1 JOINT VENTURES INSURANCE CONSIDERATIONS Key insurance issues for contractors and service providers Risks during formation and operation of a joint venture
2 INTRODUCTION It is an old cliché that team work makes the dream work. Contractors and service providers frequently team-up to form joint ventures to tender for and undertake projects, but is the reality a dream or a nightmare? In this whitepaper we explore these relationships and identify the key insurance issues that need to be given consideration prior to the formation and during the operation of any joint venture. Joint ventures are commonly used as an effective way for contractors (and also engineers or consultants) to pool resources and expertise on large projects. Proper management, using an appropriate joint venture agreement, is critical in managing the inherent risks.
3 4 JOINT VENTURES INSURANCE CONSIDERATIONS TYPES OF JOINT VENTURE The nature and composition of joint ventures can vary extensively but will often be arranged so that the joint venture partners share profits and losses by way of financial interests. The interests are commonly set up as a 50% - 50% financial interest but this will vary depending on the resources and expertise made available by the partners. In some circumstances there may even be more than two joint ventures. All partners would normally share the profits and losses in the same proportion as their financial interest in the venture. It is not unusual for the joint venture partners to be jointly and severally liable to their employer for the acts, errors and omissions of the joint venture and its constituent partners. JOINT AND SEVERAL LIABILITY Joint and several liability is where multiple parties can be held liable for the same event or act and be responsible for all restitution required. In cases of joint and several liability, a person who was harmed or wronged by several parties could be awarded damages and collect from any one, several, or all of the liable parties. The liable parties would be required to pay the entire damage award, which could be split among multiple parties or could come from just one. Each party would be liable for part of the damages, or up to as much as all of the damages. Critical to creating the correct insurance strategy is understanding how the joint venture will execute the work, whether it will it be integrated or not, and whether or not it will be legally incorporated. INTEGRATED OR NON- INTEGRATED WORK How the joint venture will deliver its scope of work or service under the contract will affect the insurance approach. For example, will the joint venture partners be working together and sharing their resources so that there is no divisibility between delivery of the work (i.e. a fully integrated approach). It could be that designers are working jointly on a design, or a team of workers installing materials or assembling equipment are working so closely that it would be impractical or more likely impossible to determine how responsibility for an incident could be allocated other than jointly to the joint venture partners. Such an integrated working approach would suggest that the joint venture needs to give serious consideration to a project or joint venture specific policy. Alternatively, the scope of work and method of delivery could be very distinct one, joint venture partner providing, say, the bridge and another road (i.e. a non-integrated approach). This approach makes the use of the joint venture partner annual insurance policies a possibility, but the issues arising from the joint venture partners being jointly and severally liable will still need to be addressed in the joint venture agreement and by their insurers.
4 Key insurance issues for contractors and service providers 5 COMBINATION JOINT VENTURES Not surprisingly, these are a combination of an integrated and non-integrated method of working. Each joint venture partner undertakes a specified scope of work and is responsible for the profits or losses associated with that work. In addition the joint venture partners also agree to act collaboratively with respect to a portion of the project. These arrangements are becoming more popular as they reflect the likely spread of specialist as well as general work required on larger more complex projects. INCORPORATION OF JOINT VENTURES Joint ventures are most commonly established to undertake individual projects and the rationale for formation is quite specific to those particular circumstances. Joint ventures formed in these situations are most likely to remain unincorporated. However, incorporation of joint ventures does occur albeit less frequently. Incorporation may be a sensible option where the joint venture has longer term strategic aims beyond that of delivery of one individual project. For example, it might be a collaboration to combine resources to develop a particular market sector or geographic territory. These joint ventures will naturally have a longer life span than those established for single projects and hence worthy of more formal arrangements. Clearly, the joint venture partner interests will be allocated by shareholding as opposed to financial interests established within the agreement. Whilst the overwhelming majority of our clients take the view that an unincorporated joint venture does not have legal personality and therefore does not have the capacity to enter into contracts, there are those that take the contrary view, supported by legal advice. However, this whitepaper has been prepared on the former basis which represents the majority view but the reader should be aware that there is an alternative approach that can adopted in certain circumstances. ALLIANCES An alliance is a form of collaborative working that includes the employer as well as the contractor. These are principal led arrangements that are most commonly found in large infrastructure projects. Typically the greatest hurdles to cross in alliance arrangements are cultural in nature. Employers and contractors must cooperate with shared goals and complete alignment of interests. Unfortunately this can be an unfamiliar (and uncomfortable) position for some individuals on both sides. Alliance contracting is a complex area and will not be covered in further detail in this paper other than to say that the contractual and insurance arrangements should be scrutinised very closely in each individual case. The question of incorporation does raise interesting questions in relation to insurance. In the case of an incorporated joint venture it is clear that this entity has legal personality and is in a position to directly employ staff and enter into contracts, with principals, subcontractors, suppliers and consultants. The position is less clear in relation to unincorporated joint ventures, where opinion does vary.
