Perry announces special session, but windstorm insurance not on the agenda

Texas Governor Rick Perry announced this evening that he would immediately call the Texas legislature back into special session.  The only item placed on the agenda at this time, however, is legislative districting.  Thus, the 83rd Legislature has now closed with essentially nothing being done to reform the thinly capitalized insurer of 62% of the property on the Texas coast. The Governor could add windstorm insurance to the agenda (along with other items) at a later time.

As we will discuss in greater length this week, the failure of Governor Perry, at least for now, to call the legislature back into special session on this issue, means that insureds of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association are at serious risk of not having claims paid fully in the event of a significant storm.  And, with potentially vigorous hurricane season upon us, such a risk could materialize sooner rather than later.

The end of the legislative session also apparently means that Eleanor Kitzman is no longer Texas Insurance Commissioner.  We will need to see what the Governor does with that post and how the new appointee will tackle the persistent problems of TWIA and the issue of whether to place it in receivership.

 

Texas House, Senate agree on minor windstorm reform bill

Texas Governor Rick Perry

Texas Governor Rick Perry

A bill that modestly affects future eligibility for insurance sold by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association has now passed the Texas Senate and the Texas House and should be heading to Texas Governor Rick Perry for signature.  S.B. 1702 extends until 2015 the time by which owners of some property that does not comply fully with usual TWIA building standards must obtain “alternative certification.”  Property that has non-compliant roofing, exterior openings and exterior wall coverings may thus gain a reprieve. It also appears to provide, however, that after 2015 property worth more than $250,000 must meet regular certification requirements rather than alternative certification.

The bill, my reconstruction of which is contained in this earlier post, appears to trade somewhat greater TWIA losses in the short run against the possibility of loss reduction in the future.  This is so because under existing law alternative certification would have been required as early as August 30, 2013. By relaxing the time in which non-compliant property must at least obtain alternative certification, the bill would appear to increase slightly TWIA’s exposure to tropical cyclone losses over the next few years at a time when, by all accounts, TWIA’s finances are in very poor condition. If TWIA survives until 2015, however, its exposure to losses thereafter may be somewhat limited since property valued at $250,000 or greater will need to come into full compliance. Either way, however, the effect of S.B. 1702 is likely to be small and should not be confused by anyone with significant reform of this very troubled insurance program.  With the regular session of the 83rd Legislature coming to a close on Monday, however, S.B. 1702 appears to be all that has been accomplished.

We await seeing if Governor Rick Perry adds windstorm insurance reform to the agenda for a special session as his Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst, has, in addition to others, now suggested.

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst

 

Minor TWIA Bill Might Make It Through This Session

A bill making minor changes to the exposure of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association passed the Texas House yesterday 134-11.  Before S.B. 1702 can become law, however, it will need to be reconciled in the closing days of the session with the substantially different version that passed the Senate last month.  Following amendments from Representatives Craig Eiland (Galveston) and John Smithee (Amarillo), the House version of the bill takes two actions with respect to Texas coastal building codes and insurance.  One of the provisions might increase TWIA’s claims in a tropical cyclone. The other might reduce it.

S.B. 1702 as amended in the House on motion of outgoing Galveston Representative Craig Eiland extends the time some coastal property owners with property that does not comply fully with building code standards a reprieve from somewhat tougher building standards until 2015.  Thus, for two more years during which TWIA’s reserves, even measured in the most optimistic way, are inadequate to pay for large storms, the House has apparently voted to actually increase TWIA’s exposure to risk.  This increase in exposure occurs because the premium surcharges on the these high risk properties are limited by the combinations of sections 2210.260(f) and 2210.259(a) of the Texas Insurance Code to 15%.  This value is likely insufficient to match the additional risk posed by these non-compliant properties.

A second provision of S.B. 1702 as amended in the House, however, one added by House Insurance Committee Chair John Smithee of Amarillo, might have a counterbalancing effect on TWIA exposure. It would condition eligibility for TWIA insurance after 2015 for homes and other property with values over $250,000 on compliance with stricter TWIA building standards. “Alternative certification” would not be available. There is no estimate that I have seen of the number or value of such properties that are currently insured by TWIA but out of compliance.

Based on my reading of the House Journal (pp. 3830-31), here’s the House version of the statute.

SECTION____.  Section 2210.260(d), Insurance Code, is amended to read as follows: (d)  Except as provided by Sections 2210.251(d), (e), and (f), a person who has an insurable interest in a residential structure that is insured by the association as of August 31, 2012, but for which the person has not obtained a certificate of compliance under Section 2210.251(g), must obtain an alternative certification under this section before the association, on or after August 31,  2015, may renew coverage for the structure.

 

SECTION ____. Subchapter F, Chapter 2210, Insurance Code, is amendedby adding Section 2210.2581 to read as follows:   Sec. 2210.2581. MANDATORY COMPLIANCE WITH BUILDING STANDARDS; CERTAIN STRUCTURES. Notwithstanding Section 2210.251, Section 2210.258, or any other provision of this chapter, after December 31, 2015, the association may not issue or renew insurance coverage under this chapter for a structure with an insurable value of $250,000 or more unless the structure complies with the applicable building code standards, as set forth in the plan of operation.

Although this bill may have some effect on individual TWIA policyholders, it is unlikely to have any significant effect on the ability of TWIA to pay claims following a major storm.  Absent a special session of the Texas legislature, it now looks as if that issue will need to await the 84th legislature two years hence in order to be addressed.  And whether S.B. 1702 passes or not, coastal Texas property holders will be at serious risk in the interim.

