# A closer look at H.B. 3622

## Analysis

I have undertaken an analysis of H.B. 3622 that is going to be discussed in the House Insurance Committee at a hearing at 2 p.m. this Tuesday, April 30, 2013.  The one sentence summary is that, although it has some good features, H.B. 3622 is an economic disaster for the Texas coast and the rest of Texas because it does not create a high enough stack to protect against tropical cyclones. The probability of TWIA going bankrupt, even if it does not grow, over the next 20 years under this bill is about 22%. Here are the bullet points.

### Baseline scenario

I conducted 1000 simulations of H.B. 3622 over its plausible shelf life of 20 years using models based on data provided to TWIA by AIR and RMS. TWIA policyholders end up paying via operating funds, reinsurance premiums and contributions to the catastrophe reserve fund for about 66% of the amount of TWIA losses.  There is thus about 34% subsidization in H.B. 3622.  The remaining losses are paid for approximately as follows: 9% by coastal insureds for paying off 70% of the Class 2 bonds, 12% by insurers (and, derivatively, their insureds) by low attachment Class1 Funding assessments, paying off 30% of Class 2 bonds, and high attachment Class 3 Funding assessments, 3% by the State of Texas via premium tax credits given to insurers that partly offset assessments, and, a disturbing 11% absorbed without insurance by TWIA policyholders when TWIA lacks funds with which to pay claims due to an inadequate stack. The pie chart below illustrates this distribution. For some caveats on this computation, see the note below.

In 222 of those 1000 simulations, (22.2% of the time) TWIA became insolvent at some point during those 20 years. At first, I thought this had to be a mistake in my simulation. But, I did a back of the envelope computation that suggests it is an accurate result.  This high risk exists because, particularly over the next 5 years or so, the stack protecting TWIA policyholders is very low relative to potential losses.  Some depopulation of TWIA via, for example, lowering maximum policy limits or reducing moral hazard through higher deductibles and coinsurance would reduce this probability. My “envelope” containing the computation is set forth in the notes below.

### Low reinsurance scenario

Reductions in the purchase of reinsurance produce yet worse results.  The 20-year risk of insolvency is now 29%. And TWIA policyholders pay for even less of the risk they create.  The pie chart below shows the distribution.

Additional premiums paid in by TWIA policyholders could lower the risk of insolvency and increase their responsibility for losses. By increasing premiums 25%, the probability of insolvency is reduced to 21%, still far too high a number. The pie chart below shows, however, that TWIA policyholders now pay a larger proportion of losses suffered.

### Higher Maximum CRTF Payment Scenario

The rate of subsidization and the risk of insolvency would decrease significantly, if H.B. 3622 liberated the CRTF to do its job.  H.B. 3622 would be improved if the \$1 billion ceiling in its section 6 (amending section 2210.072) placed on CRTF payments were replaced with \$3 billion, as the maximum amount of CRTF funds that could be used to pay for losses. A conforming amendment should also be made to proposed section 2210. 4522. Such an amendment, although it would do little for the next 5 to 8 years, at least reduces the risk of insolvency in years down the road provided no major hurricane has previously hit the Texas coast.  Insolvency risk over the 20 year period would decline to 18% — still way too high but smaller.  And the distribution pie chart shows that now 73% of the losses are born through insurance by TWIA policyholders, though 9% is still unfunded.

The failure to index the parameters to H.B. 3622, such as the maximum amount of the catastrophe reserve fund that can be used to pay a claim or the maximum assessments against insurers means that the insolvency risk grows if, as coastal interests desire, the value of property on coast continues to grow.

## Conclusion

This bill, if were to be passed by a 2/3 majority, at least makes a dent in urgent crisis facing Texas for the 2013 hurricane season. It gets rid of the “bug” in current law that I have discussed in this blog recently. And it does away with the worst of post-event bonding as a funding mechanism. The bill, however, still suffers from several fundamental problems that threaten to destroy the Texas coast.  Unlike S.B. 18 that woud somewhat deconcentrate TWIA risk, it continues the concentration of correlated risk in a single entity. This placing of a lot of eggs in the single TWIA basket inevitably leads to extraordinarily high prices for reinsurance, which in turn prevents TWIA from building up adequate internal reserves in timely fashion. By insulating coastal Texas from market forces, the bill distorts development patterns and discourages risk mitigation. It perpetuates the economically unjustifiable large-scale subsidization from the poor in non-coastal Texas to the middle class and wealthy in coastal Texas. It continues to do so in an opaque manner by complexities such as insurer assessments and premium tax credits.  And it leaves the Texas coast and, derivatively, the rest of Texas extremely vulnerable over the reasonable lifespan of this bill to a devastating insolvency — a threat which itself is likely to retard coastal development.

## Assumptions and Qualifications

I assume the AIR and RMS models are reasonable.  There is some evidence to suggest that the reinsurance industry believes these models are optimistic about the risk of severe tropical cyclones in Texas.  If that is true, the insolvency problem highlighted here becomes yet more serious.

My original analysis contained some errors; I attempt to fix them here. Most relate to my prior lack of complete recognition that the bill does away with Class 1 post-event bonds, the alternative Class 2 post-event bonds, and with Class 3 post-event bonds and substitutes assessment mechanisms for them.

I assume that insurers pay for about 20% of that portion of assessments for which a premium tax credit is available.  This percentage is a crude estimate of the time value of money.

I assume that insurers incur no costs in having to stockpile money to pay assessments.  This is an assumption made for purposes of simplicity and is obviously false.  Taking risk costs into account would mean that insurers bear even more of the costs of a system such as H.B. 3622.

I use a model of reinsurance pricing consistent with that in the literature under which reinsurance prices are based on the sum of the expected claims costs and a fraction of the maximum exposure. I have attempted to calibrate the model, particularly with respect to the fraction used to multiply maximum exposure, by looking at the amount TWIA has paid for reinsurance in recent years.  I continue my concern that TWIA is paying too much for reinsurance and substitute mechanisms for catastrophic risk transfer ought to be explored.

A copy of the Mathematica notebook underlying the assertions in this blog post is available here. I have not had the time to annotate it fully, but am happy to explain it and run different simulations should any legislator desire.

## Three back of the envelope computations confirming a high probability that H.B. 3622 will leave TWIA insolvent over the next 20 years.

### Method 1

If you have a stack like this one for 2013 that is likely to be at best only \$2.98 billion high (\$180 million CRTF, \$800 million Class 1 Funding and \$1 billion Class 2 Bonds plus an optimistic \$1 billion in low attaching reinsurance) and you have roughly a 1.9% probability of a tropical cyclone losses that exceeds that sum, over 20 years, the cumulative probability of having at least one loss in excess of the stack is 31%.  (The survival function at 0 of a negative binomial distribution with 20 trials and a negative probability of 98.1% per trial).  It’s only because the stack can grow by perhaps \$100 million per year on average (due to increases in the CRTF) and the fact that there the probability in the simulation drops to a still frightening 21.3%.

### Method 2

I also performed a second simplified analysis in which one computed the height of the stack as a function of time under the optimistic assumption that TWIA suffered no major losses.  The height of the stack was set to increase as contributions to the CRTF increased.  I then computed the numeric probabilities for solvency each year.  I then multiplied these probabilities together.  By subtracting these values from 1, one obtains the probability at the end of each 20 year period that TWIA has become insolvent. I again see results between 15-25% depending on what assumptions are made.  These results are consistent with the findings made using the more elaborate methodology.

### Method 3

I generated 10,000 storms from the AIR/RMS derived distribution.  I then partitioned these storms into groups of 20 and found the largest storm.  I then plotted the “Exceedance Curve” or “Survival Function” of this empirical order distribution.  I show the results below.  As one can see the probability of the largest storm being more than \$3 billion is about 20%.  Even at \$5 billion, the probability is above 15%.

