Senator Taylor blasts TWIA board for not enforcing the law

On Monday, at a special meeting of the House Insurance Committee, State Senator Larry Taylor blasted the decision of the board of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association not to enforce laws requiring policyholders repairing their property to follow applicable building codes.  Senator Taylor complained vociferously that the continued disregard of the Texas Insurance Code, particularly in favor of policyholders that TWIA had paid off in litigation involving Hurricane Ike in 2008, represented a failure of TWIA to mitigate further damages to the Association. That criticism was heeded only partly Tuesday by the the TWIA board when it voted not to cancel policies that had been issued without legal authority but only to decline to renew them. The TWIA board further decided not to begin non-renewals as soon as possible but to wait instead until January of 2014 — after the 2013 storm season — before even beginning the to decline renewals.

TWIA’s position is difficult to understand. Based on comments both at the hearing Monday and the Board meeting Tuesday, TWIA officials appear to acknowledge that they have issued policies — apparently several thousand — they are not authorized to issue.  Their excuse has been compassion — that it may have been difficult in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike to bring properties up to the higher code.  But, as with the insurable interest doctrine, insurers who issue policies in violation of the law generally have a right not to pay on claims brought under them and thus, presumably, to cancel them. Cruel as it may seem, that’s the traditional way of vindicating many public policy concerns. The TWIA board did not receive any public legal advice saying it would violate any laws by simply canceling the policies forthwith. Property insurance, unlike life insurance, is not burdened with incontestability laws.

The problem with the compassion excuse is that the TWIA board is being “compassionate” spending other people’s money. Adherence to building codes greatly reduces losses.  So when TWIA’s losses are heightened due to the failure of some policyholders to make repairs up to code (for years), it ends up burdening all those who have to pay for TWIA’s losses.  This group includes other TWIA policyholders who do comply with the law, sometimes at considerable expense. These policyholders have responsibility for paying off any Class 1 bonds that are issued.   It also includes coastal residents who do not have TWIA policies but who will be surcharged following the issuance of some Class 2 Bonds, and insureds throughout Texas who will likely see rate increases when insurers are assessed to pay for Class 2 and Class 3 bonds.

The decision of TWIA’s board may also give rise to legal disputes down the road. Presumably the reason the legislature insisted on compliance with building codes was to reduce future losses to TWIA and to reduce thereby the risk that non-TWIA policyholders would have to pay post-event bonds. So, when the TWIA board declines for a lengthy period to enforce that law, they unlawfully expand the potential exposure of these third parties.  Might not some of the better advised third parties, such as large insurance companies, seize upon clear violations of state underwriting laws as a basis for declining to pay at least part of any assessment made against them? Might they not plausibly argue that some percentage of their assessment liability should be withheld due to violations of law?  Alternatively, might they not bring a cause of action against the TWIA board for breach of duty? And might even the threat of these legal challenges make it yet more difficult to market the post-event bonds in the first place. TWIA has handed those responsible for repaying these bonds an excuse not to do so.

Perhaps only the Texas Department of Insurance is entitled to compel TWIA to follow the law and some future court will find that no private rights of action exist. Perhaps some future court will hold that the statutory restrictions on underwriting were not intended to benefit third parties such as member insurers.  But, I would not be so sure. It strikes me that there is a pretty strong argument to the contrary. I remain mystified as to why TWIA would create yet more problems for itself by continuing “compassion” for people who have, for years, declined to bring their properties up to code, particularly when they were given money to do so in Ike settlements. I likewise wonder if the Texas Department of Insurance, which has significant operating authority over TWIA, might urge it act far more promptly and with far less “compassion” in shedding itself of exposure the legislature prohibited it from assuming.

 

 

News from the TWIA board meeting

I’ll have a fuller post later and the meeting is still in progress (in closed session), but here are the headlines thus far.

1. A TWIA board member (Alice Gannon, I believe) acknowledges that if TWIA does not get new Texas Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber to reverse a decision of her predecessor refusing to authorize $500 million in borrowings via a Bond Anticipation Note, TWIA will not have money to pay claims promptly in the event of even a modest storm.  I do not have an exact quote, but at minute 46 of the hearing she says something to the effect of “Without the BAN, it is highly likely we would not be able to pay claims in timely fashion.” Other board commentary indicates it will take 3 to 6 months to sell post-event bonds, assuming they could be sold at all. TWIA will be meeting with Commissioner Rathgeber this Friday (June 21, 2013) to try to persuade her to reverse former Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman’s decision.

2. TWIA has acquired $1 billion in reinsurance with an attachment point of $1.7 billion.  It has the right until July 15 to increase its reinsurance to $1.25 billion but increase its attachment point of $2.2 billion.

3. As feared, TWIA’s financial condition is already having an effect. Premium finance companies are refusing to lend more than $16,000 to pay TWIA premiums. Lenders don’t want to try to bring claims for unearned premiums against an insolvent insurer.