Senator Taylor calls for special session to address windstorm risk

Larry Taylor

Texas State Senator Larry Taylor

In the wake of the death of his bill that would have substantially reformed windstorm insurance along the Texas Gulf Coast, Texas State Senator Larry Taylor is calling on Texas Governor Rick Perry to put windstorm insurance on the agenda for a special session of the Texas legislature this summer.  Since there are indications that Governor Perry may call a special session to address other issues such as redistricting, guns on college campuses, and, possibly, the little matter of the budget, the question is whether Governor Perry would add windstorm reform to the agenda.

Here’s why a special session matters.  In a special session, there is no “blocker bill.”  This is a provision in the Texas Senate that makes it difficult/impossible for a bill to get to the floor during a regular session unless it has 2/3 support. Thus, the votes that apparently were sufficient to block Senator Taylor from getting his S.B. 1700 before the legislature during this session, will likely not be enough to prevent it from making it to a vote in a special session.  It is still the case, however, that to take effect immediately — as opposed to sometime late in the 2013 hurricane season — whatever legislation is approved will need a 2/3 vote from both chambers.

I agree with Senator Taylor that Governor Perry should place the issue of windstorm reform before a special session of the Texas legislature.

Having applauded Senator Taylor for recognizing a serious threat to his constituents from existing law, let me make clear that Senator Taylor and I do not agree on the merits of his particular bill, S.B. 1700.  Although I acknowledge that the status quo is so bad that even a bad bill might be an improvement, there is much to dislike in S.B. 1700. And so, if he gets his way, I am likely to continue to urge that S.B. 1700 be scrapped in favor of better ideas or substantially modified.

Senator Taylor and I also do not agree, I think, on the magnitude of the financial problems facing TWIA.  He ended his press release with the breezy assurance that he felt confident that losses from future storms will be covered. That is kind of a strange statement from someone simultaneously saying we need a special session of the legislature to deal with an urgent problem.  If losses will be paid, what is the rush? And so, while I understand fully the importance of a prominent elected official not generated unwarranted panic in policyholders, there is a countervailing interest in being truthful about the risks that exist here.  There’s an even stronger interest in reducing those risks if possible.

For the reasons I have set forth on this blog over the past few months, I believe the TWIA situation, is far worse than Senator Taylor asserts in his press release, closer to what would justify Senator Taylor in calling for a special session of the legislature and, actually, far worse than he and many others may realize. The legal structure on which TWIA would rely to recapitalize itself following a major storm and which would be needed to pay claims even somewhat promptly is, as TWIA itself acknowledged in a plea for reform legislation, extremely fragile.

There is a substantial risk that TWIA would not be able to raise more than $1 billion in post-event bonds and cash on hand to pay claims in a storm this summer; and the risk of a $1 billion in losses this summer is between 5 and 7%.  If we take three summers as the relevant time period — because that’s when a bill from the 84th legislature might well take effect — we are talking about a risk of 14-19% of having blue roofs on the coast and no money to do repairs. One way to think about this is that we are, quite literally, playing Russian Roulette with the Texas economy for the next few years.  The odds are about the same: 1 in 6.

The status quo creates too high a risk of a human-engineered disaster along the Texas coast and, derivatively, for the Texas economy.

Bottom Line

There are, as I have pointed out, modifications of S.B. 1700 that could make it a bandaid for Texas for the next two years.  That would be an OK idea.  There are, as I have noted, alternative schemes such as an assigned risk plan that provided adequate returns to insurers that would be a more promising structural solution for the long run. What Governor  Perry I hope becomes immediately educated about by legislators up and down the State of Texas, however, is the disaster looming if a major storm hits before the next legislative session and the insurer that covers 62% of all property there doesn’t even have close to enough money to pay for windstorm losses.  Governor Perry should be motivated to take those lessons seriously if he wants to remain a popular figure in Texas or elsewhere in the United States.  And those legislators should be mighty motivated to plea because voters will otherwise look to them as the people that failed to act and left the Texas coastal economy in shambles when they knew of a clear and present danger.

 

S.B. 1700 dead; Texas coast in grave danger

Senator Larry Taylor, sponsor of S.B. 1700, the only significant bill on windstorm reform to get through a legislative committee and at least have the chance of being approved, announced this evening that his efforts to get his bill passed have been frustrated by the Texas Trial Lawyers’ Association and the attorney with the largest share of the Ike cases, Steve Mostyn. I did not agree with much in S.B. 1700. It had many problems. But if this means that there will be no reform this legislative session of dysfunctional Texas insurance against tropical cyclones, I agree very much with Senator Taylor that this is a sad day indeed.

Here’s a copy of his press release.

Larry Taylor press release conceding defeat

Larry Taylor press release

There will be time in the next few days to discuss why certain trial lawyers may have objected to the bill but, from my perspective, the important is not whether the trial lawyers have a legitimate concern or whether, indeed, their objections are the only cause of the bill’s defeat.  Why, for example, did Steve Mostyn oppose it if the offensive provision had been removed? In some sense, however, this really doesn’t matter. The important issue is what on earth is Texas going to do about hurricane insurance until the 84th legislature two hurricane seasons from now.

Miracles?

There is, I suppose, a remote chance that the House could pass some minimalist bill that fixed the worst parts of the current scheme and try to ram it through the Senate.  I sure hope that happens. But I am not certain that there is the requisite level of support for such a scheme nor am I sure that there is time.  I do recall Representative John Smithee, chair of the House Insurance Committee, saying at a hearing that he did have a bill filed that had little content but that could be used as kind of an all purpose vehicle for TWIA reform.  But, again, I have doubts that there is the will or the time to get something passed before the end of the regular session.