Exceedance Curve for Largest Storm in 20 years

# An analysis of S.B. 1700 and H.B. 3622

Note: I’ve taken a second look at this bill and done a better job in analyzing it. Look here.

S.B. 1700 from Senator Larry Taylor of  Friendswood and its House cognate, H.B. 3622 from Representative Dennis Bonnen of Brazoria/Matagorda are the only bills among the major contenders in the legislature this session that addresses the short run problem with the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.  And H.B. 3622 is set for a hearing in the Texas House Insurance Committee this April 30, 2013, at 2 p.m.  As with H.B. 2352 from Representative Todd Hunter and its cognate S.B. 1089 from Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, however, the Taylor/Bonnen bills prop up TWIA largely with money from people other than TWIA policyholders. In this instance, the entities that pay for much of the windstorm risk on the Texas coast are (1) Texas taxpayers via a reduction in otherwise owing premium tax revenue and (2) owners of insured homes, autos and other insured property (or liability insurance) throughout Texas via an assessment on insurers likely to be passed on in higher premiums. Here’s a legislative analysis.

The key to S.B. 1700 and H.B. 3622 is to make sure that no storm that causes less than about \$1 billion in losses to TWIA needs to try to use post-event Class 1 Bonds to pay claims — a good idea considering that these bonds have been found to be unrateable and probably could not be issued in a large amount. Right now, it only takes a storm causing more than \$180 million before TWIA will first look to Class 1 Bonds in order to pay claims. The padding between storms and the tenuous Class 1 Bonds is, at least for the 2013 hurricane season, not additional money from TWIA policyholders but instead an assessment on property and casualty insurers statewide. This assessment could be up to \$800 million.

The bill softens the blow of this \$800 million exposure in two ways.  First, up to \$300 million of such an assessment could be credited against premium taxes the insurers would otherwise owe to Texas.  This crediting would take place in installments, however, lasting a minimum of 5 years.  Thus, in essence, Texas insurers are compelled to fork over up to \$500 million and to front an interest-free \$300 million loan to the state in order to pay clams.  (And even if they never pay, they will have to stockpile some reserves to address this contingent liability.) I have suggested elsewhere that it would insult the insurance industry to suggest that they will not find a way to get this money back. An obvious target will be Texas policyholders. Second, for each dollar the insurers pay at the lower attachment point (just above the end of the Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund) they reduce the exposure they now have at a higher attachment point, one that lies above the top of the Class 2 Bonds or the Class 2 Alternative Bonds.  And the insurers no longer have to really pay fully for Class 3 assessments. Instead, up to \$300 million, they just make an interest-free loan to the state that gets paid back over a minimum of 5 years via a reduction in otherwise owing premium taxes.

Here’s an interactive visualization of the effect of S.B. 1700. You’ll need to obtain and install the free CDF player to actually be interactive with this medium.

So, if I had to guess at the realistic size of the TWIA stack today, I would say it was perhaps  \$600 million: \$180 million in CRTF, perhaps a sale of 25% of the amount authorized in Class 1 Bonds, and perhaps 25% of the amount authorized in Class 2 Alternative Bonds. If S.B. 1700 were to pass, the stack would grow to perhaps \$1.5 million: \$180 million in CRTF, \$800 million in insurer assessments (some of which would just be an interest free loan), and, again, perhaps  sale of 25% of the amount authorized in Class 1 Bonds, and perhaps 25% of the amount authorized in Class 2 Alternative Bonds. Due to the bug in the existing statute — one that is not (yet) fixed in the Taylor bill — it’s my opinion that no Class 3 securities are likely to be issued. I also have doubts that useful reinsurance can currently be purchased by TWIA due to confusion about the appropriate attachment point.

1. I’d like to run analysis similar to that done on H.B. 2352 about how much of the expected risk of tropical cyclones is born by each group under S.B. 1700 and H.B. 3622. My suspicion is that a great deal will be borne by insureds statewide due to the low assessment attachment point. A great deal will be eaten by TWIA policyholders themselves in uninsured losses because, unless pieces of the statute are fixed, the realistic height of the stack is not the touted \$4 billion but a number far lower than that.  In other words, S.B. 1700 and H.B. 3622, though they raise the height of the TWIA stack, still leaves a substantial risk of insolvency.

2. The bill has a provision I like: it prohibits TWIA from purchasing reinsurance with low attachment points.  This prohibition prevents TWIA from deciding to sacrifice policyholder interests in favor of insurance company interests.  How to trade these two interests off is a matter that should be resolved, as this bill does, by the legislature.

3. This bill does nothing to address major structural problems with TWIA.  These include:

• low deductibles and no coinsurance that lead to problems of moral hazard
• failure to warn TWIA policyholders about the risk of insolvency
• continued subsidization by poor people throughout Texas of million dollar homes on the Texas coast
• continued concentration of risk in a single entity that invariably leads to a difficult tradeoff between paying extremely high rates for reinsurance — and thereby preventing growth of an internal catastrophe reserve fund — or subjecting policyholders to a substantial risk of insolvency
• fails to address the needless fragility of Class 3 Bonds. [This is not right, see my update]

# Fox 26 Houston Story on TWIA Tonight

Fox-26 Houston (KRIV) is doing a story for their 5 p.m. news today, April 25, 2013, on the problems facing the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. I was interviewed in connection with the story. Although I spent much of the time engaging the special insurance mythology of the Texas coast, my hope is that this story brings attention to the immediate problems facing both coastal Texans and the rest of the state this summer.  I am very glad at least one Houston media outlet is covering this urgent issue. The legislature may well need some prodding in order to act before the current session expires in 32 days.

Here’s a link to the story.

Unfortunately, it looks like the reporter got an earful of the usual from some coastal residents before interviewing me.  He heard, for example, the myth of how the coast subsidizes the rest of Texas’ hailstorms and tornados so it’s only fair that the rest of Texas subsidizes coastal windstorms.  This is wrong in so many ways. First, Texas does not relieve Northern Texans from paying for the full cost of homeowner insurance by establishing a state-created insurer and saying that, when that insurer runs short, it can hit up people other than policyholders to pay claims and recapitalize the insurer. If and when Texas does this, I’m willing to listen with greater attentiveness to the “we are all in this together” song. For now, I regard it as a guise for geographic wealth redistribution that frequently hurts the poor. Second, while it is true that Texas insurers pay out over the long run a lot in hail and tornado claims, it’s also true that the denominator — the value of property insured along non-coastal Texas — is a lot bigger than the value of property insured along the coast.  So the risk of hail and tornados is not the same as the risk of tropical cyclones. It is less. Third, Texas insurers are permitted by the Insurance Code (544.003(b)) to price on the basis of geographic risk, provided they can establish it is real.  I am aware of no evidence indicating that Texas insurers have not taken advantage of that opportunity and have failed to charge northern Texans a fair risk for the special risks they pose by virtue of the somewhat higher risk of hail and tornados in those regions relative to coastal Texas.  I have never yet seen an actual relevant number from any proponent of the cross subsidization myth.

The reporter also heard the usual comments about how the coast is some exaggerated percentage of the Texas economy. If the only purpose of this remark is to urge legislators to find a good solution to the problems of catastrophe insurance along the Texas coast, I agree 100 per cent.  And the fact that they exaggerate the numbers a little bit might count as a white lie. Usually, however, these utterances with exaggerated percentages are instead justification for continued subsidization — a system, by the way, that has not worked out very well for the coast.

Of course the coast is important to the Texas economy.  No one I know is saying anything to the contrary.  And lest there be any doubt, I agree that the Texas coast is very important to the Texas economy. That’s just another reason that getting its property insurance market in good shape is all the more important.  But first of all to say that it is 40% or 50% of the Texas economy because 40 or 50% of business is indirectly tied to the coast is not the right measure.  Once we start using indirect ties, the total percentages are going to add to way more than 100%. I venture to say that 50% of the Texas economy is tied directly or indirectly to Dallas, and another 50% to Houston and another 40% to Austin and another 40% to San Antonio, and so forth.  But so what? The fact that we are all interdependent is simply not a logical argument that one part of that interdependent system should subsidize another. Probably 100% of the Texas economy is tied to Texas cities. Does that mean that rural folk should subsidize my urban homeowner insurance?