4. TWIA actually has only $340 million in cash after having paid much of the recent $135 million Ike settlement.  It believes it will have $400 million in cash by August and through the end of the year.

5. TWIA will ask the Texas Department of Insurance to permit it to change accounting practices so that it can count the Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund on its books as its assets.  Doing so would move TWIA from being seen as having a negative surplus to perhaps having a positive surplus.

6. TWIA will not cancel over 2,000 policies that it has knowingly issued in violation of provisions of the Texas Insurance Code governing compliance with building codes.  Instead, starting in January, after this year’s hurricane season it will decline to renew such policies as they come up for renewal.  This refusal to enforce the law was the subject of sharp criticism yesterday from State Senator Larry Taylor and may give rise to claims by those assessed to pay for post-event bonds that TWIA’s exposure was unlawfully increased.

7. TWIA did not vote to consent to imposition of a receivership.

8. TWIA will not try to assess insurers based on a law that was repealed in 2009. It acknowledges that that there are “uncertainties” as to whether it has authority to do so and that actually collecting such assessments would be difficult.

TWIA Cash Position Not Improving

 $443 million in cash and short term assets

In a recent blog entry, I attempted to estimate the amount of cash the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association had in its operating account.  I said TWIA’s cash position was likely to be between $400 million to $700 million after the recent Ike settlement of $135 million was taken into account. Thanks to a public information request from Fox 26 TV’s Greg Groogan we now have a better fix.  If anything, I was a little optimistic.

TWIA has $443,453,000 in cash and short term investments, little changed from its position at the start of the year.  Its assets are down to $444,342,000.  But those figures are before  consideration of the $135 million Ike settlement, the so-called “Mostyn settlement.” They are also before TWIA spends an anticipated $100 million or so (in cash) on reinsurance, The figures are both from the end of April, 2013. If funding of the Ike settlements comes from operating funds or TWIA succeeds in obtaining reinsurance, that figure will likely be lower shortly.  If the Ike settlement instead comes from the Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund, that $180 million fund will be significantly depleted.

The rest of the story on the TWIA cash position and finances

There are at least two other pieces of information that will be useful in assessing TWIA’s position as hurricane season moves forward. They may also help Governor Perry get from “certainly possible” to “yes” in considering requests that he convene a special session of the Texas legislature to address windstorm insurance reform.  What happened to the effort to spend $100 million or so on reinsurance?  Did they acquire it and on what terms?  Second, what has happened to the effort to prepare for post-event bonding now that former Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman authorized TWIA to do so?  Unless both of those efforts are particularly successful, however, I stand by my assertion that TWIA may well have little more than $1 billion in actual cash to pay claims on $80 billion worth of exposure. Moreover, the reinsurance doesn’t do as much good as it could, if TWIA can’t sell all of its authorized post-event bonds.

So, in this case, no news — or no new news — is bad news. If something like Hurricane Ike hit — a Category 2 storm in a populated area — TWIA policyholders might get only 40 cents or so for each dollar of legitimate claims. There would be no protection from the Texas Property & Casualty Guaranty Association. There would be no lawful obligation of the state to help out. Instead Texas would be left with a hope.  Perhaps the state legislature would meet swiftly and agree on a plan (with a 2/3 majority) to come up with billions of dollars  to help bail out a devastated coast.  As I recently said to reporter Groogan in response to Senator Larry Taylor’s understandable expression of such a hope:  “Good Luck.”

Footnote 1: Say what one will about TWIA and its history, I have again found them to be responsive over the past year to public information requests.  That helps build some trust.

Footnote 2: Remember State Representative Craig Eiland’s claims that TWIA could and should assess insurers today for Hurricane Ike losses and buttress in Catastrophe Reserve Trust Fund?  I’ve found a longer statement of his position here.  It’s such a mixed picture.  On the one hand,  outgoing Representative Eiland has great information on the timeline. He presents a forceful case that TWIA had the information that would have justified a larger assessment on the insurers for Ike under the old law before a 2009 law took effect.  He is right that TWIA would look a lot stronger today with $780 million in its CRTF rather than the $180 million it has today. What Representative Eiland still lacks, however, is any legal theory under which such an assessment could occur today.  As has been discussed here at length, the law under which assessments were authorized was repealed — Representative Eiland sadly joining others who voted to do so.

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.

 

Texas Senate Watch — Day 3

We’ll see if S.B. 1700 can make it a vote in the Texas Senate today.  The past two days of failure in that regard suggest its sponsors do not yet have the votes.  Perhaps with some substantial floor amendments, it might make it today.  I’ll be watching as best I can but, since I suspect most of the action will take place behind closed doors and the Senate proceedings will be but a quick ratification of what has been worked out in private, no guarantees I will be watching at exactly the right moment.  Corpus Christi Caller report Rick Spruill @Caller_Rick is also watching today, so that’s an alternative source of news.