There is also, I suppose, the possibility that Governor Rick Perry would add windstorm finance to a special legislative session.  But I have heard no rumor that such is contemplated.  And there is, I suppose, the possibility, that Texas is just counting on using its rainy day fund to pay for what could be a very rainy day on the coast of Texas this summer or next.  But I do not know whether such a use would be countenanced by the political powers or, since this is partly a self-inflicted wound, whether it should be used in that fashion.

What now?

And so, to my amazement, Texas is apparently choosing to to face the 2013 hurricane season — and perhaps the 2014 hurricane season too – with 62% of the property on the coast insured against tropical cyclones by an insurer that has been called insolvent by the Texas Insurance Commissioner, Eleanor Kitzman. The insurer has at in its Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund at best 1/20th of the amount it should have if it wants to self-fund claims and has very doubtful ability to recapitalize itself in a significant way using post-event bonds.

As I told Fox TV today in a part that didn’t make the air this means two things for people on the coast. (1) People with insurance from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association need to shop very aggressively for alternative forms of windstorm insurance.  They can’t just go to Allstate and State Farm and the usual suspects There are many insurers in Texas.  Many won’t write on the coast.  But maybe some of them will.  Even if it costs more, it may well be worth the peace of mind if and when a storm brews in the Gulf of Mexico this summer.  (2) People and businesses with TWIA policies should behave as if their policies have upwards of 30% coinsurance. That means taking every imaginable step both now to get their properties as resistant to hurricane damage as possible and to take every last minute precaution to reduce loss if a storm comes.

For my part, I’m going to keep watch on the extent to which TWIA succeeds in increasing its capitalization through a Bond Anticipation Note and through reinsurance.  I’ll try to dig further into the ability of TWIA to sell post-event bonds. And I’ll keep watch to see if any legislative cavalry is coming over the hill.  Right now, however, all is very silent in this calm before the storm.

Fixing TWIA for this hurricane season will require a two-thirds vote

Section 39 of Article III of the Texas Constitution reads as follows:

Sec. 39.  TIME OF TAKING EFFECT OF LAWS; EMERGENCIES; ENTRY ON JOURNAL. No law passed by the Legislature, except the general appropriation act, shall take effect or go into force until ninety days after the adjournment of the session at which it was enacted, unless the Legislature shall, by a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each House, otherwise direct; said vote to be taken by yeas and nays, and entered upon the journals.

 

This constitutional provision, which the legislature can not change, means that unless a windstorm bill is passed that is acceptable to two thirds of both houses, it will not take effect until about September 1, 2013, well into hurricane season.  And that means even if a bill is passed — but passed by less than the constitutionally required super-majority —  all that stands between the weather and a major problem in Texas between now and September could well be less than $1 billion.  If so, Texas runs the serious risk of an insolvent insurer that covers 62% of the exposure for real property — residences, businesses, government facilities — unable to pay claims.  Without making things too scary, it might not be able to pay even 50% of clams.

This means two things.

Thing 1) All sides of this debate need to have some flexibility and take very seriously their obligations as legislators.  If there is deadlock, or even if there is simply less than a super-majority in favor of one bill, legislators might consider lowering the stakes.  If you can’t get a really good bill — and I fear that is probably where we are right now — put something in place that people can be confident will not be etched in stone. I would suggest that either of the two alternative “minmalist, last-minute fixes” I proposed this month qualify. But there are alternatives that might also suffice.

Thing 2) If no bill passes or a bill passes without two-thirds support, we need to turn urgent attention to what is actually going on in TWIA.  It is attempting to obtain a pre-event “Bond Anticipation Note” so that they would at least have about $700 million with which to pay claims on their $70 billion plus of total exposure.  Without that, we are down to a Catastrophe Reserve Fund that stands at $180 million and possibly less in light of both continuing Ike litigation and some severe storms this past month. We also need to pay heightened attention to TWIA’s efforts to obtain reinsurance — and the terms of that reinsurance. The details matter here.  Where will the reinsurance attach?  Will it leave a gap?  Does the reinsurance cover one storm (occurrence) or does it permit “reinstatement” — an ability to cover multiple storms, although possibly for an additional premium.  And how much will an over-a-barrel TWIA have to pay to the reinsurance industry, which has historically charged prices of five times the expected value of risk assumed, under these circumstances?  Every dollar spent is one less dollar available for succeeding years.

So, high stakes in the days ahead. We’ll keep a watch out and I urge you to make sure your legislators understand the importance of the issues here both for the Texas coast and in the rest of the state.

A minimalist last-minute fix for TWIA

It looks as if we are down to the wire in the Texas legislature on reforming the state’s public system for addressing catastrophic risk.  No one has developed a solution that is economically sensible and politically acceptable.  This leaves Texas in an extremely difficult position.  One alternative is to just leave the status quo in place. This choice subjects coastal residents to a substantial risk of a cataclysmic failure of their insurance system. Derivatively, it leaves the rest of Texas vulnerable to a Herculean task of picking up the huge financial pieces after a major tropical storm. The failure of the legislature to act also gives the Texas insurance commissioner extra cause to throw TWIA into receivership. The other alternative is to burden Texas for years with a very bad bill, S.B. 1700, which is the only proposal to emerge from a committee thus far. I thus offer a minimalist last-minute fix for TWIA.  Actually, I offer two.

This chart summarizes the situation today.

