legislative attempts to address “affordability and accessibility” of insurance, it will likely contribute to the disruption of an efficient private market closely regulated at the state level.

Author(s): Jerry Theodorou

Publication Date: 19 May 2021

Publication Site: R Street Institute

How to keep thousands of COVID-19-related lawsuits from creating a liability crisis

Link: https://www.rstreet.org/2021/03/29/how-to-keep-thousands-of-covid-19-related-lawsuits-from-creating-a-liability-crisis/

Excerpt:

Younger, populist, anti-corporate juries are more prone to make larger awards than baby boomer jury pools. Plaintiff attorneys making good use of the “reptile theory” to provoke jurors to punish defendants painted as dangerous to society have led to staggeringly large verdicts. The combined impact of these trends has led to more and larger lawsuits, as well as year-over-year increases in “nuclear verdicts” — verdicts in excess of $10 million.

Some elements of the COVID-19 litigation torrent fit squarely in Buffet’s meaning of social inflation: expansion of what insurance policies cover. To be sure, the plurality of the 10,000 coronavirus suits filed involve insurance coverage litigation, with plaintiffs seeking coverage for business losses in policies where insurers maintain coverage does not exist.

Author(s): Jerry Theodorou

Publication Date: 29 March 2021

Publication Site: R Street

Bricks Without Straw?

Link: https://www.rstreet.org/2021/03/30/bricks-without-straw/

Excerpt:

Credit analytics firm FICO posits that the reason for the correlation of credit history and claim probability is that “individuals who closely and cautiously monitor and manage their finances tend to also take better care of their cars and homes and are, generally, more diligent in their risk management habits.” Because such individuals are found across demographic classifications, the discrimination argument becomes hard to uphold.

If insurers find that credit scores have bearing on accident propensity, insurers should be allowed to use them. Preventing insurers from deploying basic tools required to generate appropriate risk-adjusted prices leads to mispricing of risk, harming insurance buyers as well as insurers. What is more, such deprivation leads to unintended negative consequences—an unfair socialization of risk, leaving customers either overcharged or undercharged. Executive fiat prohibiting insurers from accessing the tools of their trade is tantamount to Pharaoh ordering the Israelites of old to make bricks without straw. Bad business, bad policy.

Author(s): Jerry Theodorou

Publication Date: 30 March 2021

Publication Site: R Street