Here are the points I tried to make.  They will be familiar to readers of this blog. I have spoken with this reporter before on other insurance topics and he does a good and fair job whittling down longer comments to the limits of television news.  So, I hope some of them survive.

• TWIA has just \$180 million left in its Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund. It was thought as recently as a few months ago that TWIA would have access to at least \$3 billion with which to pay claims. The issue was whether \$3 billion was too little.  But after looking at the financial environment and taking a close look at the TWIA finance law, including a possible bug, there is now serious doubt that there will be much more available to pay policyholders than the \$180 million in the Catastrophe Reserve Fund.

• The state is not legally obligated to pay claims if TWIA is insolvent.  If there is a large storm this summer, there is a serious risk that TWIA policyholders will get only pennies on the dollar.

• What can TWIA policyholders do?

• (1) Extreme vigilance in protecting their homes.  There are lots of mitigation steps that can be taken, particularly with older homes.  Some need to be taken right now.  Others can be taken if a storm approaches.  But act as if you have a huge copay on your policy

• (2) Some TWIA policyholders may have alternatives.  It may be more expensive.  Consider whether you want to pay more but sleep better this summer

• (3) Urge your legislators to treat this problem seriously.  32 days left in session.  Bills pending that address the issue. There is both a short run problem and a long run problem.

# A statute implementing drop down of Class 3 bonds

## The concept

In a post yesterday, I suggested that the Texas legislature needs to prevent a needless insurance catastrophe this summer involving the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. The catastrophe would be triggered by the inability of the Texas Public Finance Authority to issue Class 2 Alternative post-event bonds following a significant tropical cyclone. As the current law is drafted, such an inability would cascade into an inability to issue any Class 3 post-event bonds and, unless the contract was carefully drafted in an unusual way, jeopardize the ability to collect on any of the expensive reinsurance TWIA had purchased. I thus suggested repeal of current provisions prohibiting the Class 3 bonds from dropping down. I suggested instead that these bonds be permitted to “drop down” in the event the Class 2 Alternative bonds fail to sell and that insurers be given a premium tax credit to the extent the drop down Class 3 bonds increase their subsidization of tropical cyclone losses along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Today, I want to post some statutory language that would actually implement this idea. I make this foray into statutory drafting because I regard the issue as one of extreme importance and would not like to see thousands of coastal Texans needlessly crippled financially following a significant hurricane because I did not make the effort. I am hardly expert in Texas statutory drafting but believe my skills in contract drafting, a subject I teach with some passion to students at the University of Houston Law Center, might transfer over to this domain. I also do so because I believe, perhaps naively, that this is a component of windstorm reform on which most politicians could actually agree, a matter that has become more imperative in my mind after having attended the most recent legislative hearing on windstorm reform. Of course to the extent that reform legislation is passed in the next 40 days (one day less than yesterday — tick, tick, tick) that would provide both for this summer and for hurricane seasons thereafter, the bandaid suggested here might well not be necessary.

In any event, here is some proposed language that would permit the drop down of Class 3 bonds as a bandaid for the upcoming hurricane season. Additions are underlined; deletions are struck through. The language could be added to many of the bills now pending in the legislature that reform TWIA. At the moment, the proposed legislation permits the drop down to occur at any time, but the permissible period could be restricted to calendar years 2013 and 2014. The bill might also need something like the following to ensure that it takes effect as soon as possible: “This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution. If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect on the 91st day after the last day of the legislative session.”

## The statutory language

Sec. 2210.6135. PAYMENT OF CLASS 3 PUBLIC SECURITIES. (a) The association shall pay Class 3 public securities issued under Section 2210.074 as provided by this section through member assessments. The association, for the payment of the losses, shall assess the members of the association a principal amount not to exceed \$500 million per catastrophe year. The association shall notify each member of the association of the amount of the member’s assessment under this section.

(b) The proportion of the losses allocable to each insurer under this section shall be determined in the manner used to determine each insurer’s participation in the association for the year under Section 2210.052.

(c) Except to the extent permitted under Section 2210.6136, a member of the association may not recoup an assessment paid under this section through a premium surcharge or tax credit.

Sec. 2210.6136. ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF PAYMENT. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter and subject to Subsection (b), on a finding by the commissioner that all or any portion of the total principal amount of Class 1 public securities authorized to be issued under Section 2210.072 cannot be issued, the commissioner, by rule or order, may cause the issuance of Class 2 public securities in a principal amount not to exceed the principal amount described by Section 2210.073(b).

(b) The commissioner shall order the repayment of the cost of Class 2 public securities issued in the manner described by Subsection (a) as follows:

(1) in the manner described by Section 2210.612(a), in an amount equal to the lesser of:

(A) \$500 million; or

(B) that portion of the total principal amount of Class 1 public securities authorized to be issued under Section 2210.072 that cannot be issued, plus any costs associated with that portion; and

(2) after payment under Subdivision (1), in the manner described by Sections 2210.613(a) and (b), in an amount equal to the difference between the principal amount of public securities issued under Subsection (a) and the amount repaid in the manner described by Subdivision (1), plus any costs associated with that amount.

(c) If Class 2 public securities are issued in the manner authorized by this section, Class 3 public securities may be issued only after Class 2 public securities have been issued in the maximum amount authorized under Section 2210.073.

Sec. 2210.6137. BACKUP ALTERNATIVE SOURCE OF PAYMENT. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, on a finding by the commissioner that all or any portion of the total principal amount of Class 2 public securities authorized to be issued under Section 2210.072 or Section 2210.6136 cannot be issued, the commissioner, by rule or order, may cause the issuance of Class 3 public securities in a principal amount not to exceed the principal amount described by Section 2210.074(b).

(b) The commissioner shall order the repayment of the cost of Class 3 public securities issued in the manner described by Section 2210.074.

(c) An insurer may credit the “applicable fraction” as defined in subsection (d) of an amount paid in accordance with this Section in a calendar year against the insurer’s premium tax under Chapter 221. The tax credit authorized under this subsection shall be allowed at a rate not to exceed 20 percent per year for five or more successive years beginning the calendar year that the assessments under this section are paid. The balance of payments made by the insurer and not claimed as a premium tax credit may be reflected in the books and records of the insurer as an admitted asset of the insurer for all purposes, including exhibition in an annual statement under Section 862.001.

(d) For purposes of this section, the term “applicable fraction” means the ratio of

(1) the portion of the total principal amount of Class 2 public securities authorized to be issued under Section 2210.072 or Section 2210.6136 that cannot be issued to

(2) the initial principal amount of any Class 3 public securities issued pursuant to this section.

[Special Note: This post was edited at 6:30 p.m. on Monday to address some crucial formatting errors]

# Catrisk at the Texas Capitol again

I’m here at the Texas Capitol to testify on HB 2352.  There’s a rumor it is going to be amended before committee consideration.  I’m hoping it is improved.  Two initial observations:

1) Texas is truly blessed to have a gorgeous capitol building.

2) I sure hope our legislators are getting serious.  There are just 45 days until the start of hurricane season.  Texas does not have a viable plan to handle this summer and it does not have a viable plan yet to handle the period thereafter.

15.00

So, nothing happened on windstorm insurance on the floor of the Texas Senate today.  The one thing perhaps everyone could agree on is that time is running out to change anything in this regular session of the 83rd Legislature.

12.40

They are recessing until 2:15.  The Senate Business and Commerce meeting will have a meeting at Chairman Carona’s desk during the recess.  I have no idea what they will discuss.

