EPLI Claims Reach Tipping Point Amid Anti-Sexual Harassment Movement

It would only be logical that based on the recent #meToo movement that frequency in sexual harassment events has and will increase.  The impact to carriers and on future premiums is yet to be understood, but would be expected to be material –

All the more reason to have a Professional Employer as your partner!

by Andrea Wells of MyNewMarkets.com

From Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein to famed television journalist Matt Lauer, to thousands of others speaking out through the social media movement #MeToo, sexual harassment allegations from individuals who claim to have been victimized by their employers and colleagues continue to surface.

The insurance industry is expecting a wave of employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) claims to roll in following the recent storm of sexual harassment allegations in entertainment, media, hospitality and other industries.

The current period represents a tipping point, according to Patrick Mitchell, management liability product head at Hiscox.

“In the past, employees feared retaliation and may not have reported harassment,” he said. Recent attention is likely to ease those fears. “So while retaliation is definitely possible, it appears now employees have the courage to report regardless of the consequences.”

Insurance experts say no industry or company is immune. While the initial wave of EPLI claims is likely to target high profile and large companies, there is the potential for a trickle-down effect on other industries, experts say.

“We’ve seen a lot of headlines for particular industries (entertainment/media), but the truth is, sexual harassment allegations can happen in any industry and in companies of all sizes,” Mitchell said.

“I think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg,” agrees Jared Zola, a partner and insurance recovery expert at the law firm Blank Rome. While today it’s high-profile alleged bad actors being targeted who are very public figures in politics, media and entertainment, he thinks there will soon be “a flood of claims from employees or former employees at companies in every industry of every size.”

The likelihood of an employer being hit by a discrimination charge of any kind is higher than employers may realize. In 2016, U.S. companies had at least a 10.5 percent chance of having an employment charge filed against them, according to The Hiscox Guide to Employment Lawsuits, which was compiled using the latest data on employment charge activity from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and its state counterparts. Employment charges are often the first step toward employment suits. Employment discrimination charges can be based on race, sex, disability, age, national origin, religion, color and others in addition to sexual harassment. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws.

EEOC data from 2016 show that retaliation is the most common discrimination charge filed and is named in nearly half of all charges (45.9 percent). However, in many cases, more than one category can be cited in an EEOC discrimination filing.

Watershed Moment

Rick Betterley, president of Betterley Risk Consultants Inc., and author of The Betterley Report, believes this period will be seen as a watershed moment similar to what happened in 1991 when Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas, President George H.W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, of sexual harassment when the two worked together. Betterley sees this moment as a significant turning point not only in U.S. employment, but also in employment-related insurance.

While the recent surge in sexual harassment allegations has not yet translated into claims, it’s most likely only a matter of time before the EPLI claims start arriving. When they do, there is most likely to be coverage for those employers that have purchased EPLI coverage.

“This is not a situation with an insurance company saying, ‘We never planned on covering that.’ They did plan on it. They wrote the policies to cover it. EPLI grew out of the Clarence Thomas hearings and Anita Hill’s testimony. That’s a big part of where this coverage started,” Betterley said.

At the same time, he believes the insurance industry can handle the claims. “It could be a big deal for the line, but I don’t see it as wrecking the line either,” he said.

EPLI has been a mature market for many years, with growth averaging 4.4 percent over the past four years in the United States, according to Betterley’s recently released Employment Practices Liability Insurance Market Survey 2017.

Potential Claims

Betterley foresees most claims activity stemming from the recent storm in sexual harassment allegations targeted at larger and/or prominent employers and suggests they may even be limited to only higher risk industries.

“There are some industries where you would say that the underwriters are already looking more carefully, thanks to the last couple of months, than maybe they would have been before. Entertainment’s one of them,” he said.

Underwriters are also likely to closely watch companies whose leaders have a more visible public profile.

“Let’s say it is an investment banking firm (with a high-profile CEO). … As an underwriter, they’re already paying closer attention to those industries or scenarios … the famous person or the entertainment person, but now they’re paying even closer attention,” Betterley said.