5 6 JOINT VENTURES INSURANCE CONSIDERATIONS INSURANCE ISSUES So what are the options for structuring joint venture insurances? These considerations are general in nature and are not specific to individual lines of business. JOINT VENTURE SPECIFIC POLICIES The cleanest solution for insuring joint ventures is to arrange joint venture specific policies. This solution provides all joint venture partners with the comfort that there is cover in place specifically for the joint venture on known terms and with separate ringfenced limits that cannot be exhausted by other activities, for example under joint venture partners annual insurance programmes. Evidencing insurance to the employer is also facilitated by this option. The insurance contract will be in the name of the joint venture or the joint venture partners as appropriate and the relevant certificates and documentary evidence can be issued accordingly. This does avoid the requirement to engage with the employer to explain complex arrangements where other insurance strategies are adopted, which can be an unwelcome complication particularly for publicly procured projects. The other substantial advantage is that all losses are handled under one policy without the complication of involving multiple insurers each providing different coverage and potentially having unaligned interests. This makes the joint venture specific option sensible for classes of insurance with a high frequency/low severity loss profile such as primary employers liability, public liability, construction all risks (CAR) and motor. Whilst this does provide a simple solution, the inevitable downside is that this will be at additional cost. Joint venture specific insurances will most probably be the more expensive of the options at the joint ventures disposal despite the other benefits. This option is likely to be the most appropriate mechanism for insuring incorporated joint ventures. ONE OR OTHER JOINT VENTURE PARTNER TO INSURE This solution involves one of the joint venture partners agreeing to provide coverage for another partner s financial interest under its existing insurance programme. There are benefits to this approach in that evidencing of cover should be straightforward as only one policy per risk need be disclosed. This clean solution should also benefit from more cost effective insurance pricing as we would expect annual insurance programme rating to be more competitive than that encountered for joint venture specific insurances as detailed previously. There can also be coverage advantages. For example, an annual contractor s professional indemnity policy will normally provide broader coverage than a project specific placement.
6 Key insurance issues for contractors and service providers 7 Unfortunately there are also drawbacks. The fundamental objection to this arrangement is that Joint venture partners are reluctant to expose their annual insurance programmes to the acts, errors or omissions of others. There may be sound commercial reasons for this decision; there may be substantial elements of self-insurance, perhaps involving a captive or self-insured retention, or the lines of business concerned may have aggregate limits of indemnity or claims sensitive premiums such as professional indemnity. There can also be a lack of transparency in the cover provided by the host joint venture partner, as it is often considered unwise to disclose full copies of policy wordings for reasons of commercial confidentiality. Also, levels of cover will invariably differ between the joint venture partners, and aggregate limits can unknowingly be eroded by unrelated activities. Often these hurdles are insurmountable for the joint venture partners and this solution is disregarded. However, there are further considerations that may make this a viable option. First, to achieve the clean solution with the advantageous pricing it can be possible for the risk to be covered under the host joint venture partner s s annual policies but with a indemnity provided by the other joint venture partners in relation to any policy benefits, with the latter, being insured under the annual insurance arrangements in the normal way. This solution is open to criticism as evidencing of insurance under one policy may be regarded as something of a sham. This would not be suitable for the high frequency/low severity loss profile classes of insurance in any event, for the reasons stated above (in relation to two insurers dealing with claims). This solution can be effective in circumstances where there is a disproportionate interest in the joint venture. If one joint venture partner has a relatively small stake and scope of activities the other partner may be more relaxed about extension of cover under its annual insurances. This position can be further developed in cases where joint venture partners are conducting very different activities within the joint venture. For example, where one joint venture partner is providing design or professional services only and the other is executing physical construction activities only, there may be a compromise solution where one joint venture partner provides professional indemnity cover and the other insures the physical working risks such as public liability and construction all risks. There may be sound reasons why a particular joint venture partner does not carry a specific class of insurance. Continental European contractors, for example, do not typically procure professional indemnity insurance. Where their expertise is required in joint ventures working in the UK, their joint venture partners may consider extending annual insurances to avoid incurring unnecessary additional costs.