Unfortunately, my day job is likely to prevent me from keeping even half an eye on the Senate for the next several hours, so you are all on your own for a bit.

12.20

Might be oyster and shrimp lunch time because nothing has happened on the Senate floor for quite some time.  Oh, wait. They just started up again.  But they are just reading and referring House bills to Senate committees.

11.58

Senate back considering bills, but not (yet) S.B. 1700.  The current one, on toll road conversion, is generating some actual comment.

11.31

They are into announcements rather than bill consideration.  But the chair indicates there may be additional bills to be heard today.

11.20

Senator Royce West certainly gets his colleagues’ attention by saying he was adding billion to the cost of a bill on digitizing filings in civil lawsuits.  Just kidding.

10.51

Senator Larry Taylor, sponsor of SB 1700, is now speaking, but not on Windstorm Insurance. Instead, he is talking about CSSB 1560 involving easements.

10.49

Chair says, “Members, that concludes the morning call.” Looks as if they are now taking up substantive bills.

10.40

Oyster and shrimp lunch for legislators being discussed.  No Windstorm bill yet.

11.42

Senate recesses until 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 15, 2013.  Still no S.B. 1700.

11.22

Reading and referring various bills to committees.  Does this mean voting on bills out of committee is over for today?

11.03

Actual debate on the floor. Not about windstorm insurance but about the right to marry.  And not about gay marriage but about photo identification. Should one need photo identification as a prerequisite to marriage?

10.44

Not that it has anything to do with windstorm insurance, but an interesting bill for insurance junkies on subrogation rights and the “make whole doctrine”.  H.B. 1869.  I’ll have to read it.

10.35

Now calling bills for review.  So the procedure seems to be

1) Suspend regular order of business so that the bill can be considered “out of order”; Vote on this.

2) Floor amendments offered and voted on.

3) Move passage to third reading.

4) Motion to suspend the 3 day delay between second and third reading

5) Third reading of bill (just caption)

6) Motion for final passage.  Roll call vote.

10.09

Session begins.

10.01

Upbeat music now playing heralding the possible start of session.  Also, please note that due to some issue with my liveblogging software, the time stamps are an hour off.  So, if this says 10:02 I believe it means 11:02.

09.58

Nothing happening.  Various people milling around.  No sound, but I am hoping that is because the microphones are off rather than any issues with my Internet feed.

13.35

Motion to adjourn until tomorrow. Passes.  So no S.B. 1700 today. #SB1700 #TWIA

13.34

Motions being heard to suspend Senate rules to permit announcements of urgent committee meetings.  No sign of S.B. 1700.

13.31

I get the sense that if you watched this Internet broadcast for a few days you might actually understand Senate procedure pretty well.

13.26

Wow, things move fast once they get to the Senate floor.  My sense is that everything is negotiated out ahead of time off the floor.  Still no sign of S.B. 1700.  We are hearing reading and referral of various bills.

16.09

The TWIA board today decided not to decide whether to consent to a receivership, tabling the idea until its May meeting.  That leaves the ball back in the court of Texas Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman, who can try to throw TWIA into receivership without TWIA’s consent.

A pictographic representation of the actions of TWIA’s board today

This is also the end of the live blog experiment.  It went well until my feed went out.  Next on the agenda, hearings in Austin on SB 1089 that would “fix” TWIA by placing more of the burden on people who don’t have real estate on the coast.

14.50

Alas, I must deal with reality and stop watching the blank screen.  If they’re still on when I return, I’ll live blog some more.  Otherwise, we’ll skip the play by play and go to some analysis at the end of the day.  Thanks for viewing.

14.24

While we’ve been waiting, I got a phone call from another attorney who had evidently been retained to examine the possibility of TWIA making an assessment under the old law.  Looks like that attorney, examining the issue independently, was likewise extremely dubious about making an assessment under 2210.058. #twia. Lots of hurt, but I still don’t see any cavalry coming over the hill.

14.21

No longer getting the error message and the little timer at the bottom says 2:25, so maybe my feed is back but they are still speaking to their attorneys.  Would not be surprised if this took a lot of discussion since they will basically be consenting to putting themselves out of business. #twia

14.07

Just got a tweet saying they are still in closed session.  So there is some hope that the video feed will emerge from what may be mere hibernation.  I am also advised that the audience has, quite literally, been left in the cold. #overairconditioning #twia

14.00

Still no connection to the TWIA video server.

13.45

I fear I have lost my feed of the meeting. Getting the mysterious Error 0-3222 message.

13.39

One of the matters brought up by Greg Smith of the Coastal Task Force was whether TWIA was being treated equivalently to the Texas FAIR plan, a sister government-sponsored insurance company. He contended, I believe, that the FAIR plan was likewise insolvent but was not being put into receivership.  This issue was also brought up by TWIA with TDI, but the TDI representative said she did not know if the FAIR plan was insolvent.

So, although I can’t find a 2012 financial statement on the Web for the FAIR plan (hmm?), I can find a 2011 financial. It apparently shows that the FAIR plan was million in the red. It may be, however, that TDI thought that the FAIR plan could work its way out of this negative position.  Whether that occurred, I don’t know either.

Oh. Seeing some action on the video screen for the meeting.

13.29

I just posted an excerpt of the letter from Rep. Deshotel. I now see, by the way, that the letter was signed by State Representatives Joe Deshotel (District 22), Craig Eiland (District 23), Abel Herrero (District 34), Todd Hunter (District 32), Eddie Lucio III (District 38) and Allan Ritter (District 21). This is the only thing even close to a legal argument I have found explaining how TWIA could recapitalize and avoid receivership by assessing insurers under the old statute. But, as the letter concedes, former Commissioner Geeslin did not actually say that TWIA could assess the insurance industry under the old law (although he does, I agree, come close to doing so).  But this is what good old Latin-liking lawyers call an “ipse dixit.”  That’s the fancy term for, “because I said so.”  It’s not a legal argument.  There is no evidence that former Commissioner Geeslin confronted section 44(2) of HB 4409 and had a theory for how the word “repeal” does not mean exactly what it says.  Section 2210.058 of the old law was the provision that permitted insurer assessments — and that statute was repealed four years ago in HB 4409.

Now, the more interesting question — one also raised by some of the public comment —  is whether the State Representatives are trying to set up some kind of lawsuit against someone for failure to assess adequately while the old law was in effect.  Such a lawsuit, however, is problematic in that, even if it prevails, which would likely be an uphill struggle, how is anyone going to pay a judgment?  Moreover, I suspect TWIA board members will find at least qualified immunity from suit, will be able to argue that they thought the assessment was adequate, and will question standing and duties.  Don’t count on such a lawsuit fixing TWIA ever — and certainly not in the short run. And short, in this context, means at least three hurricane seasons’ worth.

13.18

The Deshotel letter key paragraph

13.15

So, let’s go to the halftime report.

We need to separate out the harm caused by TWIA being insolvent from TWIA being put into receivership.  TWIA’s insolvency is a real problem in that it means, if the accountants are correct, that TWIA does not have enough money to pay claims and that it does not anticipate enough money to do so through the end of this year even if there is no significant storm. It is just fascinating that this singular fact does not appear to bother any of the speakers from the coast who came to the hearing today. Instead, the focus is on receivership.  Why? Do they think that grab law, which is the alternative to receivership, is an improvement?

The best arguments against receivership were that it might hurt the ability to obtain a Bond Anticipation Note secured by the potential for Class 1 securities being issued and that it might possibly hurt issuance of Class 2 and 3 securities. But the empirical evidence on this point is awfully thin.  It is not clear that a BAN could be issued anyway or that a post-petition receivership would hurt rather than help short term bond creditors.

