August 20, Docket number: Dear Director McRaith,

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1 Director, Federal Insurance Office Department of the Treasury Federal Insurance Office 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, D.C Re: Input to FIO s study on the breadth and scope of the global reinsurance market and the critical role such market plays in supporting insurance in the United States. Docket number: Dear Director McRaith, The Florida Chamber of Commerce appreciates the opportunity to comment on the breadth and scope of the global reinsurance market and the critical role a healthy market plays in supporting insurance in the United States; in particular, our state of Florida. The Florida Chamber represents more than 139,000 grassroots members with more than three million employees across Florida. Our mission at the Florida Chamber is to lead Florida to a new and sustainable economy. The support of international private reinsurance is vital to Florida s businesses and homeowners, particularly in light of our state s significant hurricane exposure. We are pleased to submit this letter for your consideration, focusing on particular issues relevant to Florida and its business community. 1. The purpose of reinsurance As the FIO well understands, insurance makes the costs of financing many risks more affordable through diversification; and global private reinsurance plays this role for the insurance industry. Private reinsurance is accordingly unusually important to our state of Florida, which has over $2.5 trillion of total insured coastal property value (the highest of any hurricane exposed state), and a concentration of hurricane risk. Private reinsurance has served Florida well in the past, providing funding for recovery and rebuilding following disasters, including the large hurricanes we experienced in 2004 and Reinsurance recoveries spare our taxpayers additional recovery and rebuilding costs while boosting and speeding economic recovery. Private reinsurers provide stability to our insurance market by spreading our state s catastrophic risks with others around the world thereby avoiding overexposure, and reducing the cost of financing our risks. In addition, reinsurance provides capital relief for Florida s insurance companies, which protects our policyholders and businesses from potential defaults.

2 Page Two 2. The breadth and scope of the global reinsurance market We understand that there are currently about 200 companies offering reinsurance worldwide, 1 and that private reinsurance capacity was at a record high of $470 billion at the end of the first quarter despite 2011 being one of the highest recorded years for reinsured catastrophe losses. From a Florida perspective, we were pleased to observe the continued availability and recent pricing stability of private reinsurance to Florida s insurers, including the state-sponsored Citizens Property Insurance Company ( CPIC ). In the 2012 renewal season CPIC secured $1.5 billion in private market protection through a combination of $750 million in traditional reinsurance and $750 million in catastrophe bond capacity for the 2012 hurricane season. We understand that this was the largest amount of private risk transfer ever purchased by CPIC, and reduces the amount of exposure CPIC represents for other policyholders in our state, including businesses and consumers not insured by CPIC. 3. The role that the global reinsurance market plays in supporting insurance in the US Global reinsurance significantly mitigates the financial impact that US catastrophes have on US insurers and US policyholders. This is particularly important to a catastrophe-prone state such as Florida. In , our region was impacted by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, which collectively caused $59 billion of insured damage. Sixty percent of those insured losses were paid from foreign insurers and reinsurers, permitting Florida businesses and homeowners to quickly and successfully rebuild. Without access to global reinsurance capacity the claims burden of those payments would have fallen squarely on US domestic (re)insurers. While a range of reinsurance markets, including Lloyds and the broader UK market, US reinsurers and Asia-based reinsurers support Florida, since Hurricane Andrew Bermuda has consistently been the most important domicile in terms of assuming Florida property catastrophe business. To date, no Bermuda-based reinsurer has ever been unable to pay Florida insurance companies catastrophe claims. 3 The Bermuda-Florida partnership has been an important part of the Florida success story over the last two decades. 1 International Association of Insurance Supervisors, Reinsurance and Financial Stability, 19 July Reinsurance Market Outlook, June and July 2012 Update Aon Benfield 3 Bradley Kading, President and Executive Director, Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers

3 Page Three Global reinsurers have also been important supporters of Florida-based research and development into storm safety, weather research, storm-resistant construction techniques, and other potential high-growth areas. The Florida Chamber actively supports Florida s growth into knowledge-based, science oriented industries of the future. Universities and Florida-based charities supported by reinsurers include Florida State University, the University of Florida, Florida International University, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and the Institute for Business and Home Safety. These contributions from international reinsurers are not only helping to make American businesses and families more secure from the inevitable next storm, but helping to foster innovation-based jobs and industries in Florida. 4. The effect of domestic and international regulation on reinsurance in the US Insurance experts estimate that Florida has the most significant concentration of insured natural catastrophe risk of any jurisdiction, with more than 60% of the US windstorm exposure and about one third of the total global insured exposure. Despite the great strides made in stronger building codes and mitigation after hurricane Andrew in1992, demand for at-risk property in Florida is higher than ever with over $2.5 trillion of total insured coastal property value, the highest of any hurricane exposed state. The Florida Chamber believes that Florida cannot and should not retain all of its natural catastrophe risk within state borders. Financial backing from reinsurance forms the safety net for our insurance companies to keep their promises to their policyholders, including the Chamber s members. The Florida Chamber has urged US policymakers to encourage global reinsurers to participate in the US market (and Florida, given its significant catastrophic risk). Among other things, we hope that policymakers will seek means to reduce or remove tax or trade barriers that could impede the ability of global reinsurers to support Florida and other US markets. Specifically, the Florida Chamber opposes HR 3157 and S 1693, legislation introduced by Rep. Richard Neal (DMA) and Sen. Robert Menendez (DNJ), which would levy costly tariffs on the global insurance companies that provide nearly two-thirds of all the reinsurance throughout the United States and a considerable share of the home and business property insurance in Florida. As the representatives of Florida s business community, we believe that this legislation is a disruptive and destructive policy that will create an anticompetitive tax structure and will drive up premiums unfairly hurting businesses across the state. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and our members are also concerned about language in President Obama s 2012 budget proposal which would deny a tax deduction for certain reinsurance premiums paid to foreignbased affiliates by domestic insurers. The FIO may wish to play a role in considering the unintended results of these proposals: a reduced supply of insurance and higher rates passed along to policyholders. In today s struggling economy, the White House and Congress should avoid imposing enormous new tariffs on nonus insurers that will only result in disproportionate burdens placed on consumers and businesses in states like Florida that are most vulnerable to natural disaster.

4 Page Four Moreover, given the FIO s role in international trade and regulatory agreements, we ask the FIO to consider the potential cross-border impacts of unilateral punitive actions. The Chamber promotes free trade, regularly participates in gubernatorial and other trade missions abroad, and believes that free trade is critical to our state and nation. As insured property values continue to grow in Florida (more than doubling from $1.4 trillion in 2005 to over $2.5 trillion today) Florida will increasingly need to rely on the diversification benefits of global reinsurance to avoid economic peril. The Florida Chamber asks that US policymakers therefore focus on creating regulatory efficiencies for reinsurers and insurers to ensure the capital that global reinsurance provides continues to be available to our country and our state. 5. The role and impact of government reinsurance programs In general, the Florida Chamber believes that government reinsurance and insurance programs can have the following impacts: a) private capital and choice for policyholders are significantly reduced when residual markets go from markets of last resort to markets of first resort ; b) an increase of moral hazard and inappropriate risk taking when risk-based pricing are not applied by government reinsurers or insurers; c) concentrating risk in the state and ultimately on Floridian taxpayers; d) discouraging mitigation; e) cross-subsidization from low-risk property owners to high-risk property owners and from policyholders of unrelated risks (particularly, in the case of Florida, business operations and auto policies) to the policyholders who suffered the loss; and f) Interfering with the free flow of private capital. More particularly in Florida, the Florida Chamber has long supported reforms of Florida s own government reinsurance program, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (the FHCF ), as well as CPIC. While state s lawmakers have taken steps to right-size the FHCF and to reform Citizens and begin returning it back to its intended role as insurer of last resort, more needs to be done. The Chamber believes that both entities are underfunded and inappropriately structured, relying on post-event assessments from policyholders statewide to meet their current obligations. Accordingly, our state system subjects private insurers and businesses more broadly -- to potential assessments by any or all of the FHCF, CPIC,