7 8 JOINT VENTURES INSURANCE CONSIDERATIONS EACH JOINT VENTURE PARTNER TO INSURE OWN FINANCIAL INTEREST Under this solution, each joint venture partner insures its own financial interest arising from the joint venture as provided for in the joint venture agreement allocation. This should provide a cost effective arrangement as annual policies would be utilised, and as each joint venture partner would be insured under its own insurance arrangements it should therefore be familiar with the extent of cover provided. However, this is not as clean a solution as compared to joint venture specific insurances for the reasons previously explained, and there may be issues in relation to evidencing of cover to the principal. We always recommend that our clients engage with their employers in relation to these issues but this can require an open minded approach or the promise of a more cost effective solution to attract the interest of those who are either (i) reluctant to discuss or (ii) may regard this as an unnecessary complexity. There are other disadvantages to this approach. Once again, where there is more than one insurer handling a claim there is the possibility for dispute and difficulty so we would not recommend this approach for classes of business with high frequency loss profiles. These would be more appropriately dealt with under some form of joint venture or project specific insurance. There can be an issue in relation to policy excesses, especially where those excesses are significant, for example on professional indemnity insurance. The excess applicable under each joint venture partners insurances will apply to that partner s financial interest in the claim only. In this regard the excesses under each programme aggregate as detailed in the following hypothetical example: EXAMPLE Companies A & B participate in a 50/50 integrated but unincorporated joint venture. Each is responsible for insuring its own financial interest in the professional indemnity risk, which is covered under each joint venture partners annual professional indemnity programme. Company A has an excess of 1,000,000, and Company B has an excess of 2,000,000. The joint venture sustains a 3,000,000 loss arising from its professional activities and duties, and each joint venture partner presents a claim of 1,500,000 to its annual primary professional indemnity insurer. Clearly Company A will make some recovery and Company B will not. Hopefully this example serves to illustrate how this may reduce the extent of cover available to the joint venture as a whole as opposed to the individual joint venture partners. This arrangement can be very effective for nonintegrated joint ventures. Each joint venture partner would insure its own work, and if there is joint and several liability the arrangement could be supported by some form of cross indemnity agreement as detailed previously. There can be some confusion in relation to joint working or shared facilities on site but this can be managed by clear differentiation by the joint venture partners.
8 Key insurance issues for contractors and service providers 9 We have in the past attempted to address how claims may be handled under such arrangements. If there is more than one insurer acting in a primary capacity it would be sensible to agree in advance to the appointment of a claims handler, perhaps an external service provider, to represent the interests of all parties. If it is simply a matter of allocating the relevant claim and costs by reference to the respective financial interests you would expect that this would not be a problem as all interests should be aligned. However, there is still the possibility for dispute and underwriters are very reluctant to cede claims authority or the ability to set defence strategy to other insurers. The arrangements will also be complicated by the presence of different wordings and hence different policy liability considerations for each. Whereas this is unlikely to be a significant consideration for a straightforward injury or damage claim, more complex losses involving financial loss or professional indemnity issues are likely to lead to differential indemnification and potential misalignment of interests. SUMMARY The reality is that there are no hard and fast rules that should be applied or slavishly followed. It is important to take reasoned decisions on a case by case basis, having given full consideration not only to what is best for the joint venture structure as a whole, but focussing in on what is the right choice for each individual class of insurance. On this point, it is important to note that the optimum solution for a particular line of business may be a hybrid of the above options. For example, primary public liability insurance may be arranged on a joint venture specific basis, but excess liability coverage above a sensible attachment point may be provided by each of the joint venture partners annual excess liability programmes. This position is particularly relevant to professional indemnity insurance where we have seen underwriters extremely resistant to agree to such arrangements in advance. In certain instances annual professional indemnity underwriters may be prepared to agree a claims co-operation provision, however, it should be noted that this is the exception rather than the rule.