The other thing that I think is clear is that the TDI Commissioner is going to act swiftly here.  She has a first mover advantage and does not need the TWIA board’s cooperation. TWIA’s board can cooperate, which might matters go more swiftly and less expensively, or it can make some short term political hay by opposition.  But what would it really accomplish except make some people who have demonized the incumbent insurance commissioner feel better in the short run?

The other matter I wonder about is seeing this as just one move in the Austin chess game about how TWIA is going to be restructured or depopulated.  Does the fact that it is in receivership help the argument to move towards an assigned risk plan as in HB 18? And maybe that is what this is all about.  If TWIA has “failed,” then the case for propping it up may look weaker and the case for going to something significantly different, a market oriented assigned risk plan may look stronger.

And, by the way, we are now on minute 10 of the 5 minute break.

13.04

TWIA goes into a closed session at 2:05. Apparently just a 5 minute break.  Except that in my experience one should add a zero to declared break times.   Anyway, we are done with Round 1.

13.03

TDI: Why is receivership in best interests in policyholders. TWIA does not have enough assets to pay its liabilities. Current claimants may not get claims paid fully. Make sure that actual damages being sustained are given priority. [Over what? Extra-contractuals?]

TDI: We are ready to move quickly in court. But stakeholders can have input through court process. File your plan and set a hearing.  At TDI, we try to be ready for all scenarios. [i.e. they are writing a plan]/

13.00

TWIA: Who is this rehabilitator? Why does TDI think that the rehabilitator can do a better job than this board.

TDI: Insurance Commissioner appointed as receiver but a competitive bid to find a manager. We can get someone on an interim emergency basis.  There are better statutory remedies in receivership. [Like not pay claims in full!]

12.58

TDI: Rehabilitation stays and centralizes lawsuits [just like federal bankruptcy].

TWIA: What can we assume with Class 1 bonds in designing reinsurance program. Looks encouraging that we can get a 0 million BAN to help reinsurance. But receivership would make that harder said the TPFA folks [I think I have this comment correctly] TPFA said it had offer from Bank of America, though at a higher price tag. [This is an important issue]

TDI: We would be moving in and out quickly. TDI  has concerns about ability to issue BAN anyway given negative surplus. [Darned straight].

12.55

TWIA: Effect on mortgages and covenants

TDI: Freddie and Fannie accept residual market insurance.  Ratings relate to private insurers.  [So is she saying all is well with mortgagees].

TWIA: What about residual markets in rehab.

TDI: Can’t predict what they would do. They have had conversations.

12.53

TWIA: Why now?

TDI: 4th quarter statement. Additional litigation that created a negative surplus. And no realistic opportunity to earn its way out. Rehabilitation would not inhibit vital reform measures on the table.

TWIA: Impact on reinsurance purchase? And post-event bonds?

TDI: Receivership can definitely create challenges. We will get a plan on file very quickly. Receivers can purchase reinsurance. The goal would be to get out of rehabilitation quickly. [Don’t bet on this occurring]. Work with bond market and see what we could do. [Vague]

12.51

TWIA: What happens to this board if TDI puts TWIA in receivership?

TDI: Board would be suspended and the rehabilitator would operate with the power of the Board. Board could be reconstituted after emergence.

TWIA: We’ve been in administrative oversight.  We have limited authority. Why the need for this board to consent?

TDI: Things move quicker when there is consent. If rehabilitation were consented to, there would be less disruption. On the same day, the AG can go to court, enter a rehabilitation application and enter a rehabilitation order almost simultaneously. We would soon have a rehabilitation plan. Fears would be quelled. If we have a contest, there will be more uncertainty and delay. At TDI, lack of disruption is important.

TWIA: A lot of the testimony we have heard today about nervousness of bankers etc. — at least there would be a plan to take care of it.

TDI: Yes.

12.48

TDI: Being back to zero balance would be enough to get it out of receivership.

TDI (Jamie Walker). Based on projections for TWIA income there will still be negative surplus at the end of this year.  And this is in case there are no “hiccups” [like a hailstorm?].

TWIA: Is the FAIR plan insolvent? It too has a negative surplus.

TDI: I don’t know.

12.46

TDI: Rates would be continued under the current statute, unless laws are specifically changed.  [TDI being very careful and lawyerly in its answers.  Lawyerly used as a positive adjective here].

TWIA: What would be the standard to get TWIA out of rehabilitation given that TWIA is not generally supposed to have surplus.

TDI: TWIA is not required to have an excess of surplus. TDI lawyer specifying basis for receivership. Insufficient assets, not an inability to pay bills.

12.43

TWIA: that paints a pretty rosy picture.  What other states did you look at?

TDI: More than 25 states have this law.  Modeled it after NAIC act.

TDI: Rehab has not been used in the residual market before.

TDI: Process depends on specific case. If something were to happen, we would move very expeditiously. Move to rehabilitation. Rehab order by the court. Rehabilitator would file a rehab plan within one year, but it could be done in a matter of days. How were claims going to be paid and what the process would be.

12.41

TDI has no specific comment, but available to answer questions.

TWIA Board now asking questions. Receivership has a stigma. Could TDI  talk through pros and cons of receivership?

TDI: Two types of receivership. Rehabilitation and liquidation. Rehab akin to a Chapter 11 in bankruptcy. Purpose is to revitalize an insurer so it can go into the marketplace. Company can pay claims, issue policies, without market disruption.

12.38

Public comment over. Moving on. Consideration of following topics: Review options for addressing financial condition of Association.  Including receivership. Notes representation from TDI.

12.37

Eddie Cabazos — Item on agenda to go into closed session. Is that not a violation of the open meeting act? [No.]

Answer — The Open Meetings law requires final action to be taken in open session. but advice of counsel can cause a closed session.

12.35

Tom Tagliabue, Government relations person for the City of Corpus Christi. Also opposed to receivership.

12.35

Joe Vega, Mayor of City of Port Isabel [again apologies for misspelling of names].  Will hurt small businesses.

Mr. William Goldsten, Corpus Christi — Negative economic impacts to engineering and construction profession along the Gulf Coast. [You know, these are probably all fine people, but that is not the issue.  The issue is whether receivership is the best way to address TWIA insolvency.  The fact that the legislature is in session is relevant, but not dispositive.  Grab law is the alternative to receivership.  Receivership is really a code word for insolvency.  In law school, we call this argumentative technique, “fighting the hypothetical] It will create chaos along the coast. #twia. Reduce the discrimination against the coast.

12.31

Eric Sandberg, Texas Banker’s Association — We need to have viable insurance in place, particularly from a regulatory standpoint.

12.30

Eric Sanburg, Texas Banker’s Association — skipped

David Garza, Cameron County.  [Ever get the sense this might be a bit one-sided presentation of commentary?  Looks like the coast, whose ox appears gored, has gotten its political act together whereas diffuse other constituencies have not]. Receivership is not the answer.  Let the legislature do its job. If we don’t get adequate results from this legislative session, do what it takes to make us solvent.  Our bankers and mortgage holders are nervous. [Let alone homeowners and businesses!]

12.27

Foster Edwards, the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce. CCCofC has been working with TWIA staff for years. A “bonehead idea, frankly.” Expressed well in letter on page E4 of packet, signed by four state representatives. [Is this the Deshotel letter that I just posted to this blog.]

12.24

Mr. Perkins with the Coastal Windstorm Taskforce: Mayor of Ingleside. We speak with one voice in opposition to go into receivership.  Again the argument that assessments are available.  [Has it occurred to anyone to actually read the statute?]  Development will be hurt. [Maybe industry could pay people extra to help purchase insurance?] Let the legislature do its job. Create a transition from TWIA to some other entity but not an instant effect on the market.