5 Page Five and the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association at the same time they must meet the needs of their own respective customers. There is also the potential that all of these entities as well as the state government could attempt to raise money at the same time by selling bonds to cover losses incurred from hurricane damage. If global liquidity is strained at that time, funding a large amount of hurricane losses could be very expensive or even impossible which would place our Florida residents and businesses in financial peril. Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (the FHCF ) The Florida Chamber believes that FHCF, Florida s state run reinsurance company, is overexposed putting our state one storm away from severe financial risk. Moreover, the ongoing instability of the FHCF has had adverse impacts on our state. Every property insurance company writing residential property coverage in Florida is mandated by Florida Statute to purchase reinsurance from the FHCF as a condition of doing business in the state. As a compulsory state trust, the FHCF is not subject to any capital or solvency regulation in the way that private insurers and reinsurers are, and relies instead upon its ability to assess Florida s policyholders in the event it cannot meet its obligations. Such was the case when the FHCF issued bonding in 2006 and 2008 when it faced a deficit after reimbursing insurers for the 2005 hurricanes, primarily Hurricane Wilma. Floridians and our business were hit with nearly $5 billion in hurricane taxes by way of assessments on all property and casualty policies. These assessments will continue to be paid on all property and casualty policies until Today, the FHCF faces an $8.757 billion shortfall should it have to make good on its promise to pay hurricane claims. Even with the FHCF s ability to tax policyholders across the state, the FHCF declared a $1.75 billion bonding shortfall in claims-paying capacity for the 2012 hurricane season. This is the second successive year of a projected bonding shortfall. This shortfall would have devastating effects on our insurance market, and on consumer and commercial insureds. Florida s Office of Insurance Regulation ( OIR ), responsible for regulating Florida insurance companies, indicated that as many as 24 insurers could become insolvent if a large hurricane causes the FHCF to encounter even only a 25% shortfall in its funding capabilities. Additionally, an estimated 2.2 million policyholders would be impacted in that scenario more than 1/3 of all residential policyholders in the state. Another key concern is the issue of subsequent season capacity. The FHCF has been unable to fully fund a subsequent loss since We believe this instability is adversely impacting Florida s business community. The Florida Chamber has advocated for the FHCF to reduce its financial exposure, and to relieve the taxpayers of our state of the potential burden of both the assessment risk and the recurring instability. Important insurance reform legislation that would have helped stabilize the FHCF with sensible and modest increases failed earlier this year because of negative public perception. In reality, those proposed increases were so minor that they would have

6 Page Six actually saved Floridians over time when compared to the hurricane tax assessments that Floridians may be stuck with for as long as 30 years. It is time to accept that change is needed. The alternative is far too risky. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation ( CPIC ) Florida s state operated insurance company, CPIC, also relies on assessing Floridians to cover its deficits following a storm. CPIC s assessment base includes property, auto, liability and other lines of insurance (other than medical malpractice and workers compensation) placing the burden of paying for the next big storm on all Floridians, even those with no exposure at all to hurricane losses. CPIC was originally established as a market of last resort. However, rates were frozen by law at 2005 levels from January 2007 to January CPIC s lower non-risk-based-rate pricing, its tax advantages and its lower cost of capital due to its authority to levy assessments against Florida residents and businesses led to it becoming the largest homeowner insurer in Florida and the insurer of first resort. Policy count surged from 658,085 in 2002 to 1.4 million policies as of May 31, 2012 and total exposure to loss grew from $154.6 billion in 2002 to $499 billion as of May 31, Legislation passed in 2009 put CPIC below market rates on a glide path until they are actuarially sound. However, the glide-path only allows a maximum of 10% rate increase to any single policy annually, which will prevent this goal from being achieved in the near future.

7 Page Seven CPIC s ability to pay claims is partly dependent on the FCHF which reimburses CPIC a stated percentage of its hurricane losses. However, as discussed above, in the event of a major storm the FHCF s ability to pay claims would also be impacted. CPIC, under its re-energized board and with the encouragement of Governor Scott and our state Cabinet, has made some positive steps towards reducing risk. Private insurers have been encouraged to remove blocks of polices from CPIC but the rate differential between CPIC s rates and those needed by private carriers to pay claims without the ability to assess policyholders makes it extremely challenging for private insurers to offer competitive pricing. The Florida Chamber believes that Florida policymakers must continue to take steps to return CPIC back to a market of last resort as Florida cannot afford to have all property owners and taxpayers subsidize the policyholders that live in hurricane prone areas. Riskbased rates would bring competitive insurers into our state, change high-risk behavior and encourage mitigation. Given the challenges today s economy presents for businesses and families in Florida we urge you to consider the impacts Florida s government programs and regulatory initiatives have had on our state s market. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, David A. Hart Executive Vice President cc: Mark Wilson, President & CEO

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