9 10 JOINT VENTURES INSURANCE CONSIDERATIONS CLASS CONSIDERATIONS There are different issues that need to be considered in relation to specific classes of insurance. EMPLOYERS LIABILITY As discussed in part one of this paper, it is generally accepted that an unincorporated joint venture has no legal personality and cannot enter into contract. Instead, contracts must be let by one or other of the joint venture partners. This is not a unanimous view but it is far and away the most common so we will work on this basis for the sake of this paper. As a result, most staff working within an unincorporated joint venture will be seconded from the joint venture partners. It is commonly agreed that the most simple and cost effective method of insuring joint venture staff is for the joint venture agreement to provide that each joint venture partner indemnifies the other(s) for any liabilities for injuries to its own staff irrespective of fault with no rights of recourse against the other joint venture partners. This arrangement should be supported by relevant provisions within the joint venture partner employers liability insurance arrangements. This reciprocal arrangement has the effect of simplifying the claims process and avoiding unhelpful disputes within the joint venture as to which joint venture partnership is responsible for employee injuries. These disputes, if not avoided, can corrode the harmonious working relationships between joint venture partners. There are circumstances however where there may be other classes of person that may not be seconded to the joint venture by the joint venture partners. For example, these may include agency staff, labour only subcontractors and hired in plant operators. These individuals can be regarded as employees in relation to personal injury litigation but may not have been procured through one or other of the joint venture partners; instead they may have been engaged as a contract let by the joint venture itself. If insurance is not in place for these employees the parties could be in breach of the compulsory employers liability insurance legislation. We recommend that sufficient commercial controls are introduced to ensure that contracts are let by either one of the joint venture partners and not the joint venture itself so as to avoid this eventuality arising. Where the joint venture is incorporated and/ or will be employing staff and labour only subcontractors etc, we recommend that consideration is given to joint venture specific employers liability arrangements. PUBLIC AND PRODUCTS LIABILITY Again the joint venture s legal structure and method of work delivery will determine the correct approach for public liability insurance. Issues for consideration will include: Does the joint venture have the legal personality to attract liabilities in its own name? Will the joint venture partners be jointly and severally liable, or will each joint venture partners be responsible for their own work? With the potential for individual third party claims to be made against the joint venture or the individual joint venture parties what mechanism is there in the joint venture agreement for dealing with this situation?
10 Key insurance issues for contractors and service providers 11 As it is assumed that any third party claims will be the responsibility of the joint venture, it will be preferable to effect a separate joint venture specific public liability insurance for a primary layer limit of indemnity. This avoids to complexity of more than one policy responding to the claim and multiple policy excesses applying. Each joint venture partnership can then rely on its own annual programme for coverage in excess of the primary layer limit of indemnity. The alternative to the above approach is to seek agreement of the respective annual public liability insurers to jointly indemnify the joint venture Company for their insured s share of any claim. This can be messy, and agreement will need to be obtained for one Insurer to deal with all claims. Also each joint venture partner s excess will apply to its share of the loss. Another option is to agree that one of the joint venture parties insures all third party claims. The disadvantage of this arrangement is that incurred amounts will count against the relevant joint venture partners annual public liability insurance claims experience. CONTRACTORS ALL RISKS If each joint venture partner is responsible on a joint and several liability basis we would recommend that a project specific contractors all risks (CAR) insurance is taken out in the name of the joint venture company (or the partners if the joint venture is unincorporated) so that only one policy of insurance provides cover for the joint ventures works. The alternative to this approach is that each partner takes responsibility for its own work, and then depending on the contract value, location and nature, each partner can rely on its annual CAR insurance to provide cover. Alternatively, if each partner is jointly and severally liable they can seek the agreement of their annual CAR insurers (subject to the works falling within the parameters of the policy) to indemnify for the respective share of any claim. Again, there can be issues with the aggregation of excesses and differential cover applicable under each policy. CONTRACTORS PLANT AND EQUIPMENT A contractors annual CAR insurance will provide cover for contractor s plant & equipment, temporary buildings and contents owned or hired. If the joint venture will own or hire any contractor s plant and equipment, temporary buildings and contents then this is most effectively insured via a project specific insurance affected on behalf of the joint venture, particularly where the plant and/or equipment will be shared between the partners and responsibility for loss may not be easy to determine.