12.22

Charlie Zahn, Coastal Windstorm Taskforce: Close to matching up bills for final consideration by Senate. [Really?]  Legislative process needs to take care of this issue. Receivership implies TWIA does not have the ability to pay its bills in the future. You don’t have the basis for receivership. Trust fund in place.  You have the ability to assess. [HOW??] We are a viable entity. #twia. Already had a negative impact on Texas coast, including banks. [Probably true] Can they continue to provide mortgage loans. [Yes, a legitimate concern.  But is it receivership that is causing the problem or the insolvency.]

12.18

Greg Smith, Coastal Taskforce: Question of solvency should be judged as a residual carrier, not as a private insurer.  There are other residual carriers that are much worse off than TWIA.  National Flood, New Jersey FAIR Plan and Louisiana FAIR plan are worse off. Yet no question about their solvency. Will send messages to other carriers across the nation.  Rating agencies say you don’t have to have positive surplus.  [The everyone is doing it defense?]

12.16

Anne Vaughan, Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce [my apologies for any misspelled names]. Oppose what is “nothing more than an insane idea.” [Why is it insane to put an insolvent entity into receivership? Kubler-Ross stages of grief comes to mind. Denial. Anger] Has unconfirmed Commissioner of Insurance thought this through? TWIA is our only source of insurance. [But if it were not, one would never know if TWIA premiums were too low]

12.13

TWIA board member distinguishing between comments of TWIA and comments of TDI.

12.12

Joe McComb of Nueces County: Precinct 4.  The fun part of Nueces County. I do know people are concerned about coverage.  If they’ve got TWIA, they’ve shopped coverage and they have no alternative.  Worried that the decision has been made. [Yup]  Give legislature 60 days to solve this problem.  Good part of having a crisis is that the legislature is in session.  Place faith in elected officials. It will take 60-120 days to implement receivership anyway.  [Most persuasive speaker so far].

12.09

Keith McMullen with Port Aransas: Mayor of Port Aransas. Please don’t pursue receivership. Don’t case doubt on insurance market on the coast. Already created nervousness.

12.08

Schlitterbahn Waterpark representative speaks:  How will receivership impact existing contracts with lenders and vendors? TWIA receivership creates uncertainty that will chill business. [True, but what is the alternative if TWIA is insolvent? — SJC]. Before TWIA placed in receivership, other funding alternatives should be explored. [Like what? Assessments?]  My editorial comments are in brackets.

12.06

Jim Rich of Beaumont Chamber of Commerce: Very concerned about receivership. Notes importance of coast to economy. Wants a legislative solution. Let the legislative process work.  [But what if nothing happens? — SJC]

12.03

Public comment limited to 3 minutes with a timer. No more than 30 minutes to public comment period before moving to the rest of the agenda.

12.01

Calling roll

11.59

If you can see this it is a part of Rep. Deshotel’s letter.   It’s the first inkling of any legal theory behind the idea that TWIA can still asess for Ike.  Don’t expect insurers to buy it.

11.55

Meeting is beginning.  One can see people milling on the video.

11.53

Channel 12 News (Beaumont) reports that State Representative Joe Deshotel has issued a press release opposing placement into receivership. Add him to the list of people whom I believe are mistaken on the law.  Here’s what he says in his letter:

If the Board would simply follow the law in place for these 2008 policies by assessing the insurance companies and moving the premium money to the Trust Fund, which currently has 8 million, TWIA would have over 5 million, which is hundreds of millions more (50%) than the Trust Fund has ever had!

11.50

Rick Spruill of the Corpus Christi Caller posted a preview of today’s meeting about 20 minutes ago.

11.46

In theory, you should also be able to follow this blog on Twitter using the hashtag #twia

11.40

Here some issues I expect to hear discussed at the meeting:

1) Is TWIA really as insolvent as its annual statement asserts (i.e. 3 million in the hole).  There are occasionally discretionary choices that get made in insurance accounting.  And there are occasionally mistakes.  Does anyone have a credible argument that TWIA is not seriously insolvent?

2) Assuming TWIA is insolvent, what, if anything, is the real alternative to a receivership?  When an entity is insolvent, as TWIA apparently is, that means some creditors can not be paid in full. If you fail to create an orderly process to pay claims, it means that the entity gets taken apart piecemeal and that different creditors are randomly (or systematically) treated worse than they should be. This is why we have insolvency law and (in most instances) bankruptcy law. Why should TWIA be treated differently?

3) Is there any authority as several coastal politicians have maintained to help TWIA out by assessing insurers for losses attributable to Hurricane Ike?  This blog has repeatedly maintained here, here and here that there is no such legal authority and that the old legal authority, section 2210.058 of the Insurance Code, was repealed in 2009.  Let’s see if there is anything more than denial or bluster behind the claim that TWIA can assess insurers without there being a new storm that would justify the issuance of public securities?

Hearing has started. Todd Hunter presents the bill to the committee.  Apparently there is a substitute.  Foster Edwards of the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce now testifying for the bill.

Keith McMullen, Mayor of Port Aransas, testifies in favor of the bill. “Give the coast of Texas a long term viable solution.” Chairman John Smithee agrees. We are all looking for a sustainable program.

James Rich from the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce.  They make a lot of the gasoline and jet fuel used east of the Rockies. It’s where the wealth of this state is generated. They need affordable and reliable insurance. Willing to compromise but looking at what is good for the state of Texas.

SJC — Like the word “compromise.” That’s what will be needed.

Marie Robb. Galveston is building back fortified. We need one that is reliable and affordable.

Greg Smith from the Coastal Task Force. Share chairman’s concerns with funding. How the bill would behave. Went back to 1891 to present. Used the AIR model. See how it would perform in the future. In no case did we exceed the balances. Will cover up to a 250 year PML. Before that most of the burden is on the coast. His bill does not require premium increases. Class 1 goes to 1.5 billion. Funding source is much firmer, Greg Smith claims. Craig Eiland doing a direct examination of this witness. Greg Smith now testifying how CRTF is to be funded.

SJC — Glad they did a test but not sure how they did it.

Very interesting.  It sounds as if HB 2352 has been significantly revised.

I testified. I’ll try to provide video at a later time.

———–

Back in Houston again.  I’ll try to say something intelligent tomorrow. The short version, however, is that there are 45 days to go and Texas is not close to a solution to the coastal catastrophic risk problem. This is going to take focus, compromise and leadership.

# A simulation of H.B. 2352 and S.B. 1089

H.B. 2352, a bill to reform the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) from Corpus Christi Representative Todd Hunter, is scheduled for hearing in the Insurance Committee of the Texas House this Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. I do not know yet if my teaching obligations will permit me to travel to Austin and testify, but if they do, here is about what I will say. It’s based on a Mathematica simulation of 100 sets of 100 years of storms and draws on work I’ve discussed here, herehere and here.

My name is Seth Chandler. I am a law professor at the University of Houston Law Center and author of the blog catrisk.net, which addresses the law and finance of catastrophic risk with a focus on Texas. The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Houston.

I have attempted to simulate the effects of H.B. 2352 and its companion bill S.B. 1089. The details of that simulation, including the source code, are available in the written submission made to the committee and available at catrisk.net. Basically, I have run 100 100 year storm simulations using models calibrated to mimic those used by AIR and RMS, the two leading modeling companies on which TWIA has relied. Should members of the committee or staff have any questions on the technical details of the model or how variants of the law would affect the conclusons here, I am willing to try to assist.

Based on that research I find that over the initial 20 years of H.B. 2352 with a runoff, and assuming TWIA does not purchase reinsurance, TWIA policyholder premiums will cover about 68% of the losses suffered during that time period. The remaining losses will be paid 6% from replenishment of the catastrophe reserve fund, 8% from class A bonds, 5% from class B bonds, and 9% from class C bonds. Troublingly, 4% of the losses have no identified source of funding. If one assumes instead that TWIA purchases reinsurance at the top of the bonding stack in an amount equal to 1.4% of its direct exposure, as it has done in the past, TWIA policyholder premiums and reinsurance paid for by TWIA policyholder premiums cover a total of 61% of losses suffering during that time period. The remaining losses will be paid 8% from replenishment of the catastrophe reserve fund, 10% from class A bonds, 6% from Class B bonds, and 11% from class C bonds. The percent of losses that have no identified source of funding has decreased, but still rests at 3%. These numbers are, of necessity approximate, and they indeed vary based on a variety of assumptions that need to be made. I have not had the luxury of a large amount of time in which to refine the analysis. In general, however, I believe they accurately reflect the benefits and burdens of H.B. 2352 and S.B. 1089.