IssueAnswer
IssueAnswer
Days until the start of hurricane season1
Days until the end of the legislative session0
Next hearing of Senate Business and Commerce Committee None scheduled
Next hearing of House Insurance CommitteeNone scheduled
Size of Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund$180 million
Bond Anticipation Notes (pre-event bonds)None. Approval refused by Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman
Reinsurance sought$1.15 billion at an attachment of $2.2 billion (not yet obtained)
Probability of TWIA losses in 2013 exceeding size of Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund and Bond Anticipation NotesTWIA Estimate: 7.7% My Estimate: 10%-- could be higher if forecasts of active-hyperactive hurricane season prove accurate Estimates for 2013 and 2014 seasons are between 15-18% assuming no growth in Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund
Bills enacted addressing TWIA problems for 2013 hurricane seasonNone
Bills enacted addressing TWIA problems for hurricane season past 2013S.B. 1702 (still requires signature of Governor Perry and does very little)

Texas must somehow get out of this trap between rotten choices. It should not permit exploitation of a largely self-created crisis by coastal legislators to hurt the rest of the Texas economy for years to come. Here is my suggestion.  It is not what I would want.  It is not a very good scheme.  But it is better than the status quo and it is better than SB 1700, which perpetuates morally unjust and sneaky wealth transfers, makes a mockery of commitments to the free market, and has, in the end and notwithstanding its innovative use of the word “must” in various provisions, no real plan to end the cycle of dependency on government mandated subsidies, often from poor to rich. My hope is that this suggestion can be politically acceptable if a lot of people suck up their pride and think about their constituents, both within their district and outside it.  In fact, I will offer two schemes. I am hardly expert on parliamentary procedure in Texas, but I am hopeful that both could be implemented through amendments to SB 1700. I am even hopeful that both schemes might conjure up the ⅔ vote necessary to get this bill in place in time for the 2013 hurricane season, which starts essentially as soon as the 83rd Texas Legislature recesses.

TWIA Fix 1: The absolute minimalist fix.

1. Fix the worst bugs in the system of post-event bonds in place.  Reduce the Class 1 Funding scheme to a $200 million maximum. Such a bond could probably be amortized by  only a 5% surcharge on TWIA policyholders after a major storm.  Those policyholders would grumble about being kicked when they were down, which would be true, but most could probably pay.  Their ability to pay provides the needed foundation for Class 1 Bonds to be marketable. Keep Class 2 Bonds in place and raise 70% of $1 billion from coastal insureds (including TWIA policyholders) via a premium surcharge and raise 30% of $1 billion from insurers.  If the Class 1 bonds fail, just start with Class 2.  Ditch the buggy and unworkable Class 2 Alternative Bond scheme in section 2210.6136. Keep Class 3 funding in place to raise an additional $500 million.  This will create something like a $2 billion stack for the 2013 and 2014 hurricane seasons. Maybe a little more for 2014 if we are lucky in 2013.

2. Require TWIA to put at least two dollars into its CRTF off the top for every dollar that it spends in reinsurance. That will make TWIA think carefully about the costs of purchasing reinsurance in a system where reinsurers charge about 5 times the expected risk and instead consider more carefully putting that money into the CRTF where there is close to dollar for dollar return.

3. Tell policyholders in the most forceful way about the risks posed to them by TWIA’s funding problem. Tell them with actual numbers derived from the best models available what the risk is that TWIA will not have enough money to pay claims and what the expected shortfall is likely to be.  If, for example, TWIA’s stack for 2013 is $2 billion, then advise policyholders that the risk of their insurer being insolvent is about 3-4% per year.  Tell them further that if TWIA becomes insolvent, they are most likely to get only 50 cents for each dollar that TWIA owes them. (My calculation). Finally, let them know that neither the state of Texas nor the Texas Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association has any legal obligation to pay for losses not covered by TWIA. It reeks of Enron not to be as explicit as one can about the special risks TWIA policyholders face.

Warning : The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association is not expected \ to have adequate funds to pay claims in years where total losses \ exceed about $2 billion. There is about a 4% risk of this occurring \ in 2013. In such circumstances you may receive 50 cents or less for \ each legitimate dollar of claims you file. Neither the State of Texas \ nor the Texas Property Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association has \ any legal obligation to pay claims for which the Texas Windstorm \ Insurance Association lacks adequate funds.

TWIA warning label

Will this scare lenders? Only dumb ones that haven’t been following the situation.  It will, however, alert TWIA policyholders to the desirability of at least seeing if other insurance alternatives are available and, in any event, taking every possible precaution against loss if a storm approaches.

4. Eliminate this nonsense in SB 1700 of shielding the entities running TWIA from public scrutiny by giving them special exemption from disclosure laws.  If there were ever an entity affecting the public trust that ought to be subject to public information requests, which already have protection from undue burdens built in, it is TWIA.

TWIA Fix 2: A minimalist fix

1. Scrap the whole opaque layering scheme for post-event bonds.  It just disguises the foundation of wealth transfers on which the whole current scheme rests. If we are going to use post-event bonds to fund storm losses above the catastrophe reserve fund, have them paid for explicitly and transparently by insureds throughout the state. Pay for losses in excess of the TWIA CRTF  by permitting the Texas Department of Insurance to impose a premium surcharge on essentially all property/casualty insurance sold in Texas sufficient to amortize an aggregate $3 billion over 10 years.  The surcharge should be clearly labeled “to subsidize coastal property windstorm insurance” so that insureds throughout the state know exactly why they are paying this extra money.  Depending on interest rates, a $3 billion initial principal balance will require a payment of about $380 million per year, which I believe is on the order of a 1% premium surcharge for 10 years.  (Computation based on http://www.naic.org/state_report_cards/report_card_tx.pdf (page 6)). TWIA policyholders pay a double surcharge.