11 12 JOINT VENTURES INSURANCE CONSIDERATIONS PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY Yet again the legal structure and the allocation of professional work between the joint venture has a material bearing on the most appropriate approach to professional indemnity (PI) insurance, and where the joint venture is a mix of Contractor and Consultant further complications are to be expected as the basis of cover available in the insurance market can differ. Where the joint venture involves integrated professional work or an incorporated legal structure we would normally recommend that a project specific PI insurance policy is taken out, so that one policy will provide indemnity for the whole joint venture. However, the market for project specific PI insurance is more limited than annual PI insurance and this is not always a viable option. PI insurance claims are often complex and take many years to resolve. Typically claims involve underwriters engaging lawyers to defend the third party claim and provide an interpretation on policy response. The use of individual annual PI policies for each joint venture partner can lead to protracted claims settlement as: In summary the options include: Purchasing a project specific PI policy for the project term and post completion period (typically maximum period available on a noncancellable basis is 10 years). It should be noted that such multiyear project policies can be less broad than annually renewable PI policies. Purchasing a project specific PI policy on an annually renewable basis, giving wider choice of market and potentially coverage, but less certainty with respect to overall cost and coverage and the ability to renew. In the event of a poor claims experience or a change in market sentiment, the ability to annually renew a single project policy could be seriously jeopardised; Use the respective annual PI policies of the joint venture partners. This is the most economical method, but the major issues associated with claims settlement need to be taken into consideration. However, a standard annual PI policy only covers liabilities arising out of the acts of the Insured and the parties it employs (such as subcontractors). Therefore it is critical that the annual PI policy is extended to cover liabilities which arise as a consequence of the provision of professional services by joint venture partners. Each set of insureds and insurers may have different interests and attitudes to claims settlement Each policy is likely to provide coverage on a differential basis The different lawyers appointed by each underwriter may have different approaches to the handling of the claim. This is likely to lead to delays and increased legal costs.
12 Key insurance issues for contractors and service providers 13 MOTOR LIABILITY The standard position is normally similar to that of EL insurance where the employing joint venture partner insures. We usually recommend that for motor vehicles the procuring (either purchasing, leasing or hiring) joint venture partner insures, again irrespective of driver or negligence. The benefits are the same as those for EL risks as detailed above and this approach will also remove the administrative problems associated with maintenance of the motor insurance database. Difficulties can arise where the joint venture itself and not a joint venture partner procures vehicles. In our experience, this normally occurs with short term hire vehicles. The solution is to ensure that either the joint venture arranges its own motor insurance or adheres to specified procurement procedures involving one or other of the joint venture partners. PROPERTY The joint venture may occupy premises owned by one partner or another. This property could be damaged by the negligent actions of an employee of the non-owning partner, and there could be a subrogated claim brought by the property insurer. This could be damaging to the joint venture relationship and can be avoided by the inclusion of a waiver of subrogation in favour of the partner. DIRECTORS AND OFFICERS For an unincorporated joint venture, the standard position is normally similar to that of EL insurance where the employing partner insures. However in the case of an incorporated joint venture, the partners will in particular need to check their individual policy definitions of associated company to ensure it includes their employees working for the joint venture. For example, there maybe a requirement for a shareholding in the joint venture which may be an issue for joint ventures set up as limited liability partnerships. CRIME For an unincorporated joint venture, the standard position is again similar to that of EL insurance where the employing partners insures. However this is only suitable where there is a high degree of work separation of the joint venture partner s employees. Where work overlaps, for example one partner may supervise the work of the other, a loss may involve employees of more than one joint venture partner and therefore a single policy, as for an incorporated joint venture, is the more suitable solution.