This simulation attempts to quantify the benefits and risks to TWIA policyholders created by H.B. 2352 as well as the burden it places on those not receiving direct benefit from TWIA policies. Personally, I do not like what occurs if H.B. 2352 were used to prop up a \$72 billion TWIA. The concentration of correlated risk in that entity inevitably makes it an expensive proposition in which the organization either pays exorbitant prices to reinsurers or continues to run the risk of an inadequate stack of protection against larger storm. I believe there is much to the idea of significantly depopulating TWIA with an assigned risk plan or similar mechanism that decorrelates the risk by forced pooling with non-windstorm risk throughout Texas.

If, however, you want to persist with a large propped up TWIA but want to avoid otherwise inevitable biennial fights, it is crucial that the bonding limits contained in this bill with respect to Class A, B and C securities be stated not as absolute numbers, \$1 billion, \$900 million, \$2.75 billion but, as you have wisely done in this bill with the CRTF, percentages of some measure of overall risk to the pool, perhaps direct exposure. Without this modification, the risk grows of storms overwhelming TWIA’s bonding capacity.

Finally, for reasons I have outlined elsewhere I persist in my view that wealthy people on the coast receive subsidized property insurance from poor people away from the coast. This bill continues that inequity although it masks the subsidization by terming what amounts to regional and statewide property taxes as premium surcharges or assessments on insurers. I would thus suggest that the bulking up of the CRTF that takes place in the early years of the HR 2352 plan be made less by non-TWIA policyholders on the coast and assessments on insurers, but more heavily by TWIA policyholders themselves, who will, notwithstanding the benefit that each part of Texas bestows on the other, be the primary beneficiaries of the CRTF protection.

I’m showing below a condensed version CDF on which this analysis depends.  You can get the full version here. If you don’t see anything substantive, you need to download the free CDF player so that you can interact within your browser with the model I have created.

1. I am fully aware that this work done on short notice by an individual and not one certified as an actuary, though I do believe I have the skills to produce what I have done. As I have written elsewhere, the Texas legislature should seriously consider establishing an insurance think tank to help it with issues like this.
2. The premiums in this model are static.  There is some possibility that as the size of the catastrophe reserve fund grows and TWIA is better able to handle storms without resort to post-event bonding, the premiums could decline.
3. The basic problem with TWIA is that its risk is correlated.  If it were decorrelated, the premiums policyholders pay would likely be adequate to cover its losses and no cross subsidization would be needed.  The problem is that TWIA needs to build up its catastrophe reserve fund to the point where it is no longer dependent on the risks of post-event bonding or the expense of reinsurance.  Until it does this, a system that bundles up correlated risk is going to remain either really expensive or run a risk of insolvency.

# Craig Eiland: TWIA can still assess for Ike

According to ABC-13, State Representative Craig Eiland of Galveston also thinks I’m wrong about whether TWIA can still assess insurers for damages caused by Hurricane Ike in 2008.  I’ve stated here and here in this blog that the repeal of section 2210.058 of the Texas Insurance Code in 2009 certainly seems to have ended that authority.  But Rep. Eiland states: “The board can reassess the companies now — today, tomorrow, next week — for the money and premiums they paid out in claims since Hurricane Ike.” TV stations don’t usually include footnotes, so I’m genuinely curious about what Rep. Eiland’s legal authority is for his assertion.

I’m also curious to see what would happen if TWIA followed Representative Eiland’s assertion and actually tried to reassess insurers around the state to pay for persistent Ike claims.  My guess is that it would not provide cash in time for the 2013 hurricane season. I suspect that many Texas insurers would file a lawsuit before they wrote a check.

# The IBNR problem: the plot thickens

Two new pieces of data have emerged on the IBNR problem and any ability or obligation on the part of TWIA to make a supplemental assessment against insurers to pay for claims arising out of 2008’s Hurricane Ike and reduce the odds of TWIA being put into receivership or conservatorship.

1. A learned student has pointed me to section 311.031 of the Texas Government Code. This is a kind of “meta-statute” on how to interpret statutes. It reads:

Sec. 311.031.  SAVING PROVISIONS. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), the reenactment, revision, amendment, or repeal of a statute does not affect:…

(2)  any validation, cure, right, privilege, obligation, or liability previously acquired, accrued, accorded, or incurred under it.

The student suggested that this provision might mean that liabilities acquired under section 2210.058 before it was repealed might persist after its repeal by section 44(2) of HB 4409 enacted in 2009.  Unfortunately, I think my learned student, though brilliant in finding this Government Code provision and thinking it was applicable, is wrong. I don’t think “liability” means the potential for liability.  It means an incurred liability.  Thus, if Allstate had not paid its assessment under the 2008 assessment, the fact that the statute permitting assessments was repealed would not relieve Allstate of its obligation to pay the pre-existing assessment.  It would, however, I think prevent TWIA from creating new liabilities for Allstate to pay.  Again, am I 100% certain of this?  No. But it strikes me that there is a difference between the potential for a liability and a liability itself.

2. Alex Winslow of TexasWatch suggested in an Austin American Statesman article today that TWIA might still be able to assess under the old law.  I don’t always agree with TexasWatch but I take their thoughts seriously.  On balance, however, at least so far, I think he is incorrect. If Texas had not repealed 2210.058, he might have a better case that the law in effect at the time of the disaster permitted late assessments.  But, the legislature repealed the statute authorizing assessments.  Much as it might be appealing to some to at least forestall TWIA implosion, it looks to me, for the reasons cited in this post and its predecessor, as if a supplemental assessment on insurers is not authorized under the law.

# The Texas Legislature could seriously use an insurance think tank

So, this may be just a little bit self serving, but I really think the Texas legislature would benefit from sponsorship of an independent think tank on insurance law and regulation. I previously served as a director of the University of Houston Law Center’s Health Law and Policy Institute, which was under a modest contract with the legislature to provide briefings on issues of importance as well as provide trained interns to work with key legislators. It didn’t — and doesn’t — cost very much and, in my view, has provided the legislature with valuable service over the years.  The legislature doesn’t have a comparable research arm in the vital field of insurance law .

The absence of an independent research arm means that the Texas legislature sometimes flies in the dark on critical issues of insurance regulation.  Yes, staffers can get up to speed eventually, but many start as generalists, leave before achieving insurance Nirvana or, quick study notwithstanding, do not always have the technical expertise or experience needed to understand a complex field in which a mistake can have huge consequences on individuals and the economy.  The Department of Insurance, particularly in recent years, tries to be proactive but that agency is often understandably focused on the problems of the day rather than having a lot of resources to think strategically about the future. The legislature can also use assertions of advocates for clients, be they the insurance industry, chambers of commerce, consumer groups, or others with an agenda such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation. But these groups are at least somewhat constrained in the positions they can take and the agenda they promote.  And, while it is unrealistic to think that a think tank can be completely apolitical, still, having a think tank that starts with an approximation of neutrality can, I believe, be very useful.

What would such a think tank look like?  It would need to have at least one certified actuary and probably some students of actuarial science.  It would need to have at least two attorneys or faculty members with expertise in insurance law and regulation, and, again, some students to assist in research and writing.  It would probably also be well served by having expertise in the field of insurance intermediaries, accounting, finance and statistics.  All of this could, I believe, be housed within a university setting or, potentially outside one, with a budget of about \$1 million per year.  The think tank could also act as a screener for those seeking the opportunity to work directly for legislators whose committee assignments include insurance.