2. Start pre-funding this potential $3 billion obligation.  Create some sort of trust fund akin to the TWIA CRTF and fund it by imposing a 0.5% premium surcharge starting as soon as possible on the same set of Texas property/casualty insurance policies that would have to pay the surcharge described in paragraph 1. Again, the surcharge should be clearly labeled “to provide a reserve fund that subsidizes coastal property windstorm insurance.” That way, insureds throughout the state would know why their hard-earned dollars are being taken away.  Use these dollars to reduce initial principal balance on post-event bonds that will need to be issued (up to $3 billion) to pay for storm losses suffered by TWIA policyholders.

3. Again, tell policyholders in the most forceful way about the risks posed to them by TWIA’s funding problem. Tell them with actual numbers derived from the best models available what the risk is that TWIA will not have enough money to pay claims and what the expected shortfall is likely to be. If, for example, TWIA’s stack for 2013 is $3.2 billion, then advise policyholders that the risk of their insurer being insolvent is about 2% per year.  Tell them further that if TWIA becomes insolvent, they are most likely to get about 90 cents for each dollar that TWIA owes them. (My calculation). Finally, let them know that neither the state of Texas nor the Texas Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association has any legal obligation to pay for losses not covered by TWIA.

4. Again, require TWIA to put at least two dollars into its CRTF off the top for every dollar that it spends in reinsurance. That will make TWIA think carefully about the costs of purchasing reinsurance in a system where reinsurers charge about 5 times the expected risk and instead put it into the CRTF where there is close to dollar for dollar return.

 5. Give inland interests more substantial representation on the TWIA board and give the TWIA board authorization to reduce its exposure (and therefore reduce the risk of insolvency) through a variety of steps, including placing a limit lower than currently exists on the maximum limit on residential properties (primary and secondary), imposition of higher deductibles or coinsurance than currently exists and ability to place different restrictions on policies on new properties than policies on existing properties. This will impel the TWIA board to do what it should have been doing all along — prioritize between affording higher and better coverage to people but running a substantial risk of insolvency, or providing more moderate coverage — perhaps with a focus on the less wealthy — for which money will actually exist in the event of a major storm.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been writing a lot over the past 10 months about ways of addressing the system of catastrophic risk insurance in place for the Texas coast.  It’s not so hard to be an academic theorist in which one can assume away the world of political constraints. But now, at the least, we have those realities to face and some scary deadlines coming up.  Maybe what I am proposing comes too late.  I hope not.  Because while my proposals are hardly perfect — indeed they should sunset by the 84th legislature — I do think each of them is considerably better than the horrible choice now facing the Texas legislature.  Maybe some future session will feature less inflammatory and unproductive bombast, fewer attempts at special interest legislation and more serious and informed reflection about ways in which mechanisms thought good enough for the rest of Texas and its insurance markets can again be made the primary method of catastrophic risk transfer along the Texas coast. In the mean time, you have my thoughts on what might currently be achieved.

 

S.B. 1700 in stark pictures

According to newspaper accounts here and here, S.B. 1700 is heading for a vote in the Texas Senate this week.  Before the Senate votes on the bill or the House Insurance Committee considers the matter, I hope they have some understanding of how radically it transfers wealth to TWIA/TRIP policyholders from people who do not have TWIA policies. I also hope legislators understand that although a $4 billion funding stack is definitely an improvement over the status quo, there is still a significant risk to the coast.  And I also hope they understand the TWIA/TRIP depopulation plan, which would in theory be a good idea, has about as much a chance of success without giant changes to TWIA and TRIP that will greatly anger coastal residents as a plan to depopulate Texas itself.

Here are some pictures that I hope aid understanding.

The Funding Stack

Here’s a picture of the TWIA funding stack for 2013 under S.B. 1700. For each element of the stack, I’ve shown who actually pays for that layer of responsibility.

SB 1700; Labeled[BarChart[{180, 500, 500, 500, 500, 1000, 800},    ChartLayout -> "Stacked",    ChartLabels ->     Placed[{"Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund (TWIA premiums)",       "Class 1 Assessments (Texas insureds)",       "Class 1 Securities (Coastal insured surchanges)",       "Class 2 Assessments (Texas insureds)",       "Class 2 Securities (Coastal insured surcharges)",       "Baseline Reinsurance (TWIA premiums)",       "Insurer Purchased Reinsurance (Texas insureds)"}, Center],    BaseStyle -> {FontSize -> 11, FontFamily -> "Swiss",      LineIndent -> 0},    ChartStyle -> Map[Lighter@ColorData[61][#] &, Range[8]]],   Style["TWIA Funding Stack for 2013\n(Numbers in Millions)", \ {FontSize -> 11, FontFamily -> "Swiss", LineIndent -> 0}]]

TWIA Funding Stack for 2013 under SB 1700

Distribution of expected responsibility

Here’s a pie chart based on a 10,000 year storm simulation showing how much each layer of responsibility would expect to pay under S.B. 1700. There are several features of this graph worth noting.  First, note that TWIA policyholders have paid only for the modest dark red wedge at the left and the orange baseline reinsurance at the bottom left.  That is less than half of the expected payments.  (Yes, they pay a modest portion of the coastal insured surcharges too, but we don’t know how much).  Also notice the large cherry red wedge of unfunded losses.  Although the stack goes up to $4 billion or so under this bill for 2013, and although insolvency now occurs in perhaps 1.5% of the years (26% over 20 years), when insolvency occurs, it is a huge amount of money that is unfunded.