13 14 JOINT VENTURES INSURANCE CONSIDERATIONS INSURERS ATTITUDE TOWARDS JOINT VENTURES Insurers generally adopt a more cautious view of joint ventures than they would normally on a single insured. This is because joint ventures are usually created for a specific project and there is no combined claims history to base an underwriting decision on. However, if the joint ventures are formed from joint venture partnership they already insure on an annual basis then generally they will be more comfortable with the risk. From an EL perspective, the supervision of employees and who is controlling them is crucial. It is helpful if one partner agrees to arrange the insurances on behalf of the joint venture as this will ensure continuity and a constant point of contact in the event of a claim. Insurers will need to be reassured that issues like health and safety are dealt with and all employees know what is expected of them. All companies have different ways of doing things and safe working practices must be agreed and implemented to minimise risk and reassure insurers. If the project is for a long period, insurers may be reluctant to insure the EL risk for the duration. Instead they may only offer an annual policy due to the long tail nature of injury claims. They may also carry out regular surveys to assess how the work is being performed. Some insurers may be prepared to offer cover for the first three years with a review of premium in the event a loss ratio threshold is exceeded. On the other hand they may also be prepared to offer a rebate in the event the claims are minimal after the project has finished. For public liability products and CAR, the same applies but the potential difference in conditions cover between project and annual policies causes the most headaches. An example of this is where the project policy excludes cover for financial loss but one of the joint venture partners enjoys this cover under its annual policy. This partner could be indemnified under its annual policy, albeit only to the extent of their share in the joint venture. There is also a potential difference in limits exposure as the project policy may be for a smaller limit and requires topping up under the annual. On CAR policies the difference may be on the design exclusion or types of maintenance cover given, all of which the underwriters need to consider carefully. Another consideration is the scope of the claims jurisdiction under the policy. If the joint venture was set up for a UK project but one of partners was an overseas company, then it is likely that the jurisdiction will need address both the location of the project but also the jurisdiction for the domicile of the overseas partner. Underwriters may wish to limit this to worldwide excluding North America but if cover for actions brought in North America is required, this would normally have an impact on the premium, terms and conditions. Motor underwriters do not tend to look favourably on newly incorporated joint venture companies with no motor insurance history although if they do participate on the members annual programmes then this may help. Generally the premiums are likely to be significantly more expensive than those of a long established company.
14 Key insurance issues for contractors and service providers 15 Insurers will need to be reassured that issues like health and safety are dealt with and all employees know what is expected of them. OTHER ACTIVITIES When addressing the concern of one joint venture partner being held joint and severally liable for the other joint venture member s work or service, if their scope of work is outside that normally undertaken by you then it is important that the full scope of the joint venture contract is agreed by insurers. PRIMARY INSURANCE CLAUSE Similar to when project insurance may be arranged by an owner or other party, it is important that any joint venture specific policies include a primary insurance or noncontribution clause to the effect the joint venture specific policy cannot seek contribution from any of the joint venture partners annual insurances. COMMON PHILOSOPHY It is unlikely that joint venture partners will share the same insurance philosophy and style of insurance programme. Different limits of indemnity, levels of selfinsurance and scope of cover will almost certainly exist, meaning that the partner will need to be prepared to compromise so as to reach a position of common ground. Project specific or joint venture specific insurance may not always be available or purchased to match the joint venture partners own insurance programmes, so there will often remain some need for difference in conditions or excess coverage. A further consideration will be how the risks and liabilities of a partner are to be protected after the expiry of any project specific joint venture insurance, especially as parent company indemnities may have been made available to support the contract.
15 CONTACTS MIKE JOHNSON Contractor Group CEO, Construction JLT Specialty +44 (0) DAVID CAHILL Construction Business Development Leader JLT Specialty +44 (0) JLT Specialty Limited provides insurance broking, risk management and claims consulting services to large and international companies. Our success comes from focusing on sectors where we know we can make the greatest difference using insight, intelligence and imagination to provide expert advice and robust - often unique - solutions. We build partner teams to work side-by-side with you, our network and the market to deliver responses which are carefully considered from all angles. Our construction team is London s largest of construction broking specialists. For over 25 years, we have worked in partnership with our clients, delivering unrivalled service and innovative solutions which have challenged and continue to shape the construction insurance industry. Our integrated team of over 135 experts across service, broking and claims work together to provide exceptional service. A primary point of contact ensures our clients can access a team with the breadth and depth of experience to meet their risk and insurance needs. JLT Specialty Limited The St Botolph Building 138 Houndsditch London EC3A 7AW Tel +44 (0) Fax +44 (0) Lloyd s Broker. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. A member of the Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group. Registered Office: The St Botolph Building, 138 Houndsditch, London EC3A 7AW. Registered in England No VAT No May
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