What kind of problems could the think tank address?  The legislature could provide direction and the think tank could, as the Health Law & Policy Institute has done, provide custom research for legislators with concerns on a particular issue.  For starters, however, I believe a good look at the remedies in Texas for breach of an insurance contract would be useful, as would a study of laws regulating insurer solvency. It could examine implementation of federal health insurance programs such as Medicaid and Obamacare within Texas. The think tank might study ways in which the complexity of Texas insurance regulation with its grab bag of types of insurers each subject to different subsets of regulation might be simplified. The think tank might bring trends in other jurisdictions to the attention of the Texas legislature as well as provide it information on the effects of growing insurance regulation at the federal level. And, of course, it could think rigorously and creatively about ways of transferring catastrophic risk in Texas that keeps property insurance prices up.

Right now, to be frank, one of the only reasons I am listened to at the state legislature, is that I am one of the few “independent” voices on insurance law and regulation.  I have my own political views, to be sure, but no one pays me to say what I do.  Instead, what lets me be effective is the happy coincidence of having the time and freedom of a tenured professor, trying to stay as “objective” as I can, and having considerable accumulated expertise in insurance law and actuarial science. But my time, perhaps like others in Texas with similar inclinations, is limited.  So, while the absence of special funding does not and would not prohibit other citizens from making their voices heard on important issues of insurance law and policy, the reality is that the barriers to entry into this complex and technical area are rather high.  That’s why you may hear dozens testify on roofing regulation but far fewer come to speak with knowledge on regulatory schemes involving billions of dollars. I believe the legislature would benefit from more independent voices.  And supporting an insurance think tank here in Texas is one way to increase the chance of that happening.

# An urgent problem on the coast

The coming hurricane season poses exceptional risk for Texas, mostly to persons and businesses insured by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association but also among those who will end up picking up the pieces after a major storm.  The most recent data shows that going into the 2013 hurricane season, which is less than three months away, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association has about \$180 million in cash available from which to pay claims, access to \$1 billion through issuance of Class 2 securities and access to \$500 million through Class 3 securities.  There is some possibility of additional funds if TWIA can market its Class 1 securities or obtain another “bond anticipation note” as it did in 2012. This would give it another \$500 million.  And, if TWIA can afford to purchase reinsurance, it might — just might — be able to squeeze out \$1 billion more on top of the stack.  Thus, the best case is that TWIA’s stack will be \$3.18 billion.  A more realistic assessment is that TWIA’s stack with which to pay claims will be \$2.68 billion. And a pessimistic assessment is that the stack will be a scant \$1.68 billion, perhaps even less if the catastrophe fund keeps bleeding from Ike claims or the Class 2 bonds prove difficult to market.  The major bill pending in the Texas legislature, S.B. 18, has many virtues but in its present form does nothing to change these computations for most of the 2013 hurricane season.

The problem is that the risk of losses greater than this amount in 2013 are considerable. No one knows the exact probabilities, but based on my modeling, which is in turn based on TWIA’s commissioned studies from experts, the probability of losses to TWIA that are greater than its funding stack range from about 2% on the most optimistic views about the funding stack to 4% on the more pessimistic views about the funding stack. Those are about the same probabilities as the risk of death in the coming year for your average 67 to 75 year old. It’s roughly the same probability of flipping five heads in a row.

It could be even worse.  David Crump noted in response to an earlier version of this post that we may not even have Class 2 securities because, as a result of the 2011 legislation (section 2210.6136), if the Class 1 securities don’t sell, the first \$500 million of Class 2 securities appear to rely on the same funding method as the failed Class 1 securities.  (Who thought of that?)  Only after that do we get to the more reliable method of surcharges on all coastal property insurance and an assessment on insurers.  I certainly hope David is wrong in his estimation of the Class 2 securities but, on mature reflection, he has a point. So, we need to add an additional category of gloom: “Crump gloomy.”  And, if he’s right there is about an 8% chance that the top of the TWIA stack will be lower than the amount of the claims. That is very scary indeed.

If the losses are greater than the funding stack, TWIA policyholders are likely not to be paid in full, and certainly not in a timely way. If, for example an average Category 4 storm were to hit Corpus Christi the damages would be about \$4 billion.  (EMail of March 14, 2013 from Jennifer Armstrong of TWIA to David Crump).  Policyholders in that part of the coast would thus be paid between 17 cents and 80 cents on the dollar, leaving many unable to rebuild well. If a 3% deductible is going to lead to “blue roofs,” as was suggested by opponents of such an idea at the hearing of the Senate Business and Commerce committee earlier this week (because policyholders won’t be able to find the money to rebuild), consider what an effective 20% – 83% deductible is going to do.

Even losses in 2013 smaller than the full stack are going to cause trouble for TWIA.  A smaller storm in 2013, say, a half-Ike, could wipe out the catastrophe reserve fund and the Class 2 securities.  This means there would be just a very, very small stack to protect TWIA for 2014 and beyond.  The only good news is that legislation pending in the Texas legislature does try to address those later hurricane seasons.

TWIA stacks for 2013

There are several ways the situation could be improved for the coming 2013 hurricane season.  First, TWIA could attempt to make another assessment under the pre-2009 law to cover Ike losses that have continued to drain the catastrophe reserve fund.  (Clearly TWIA does not have authority to make such assessments for post 2009 storms). It appears, at least with the benefit of hindsight, that the \$430 million assessment that occurred following 2008 Ike was inadequate to cover TWIA’s responsibility for Ike after the litigation dust has settled. But whether TWIA has the legal authority to do this — and don’t expect the insurance industry to take any such supplemental assessment sitting down — is still not clear. And I would not be surprised to see any litigation on this topic take considerably longer than the hurricane season to get resolved.

Second, the legislature could develop an alternate funding source for the Class 1 bonds for just the coming season.  Indeed, not that I would ever suggest such a thing, but given the somewhat desperate situation that exists, the insurance industry might acquiesce to this burden in exchange for relief from some of the responsibility it is supposed to bear under S.B. 18 for hurricane risk in 2014 and forward. The insurance industry could, for example, bear assessment risk or partial assessment risk for the Class 1 securities that now appear unmarketable since investors understandably mistrust whether TWIA policyholders will stick around and pay the huge surcharges that will be required to pay off the bonds.

Third, the legislature could actually raise explicit taxes [laughter] to pay for reinsurance that might reduce the risk.  Or maybe it could use some of the Texas budget surplus to  pay?  While this will rightly gall Texas taxpayers, particularly once the reinsurers smell blood in the water and charge accordingly, it may still be a prettier picture than picking up the pieces after TWIA goes insolvent.

Fourth, and this may be what coastal residents are counting on, is to just wait and see and try to bail out TWIA policyholders after the fact when a big hurricane strikes.  This will be galling to all.  It will be galling to those on the coast because the fight to get such relief will be slow and tough.  It will be galling to those away on the coast because the taxes that will need to be imposed either directly or indirectly to pay for the losses will be high. The taxes will be the engineered result of problematic legislation passed in 2009 and the steadfast refusal of some on the coast to accept financial responsibility for the true risk of hurricanes there. There is, of course, Uncle Sam, but somehow I would not count on Washington to be as generous following 2013 hurricane Chantal that devastates red Texas as it was to residents of the bluer northeast following Superstorm Sandy.  Besides, with the sequestration and all, it does not appear Washington is going to be eager to spend money on much of anything.

This leaves Texans with prayer as the final alternative. If, however, as many suspect, God helps those who helps themselves, it might be a good investment to deal in a more secular way, right now, with the 2013 risk.

Note: My thanks to David Crump for (1) making the public records request that generated the most recent information on this point; (2) sharing it with me; and (3) pointing out that my original post may have actually been too optimistic.