By Layer

SB1700; Framed@Labeled[PieChart[Mean /@ Through[funcs[rv]],    ChartLabels ->      Placed[Map[       Pane[#, 144] &, {"Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund and operating \ funds (TWIA premiums)", "Class 1 Assessments (Texas insureds)",         "Class 1 Securities (Coastal insured surchanges)",         "Class 2 Assessments (Texas insureds)",         "Class 2 Securities (Coastal insured surcharges)",         "Baseline Reinsurance (TWIA premiums)",         "Insurer Purchased Reinsurance (Texas insureds)",         "Unfunded losses"}], "RadialCallout"],     ChartLegends ->      Placed[{"Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund and operating funds (TWIA \ premiums)", "Class 1 Assessments (Texas insureds)",        "Class 1 Securities (Coastal insured surchanges)",        "Class 2 Assessments (Texas insureds)",        "Class 2 Securities (Coastal insured surcharges)",        "Baseline Reinsurance (TWIA premiums)",        "Insurer Purchased Reinsurance (Texas insureds)",        "Unfunded losses"}, Bottom],     ChartStyle -> Map[ColorData[61][#] &, Range[8]], ImageSize -> 580,     ImagePadding -> {{90, 100}, {20, 20}},     BaseStyle -> {FontSize -> 11, FontFamily -> "Swiss"}    ], Style[    "Distribution of expected loss payments by layer", {FontSize -> 14,      FontFamily -> "Swiss", FontWeight -> Bold}]   ]

Expected loss payments by layer based on 2013 stack

 By source

We can group the expected payments shown above so that we simply have expected payments by source.  Here is that graph.  Notice again that TWIA policyholders pay little more under this scheme than either Texas insurers (who will surely pass the cost on to non-coastal Texas insureds) and coastal insureds, many of whom have already paid for non-TWIA wind policies. And, again, notice the large chunk of unfunded losses that exists under S.B. 1700.

With[{wedges = With[{t = {#[[1]] + #[[6]], #[[2]] + #[[4]] + #[[7]], #[[3]] + \ #[[5]], #[[8]]} &[Mean /@ Through[funcs[rv]]]}, t/Total[t]]}, Framed@Labeled[ PieChart[wedges, ChartLabels -> Placed[Map[ Pane[#, 144] &, {"TWIA premiums", "Texas insurers (insureds)", "Coastal insureds", "Unfunded losses"}], "RadialCallout"], ChartStyle -> Map[ColorData[61][#] &, Range[4]], ImageSize -> 580, ImagePadding -> {{90, 100}, {20, 20}}, BaseStyle -> {FontSize -> 11, FontFamily -> "Swiss"} ], Style[ "Distribution of expected loss payments by layer responsibility", \ {FontSize -> 14, FontFamily -> "Swiss", FontWeight -> Bold}]] ]

Distribution of expected loss payments by layer responsibility under SB 1700

 By Cash Payments

There’s another way to look at S.B. 1700.  Don’t focus on the source of expected loss payments. Focus instead on source of expected cash flow.  The two are not the same because large chunks of cash flow get lost in TWIA/TRIP overhead and in paying reinsurers enormous amounts to bear risk (a subject discussed elsewhere). Here’s that pie chart.  Notice that TWIA policyholders now shoulder a considerably larger share of the load (about 2/3rds). There is still, however, a large chunk of the load picked up by Texas insurers/insureds (14%), coastal insureds (8%) and unfunded losses (9%).  The unfunded losses are a smaller chunk because the denominator for the pie chart is now larger.

SB 1700; Framed@Labeled[   With[{wedges =       With[{t = {#[[1]], #[[2]] + #[[4]] + #[[7]], #[[3]] + #[[5]], \ #[[8]]} &[ReplacePart[Mean /@ Through[funcs[rv]], 1 -> 460000000]]},        t/Total[t]]},     PieChart[wedges,      ChartLabels ->       Placed[Map[        Pane[#, 144] &, {"TWIA premiums", "Texas insurers (insureds)",          "Coastal insureds", "Unfunded losses"}], "RadialCallout"],      ChartStyle -> Map[ColorData[61][#] &, Range[4]], ImageSize -> 580,      ImagePadding -> {{110, 60}, {20, 20}},      BaseStyle -> {FontSize -> 11, FontFamily -> "Swiss"}]],    Style["Distribution of expected cash payments by source", {FontSize \ -> 14, FontFamily -> "Swiss", FontWeight -> Bold}]]

Distribution of expected cash payments for 2013 under SB 1700 by source

Political Power in TRIP

TRIP will be run by a Board of Directors appointed by the Texas Governor.  The graphic below shows the statutory composition of that board under new section 12 of S.B. 1700 (2210.102). Notice the little wedge representing non-seacoast interests.  Hopes, therefore, that the board will take steps to protect non-coastal Texans from having their wealth transfered to the coast would thus seem very optimistic.  Also notice how the southern areas of the Texas coast, which have less population and less insured property than the northern areas, have equal political power on the board.  This is not a one house (or one premium dollar) / one vote system.

Labeled[Framed@ Labeled[PieChart[{3, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1}, ImageSize -> 200, ChartLegends -> Map[Pane[ Style[#, {FontSize -> 11, FontFamily -> "Swiss", LineIndent -> 0}], 216] &, {"insurance industry representatives who write \ wind/hail in first tier coastal counties", "Cameron-Kenedy-Kleberg-Willacy representative", "Aransas-Calhoun-Nueces-Refugio-San Patricio representative", "Brazoria-Chambers-Galveston-Jefferson-Matagorda-Harris \ representative", "non seacoast member", "engineer from second tier coastal county", "financial industry second tier coastal county"}], BaseStyle -> {FontSize -> 11, FontFamily -> "Swiss", LineIndent -> 0}], Map[Style[#, {FontSize -> 11, FontFamily -> "Swiss", LineIndent -> 0}] &, {"TRIP Board of Directors", "With ex-officio members: elected official from southern \ seacoast, elected official from northern seacost, elected official \ from non-seacoast"}], {Bottom, Top}], Style["Political Power in TRIP", {FontSize -> 11, FontFamily -> "Swiss", LineIndent -> 0, FontWeight -> Bold}], Top]