Or, of course, you can just watch the proceedings yourself here.

Note: Timestamps on the post are off by one hour either due to a bug in WordPress or a lack of understanding on my part about how to set  some option.  Sorry.

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.

Screenshot_5_15_13_11_46_AM

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 symbolic representation of the actions of TWIA's board today

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

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.geeslin assessment theory

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?

S.B. 1700 placed on “Intent Calendar”

Note: this post has been edited on May 10, 2013, to reflect very helpful information I have received this morning.

According to Texas Legislature Online, S.B. 1700, a bill that would significantly alter funding and other aspects of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, has or will be placed on the “Intent Calendar” tomorrow, May 10, 2013.  So far as I can figure out, this placement is the predicate for a vote on the bill in the Texas Senate. This masterpiece of special interest legislation may thus be nearing approval (or rejection) by that part of our bicameral legislature in the next few days. To become law, however, it will need approval by the Texas House and signature by Governor Rick Perry.

The best explanation I have received of what this means comes from former Texas House member Patricia Gray, with whom I have had the pleasure of working for many years.  She writes:

In the Senate, there have to be 21 votes to bring a bill to the floor.  If it is on the intent calendar, Larry Taylor is counting to see if he has the 21–if he does, he can ask [Lieutenant Governor David] Dewhurst to call it up for floor debate.  From there it only needs a simple majority (16) to pass the Senate.  Time is getting very short — if he can’t move it in the Senate, it may  it may not make it.  I think tomorrow [May 10] is the last day for House bills to pass in the House, so unless there is a House vehicle to attach it to when House bills get to the Senate, it will not pass if he doesn’t have 21 votes to get it to the Senate floor.

Here are more official explanations.

Intent calendar

Senate rules require that bills and resolutions be listed on the regular order of business and be considered on second reading in the order in which committee reports on the measures are submitted to the senate. During a regular session, the senate adopts a further rule specifying that before a bill or joint resolution may be brought up for floor debate out of its regular order, notice of intent must be filed with the secretary of the senate by 3 p.m. on the last preceding calendar day the senate was in session. A senator may give notice on no more than three bills or resolutions before April 15 and on no more than five bills or resolutions on or after April 15. Senate rules direct the secretary of the senate to prepare a list of all legislation for which notice has been given. The list, called the Intent Calendar, must be made available to each senator and to the press not later than 6:30 p.m. on the day the notice is filed. No bill or resolution may be considered on its first day on the Intent Calendar, and a vote of two-thirds of the senators present is required before any of the measures listed on the Intent Calendar may be debated. The senate rules do not require measures to be brought up for consideration in the order listed on the Intent Calendar, and the senate routinely considers only a portion of those measures listed on the Intent Calendar for a given day. A senator must give notice from day to day for a measure that was not brought up for consideration to remain on the Intent Calendar. Any provision of the senate rule governing the Intent Calendar may be suspended by a vote of four-fifths of the members present.

 

http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/gtli/legproc/process_senagenda.html

 

Here’s another explanation:

Senate Action

Lacking a calendars committee, the Senate relies on the Intent Calendar which schedules bills for general consideration in the order in which they are reported favorably out of committee. However, the Senate does not follow this order. At the beginning of the legislative session, a dummy bill (not intended for floor action) is placed at the top of the Intent Calendar, making it necessary to take up all other bills outside of the regular order.

To do this the sponsor of the bill or a member of the reporting committee must get recognition from the President of the Senate (the Lieutenant Governor) to make a motion to take up a bill outside of the Intent Calendar order. Two-thirds of the members who choose to vote must approve such an action.

If the bill is taken up by the Senate, it is given its second reading, at which point it is opened for debate and amendment. As in the U.S. Senate, there is a tradition in the Texas Senate that permits members to speak for as long as they wish (or otherwise can physically sustain). When members try to kill a bill by “talking it to death” and using up so much time that the rest of the Senate agrees to move on, this is known as a filibuster.

If the bill is approved on the second reading, it is ready for its third reading and, ultimately, final approval. As in the House, amendments are allowed at this point and require a two-thirds majority vote of members present.

Although the Texas Constitution requires that a bill receive each of its three readings on three separate days, this rule can be suspended by a four-fifths vote of members present. Though the House rarely uses this motion, it is routinely used in the Senate to pass non-controversial legislation, particularly toward the end of a legislative session.

 

http://texaspolitics.laits.utexas.edu/2_8_3.html

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.

[WolframCDF source=”http://catrisk.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/SB-1700.cdf” CDFwidth=”560″ CDFheight=”800″ altimage=”http://catrisk.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/SB-1700.png”]

 

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.

A few additional comments.

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]