Board of Director membership in TRIP

The Depopulation of TWIA/TRIP

One of the concepts in SB 1700 is that TWIA/TRIP should be “depopulated” by reducing its total insured exposure (currently over $75 billion).  Great. The bill does not, however, come with a magic wand with which to accomplish this task. The only tool it provides is a club that threatens the insurance industry with a collective $200 million assessment that goes into an “exposure reduction plan fund” if the 2016 target of a 20% reduction from 2013 levels is not met.  It places insurers in a bit of a prisoners dilemma and creates a lot of litigation-fomenting administrative discretion on this point by saying that the assessment will only be levied against insurers that “as determined by the [TRIP] board of directors, has not met the member’s proportionate responsiiblity for reduction of the association’s total insureds exposure.” So, if all other insurers have started selling insurance — presumably at a major loss — on the coast using TWIA or sub-TWIA rates, the insurer who is left and refusing to sell insurance on the coast might find themselves with a very hefty bill even if they just have a modest share of the Texas property-casualty market.  And this, I take it, is the whole point behind the clever section 2210.212 of the bill.

I suspect, however, that the $200 million assessment will be unlikely to lure many insurers back to the coast.  There is going to be a first mover problem.  If very few large insurers choose to avoid the 2210.212 club by selling on the coast, then no insurer ends up paying a very large 2210.212 assessment. Question for any other lawyers (or law students) reading this entry: would it violate federal antitrust laws, as modified by the McCarran Ferguson Act, for insurers collusively to refuse to sell; would it violate Texas law?

The other point — and this is the one to which the picture below relates — is that the reduction targets are ambitious.  Although they are stated as reductions from the 2013 status quo, they will in fact be larger.  That’s because TWIA/TRIP is likely to continue growing at significant rates.  Thus, to make a 20% cut from the 2013 status quo, one needs to make perhaps a 30% cut from the 2016 expected status quo. The graph below illustrates this point by comparing 3% TWIA growth to the depopulation targets stated in section 2210.212.

 

Labeled[Show[ DateListPlot[{{"January 1, 2013", 1}, {"January 1, 2016", 1.03^3}, {"January 1, 2018", 1.03^5}, {"January 1, 2020", 1.03^7}, {"January 1, 2022", 1.03^9}, {"January 1,2024", 1.03^11}}, PlotRange -> {0, 1.4}, PlotMarkers -> Automatic, PlotStyle -> Green, FrameLabel -> {"Time", "Total Insured Exposure As Fraction of 2013"}, BaseStyle -> {FontSize -> 11, FontFamily -> "Swiss"}, Epilog -> {Arrow[{{3.6238320000000005*^9, 0.28615669133896926}, {3.6578745686249995*^9, 0.7181793832820529}}], Inset[TextCell["Assessment of $200\nmillion if not reached", GeneratedCell -> False, CellAutoOverwrite -> False, CellBaseline -> Baseline, TextAlignment -> Left], {3.588546672*^9, 0.19378500614472127}, {Left, Baseline}, Alignment -> {Left, Top}]}], DateListPlot[{{"January 1, 2013", 1}, {"January 1, 2016", 0.8}, {"January 1, 2018", 0.65}, {"January 1, 2020", 0.55}, {"January 1, 2022", 0.45}, {"January 1,2024", 0.4}}, PlotMarkers -> Automatic, PlotStyle -> Red]], Style["Natural Growth of TWIA/TRIP (green) compared to 2210.212 \ \"requirements\" (red)", {FontSize -> 11, FontFamily -> "Swiss"}] ]

Natural growth of TWIA/TRIP compared to 2210.212 requirements

My final picture is of Albus Dumbledore and the most powerful wand in the universe: the Elder Wand.  I show it because, I suspect, that is what it is going to take for TRIP to actually accomplish the targets set forth in the legislation without infuriating the very political constituencies that have, with SB 1700, again kicked the fundamental problems of catastrophic risk transfer down the road.

The Elder Wand

Perhaps the only thing that will actually be able to implement the SB 1700 targets without infuriating coastal Texans

TRIP could raise premiums drastically to market rates.  That would likely reduce total insured exposure, but somehow I don’t think that is the idea in the legislation. It could refuse to take on new customers. Imagine the squeals that will produce. It could do what I have suggested for years and refuse to insure beyond some basic amount and rely on market-provided excess insurance for the rest. To do so to the extent of the targets contained in SB 1700 will likely require that excess policies kick in at about $100,000.  Again, I have doubts that his what the proponents of this legislation have in mind. Or, finally, TRIP could just realize that its impossible to reduce total insured exposure without taking steps that are going to be extremely unpopular with the very constituencies that put forth this bill. They could, instead, giggle. They could recognize that the “must” language in the bill is basically a legislative joke — a pretext for extracting in disguise another $200 million out of Texas insureds throughout the state to subsidize, yet again, coastal property, owned by poor and wealthy alike.

Breaking News: Major TWIA Bill Approved by Senate Committee

According to a reliable source, a highly amended S.B. 1700 that resembles somewhat the committee substitute HB 3622 has been voted favorably out of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee.

Here’s a link to the bill. Senate Bill 1700 approved by Business and Commerce

I’ll try to provide a detailed analysis in the next 24 hours.  The short version, however, is this bill looks like a masterpiece of special interest legislation that current TWIA policyholders on the coast should love. It gets rid of the worst problems in post-event bonds that have been around since 2011. Everyone off and on the coast should be glad that this problem is eliminated. The SB 1700 voted out of committee favorably reduces the probability of a storm that would gravely injure TWIA policyholders and, derivatively, the rest of Texas. It requires little if any sacrifice from TWIA policyholders in terms of mitigation and asks rich and poor insureds throughout Texas to subsidize property along the coast even more so than before. That subsidization continues even if the owners of coastal property are wealthy and don’t need or deserve the subsidy. But it continues extracting this money in a way that is very hard for the average insured to understand or see.  If you live off the coast, your 3% higher insurance bill won’t have a picture showing you the lovely beach home or modest coastal property you are now subsidizing more than before with your hard earned money, but you’ll be doing it nonetheless.

Also, the bill (section 2210.212) says that TWIA “must” reduce its potential exposure quite substantially both over the next few years and over the next decade.  In theory this means that TWIA will have to drop policyholders and private insurers will have to pick them up. It looks, however, as if all that “must” means is that Texas insurers, if they don’t write insurance on the coast as desired by TWIA, will have to collectively fork over $200 million.  I have serious doubts this provision means much more than that Texas insurers can look forward to passing on a $200 million bill to their non-coastal policyholders every several years — how, exactly, is Allstate supposed to compete with subsidized TWIA? —  but perhaps if Allstate (just to pick on one large insurer arbitrarily) were to sell in the least vulnerable parts of the coast, it might be able to do so at only a modest loss and avoid being hit by the stick that this bill gives TWIA.  Anyway, more on this and other interesting bill features soon.

Oh, and I almost forgot.  If this bill passes it won’t be TWIA anymore.  It will be TRIP, the Texas Residual Insurance Plan.

The “Committee Substitute” to H.B. 3622 is a very different animal

I have now received a copy of the “Committee Substitute” to H.B. 3622 (CSHB 3622 Bill Text). This committee substitute house bill is a very different animal than the original H.B. 3622.

Changes to the Funding Structure in the Committee Substitute House Bill

Here are the changes to the funding structure that I note.

1. Under original H.B. 3622 (and the status quo), Class 2 post-events would be repaid 70% by coastal insureds via premium surcharges and 30% by insurers by assessment. The maximum amount of Class 2 bonds was $1 billion.  Now, the insurers are simply supposed to pay 30% of the bill up front via assessment and coastal insureds are supposed to repay up to $700 million in borrowings through premium surcharges.

2. TWIA is required, apparently no matter what the price and no matter what its financial condition, to purchase a base level minimum of $1 billion in reinsurance at the top of its stack.  I would be pleasantly surprised if such reinsurance could be purchased for less than $100 million. This is so because of the low attachment point  for the reinsurance that will now exist in light of the depleted Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund, the fact that the mandate puts TWIA over a barrel, and the historic pricing evidence. Standing alone, this reinsurance requirement should, however, bring the height of the stack for 2013 to about $2.98 billion ($180 million in CRTF, $800 million in assessment on insurers ($300 million interest free loan repaid by Texas through premium tax credits and $500 million true payment), $300 million in Class 2 assessments on insurers, $700 million in Class 2 post-event bonds paid for by coastal policyholders, and $1 billion in reinsurance)

3. If the catastrophe reserve fund has less than $1 billion in it, TWIA is required to purchase additional reinsurance so that the total height of its stack is the probable maximum loss for a 1 in 75 year storm.  By my calculations this will be a stack of roughly $3.7 billion. This provision thus requires TWIA to buy an additional $700 million in reinsurance. I would expect this extra level of reinsurance to cost between 50 and 70% of the cost of the first layer. Why so much?  Much of the premium for reinsurance is to pay the reinsurer for having to actually have ready access to its maximum exposure.  Moreover, the purchase of the first $1 billion will have shrunk limited global reinsurance capacity,

4. If the catastrophe reserve fund has more than $1 billion it, TWIA is required to purchase additional reinsurance so that the total height of its stack is the probable maximum loss for a 1 in 100 year storm.  By my calculations, this will be a stack of roughly $4.4 billion. If the CRTF has $1 billion, then the height of the stack with baseline reinsurance will be about $3.8 billion (see note below). TWIA will thus be required to purchase $600 million in additional reinsurance. I would expect this extra level of reinsurance to cost between 40 and 60% of the cost of the first layer.  Why?  Again, much of the premium for reinsurance is to pay the reinsurer for having to actually have ready access to its maximum exposure. And, again, there is not an unlimited supply of catastrophe reinsurance money.    The purchase of the first $1 billion will have shrunk limited global reinsurance capacity

5. The cost of the baseline reinsurance is borne by TWIA policyholders.  The cost of additional reinsurance, however, is borne by insurers in Texas, who will presumably figure out a way to pass the cost on. This, I now understand, is what insurance lobbyist Floyd Beamon was complaining about at the hearing yesterday.

Visualizations of the Funding Stack in the Committee Substitute House Bill

Here are some pictures of what the TWIA stack would look like under the Committee Substitute to H.B. 3622. Clearly there is a lot of “Piggy Pink” in these pictures — the color code for Texas insurers — and not very much “Teal Blue” — the color code for TWIA insureds. You’ll also notice some ‘Burnt Orange,” which, apologies to other Texas schools in advance, is the color code for the Texas fisc.  I hope to be able to post a more detailed analysis later today. My interim suspicion is that the Committee Substitute significantly decreases the risk of insolvency below that of the original bill (look at the last graph in this post). It does so, however, by forcing insurers to endure a far greater amount of what is euphemistically called “lift.”  In plain English, TWIA is yet again propped up for yet further expansion by using other people’s money. But at least it is made somewhat solvent for the near future and the reliance on the worst of the post-event bonds is eliminated.

 

TWIA Stack Under HBCS 3622 for various CRTF values

TWIA Stack Under HBCS 3622 for various CRTF values