However, the insurance effects will not be restricted to industries being more closely scrutinized by underwriters. The problem of sexual harassment will eventually spill into all industries, according to Betterley, because employees who believe they’ve been harmed are now less likely to remain silent than before the current outpouring.

“If they brought a case against the employer, they perhaps didn’t have a great lawyer, maybe they settled for $25,000, or didn’t really push the allegation at all,” Betterley said. “Now, they’re reading about people getting millions and millions of dollars (in settlements). They’re saying, ‘I’m not going to settle as easily as I might have before.’”

Betterley compares it to what the insurance industry saw in the medical liability market years ago.

“I remember having a client say, ‘Our typical med-mal claim used to be $800,000, but people have been reading about lottery winners and CEOs with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of compensation.’ All of a sudden, $800,000 is ‘paltry.’ Well, no, it’s not, but if you believe it is, then you won’t settle as quickly,” he said. “I think the same thing will happen with EPLI.”

Coverage

The industry will feel the impact because there’s not much dispute that sexual harassment is covered as a wrongful practice under an EPLI policy.

“The policy provides coverage for a wrongful employment practice, which is a defined term. One of the prongs of what a wrongful employment practice is, is sexual harassment,” Zola said.

The definition of sexual harassment under an EPLI policy can be some “actual or alleged sexual advance that is unwelcomed, that has a purpose of creating an intimidating or hostile work environment,” Zola explained. This can encompass a broad set of circumstances, however, where there’s unwelcomed attention brought on an employee by another individual at the company that creates an uncomfortable work environment. That circumstance is probably enough to trigger coverage, according to Zola.

Joe Kelly, vice president and employment practices liability practice leader at Sompo International, a Bermuda-based global specialty insurer and reinsurer, agrees that there’s no question that sexual harassment is covered under EPLI policies.

“The EPLI contract is very straightforward in covering claims of sexual harassment so there’s no coverage issue,” Kelly said.

However, one issue that could affect the recent wave of sexual harassment allegations is the statute of limitations for coverage to be triggered.

The statute of limitations for filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC is 180 days. The statute does vary by state so it’s possible there’s a window of opportunity to file in a certain state beyond the 180 days, Kelly stated.

Some claimants are choosing to file under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), which does not expressly establish a period of limitations. “We saw this with some of the Weinstein claims and now there’s a group of women bringing a claim under RICO,” he said. “That’s one reason why they might bring charges under RICO.”

Another reason claims might be filed under RICO, according to Kelly, is that damages can be much higher.

Sexual harassment coverage is commonly broad, with no sublimit for sexual harassment, according to Marie-France Gelot, senior vice president of the insurance and claims counsel at Lockton. Coverage under an EPLI policy goes to both employees, and in most policies today, also for third parties including clients, customers and vendors. “It’s not just employees, it’s a vendor of the company, a customer of the company.” Any party – employee, customer, vendor – alleging they are sexually harassed by someone from the insured employer can trigger coverage, she said.

Some policies provide broader coverage than others, so it’s important for employers and their agents and brokers to review all terms and conditions, she said.

For example, many EPLI policies have bodily injury exclusions, but some don’t, notes Gelot. “The bodily injury exclusion in a sexual harassment conversation would draw a very hard line if harassment leads to something like rape,” she said. “But I’ve had cases where you had a rape by an employee that the EPLI insurer has had to cover despite the fact that the company didn’t want the carrier to cover it. The carrier had to cover it because there was no bodily injury exclusion, and the coverage was so broad.”

Another example, according to Zola, is that coverage could possibly be voided if certain individuals in a workplace knew about the alleged harassment.

“The real question is going to be who does the policy identify as being a person whose knowledge is sufficient to exclude coverage,” Zola said. “The language is different on policies, but some typical language is fact, circumstance, situation or event that reasonably would be regarded as a basis for a claim. That language being imprecise, I think, is fertile grounds for factual disputes as to when a company or officers or directors of a company should have known that a claim was likely based on the knowledge they had at the time.”

Zola says this can be seen in the media allegations that some “bad actors” had certain reputations for activities that would be considered sexual harassment. “The question is who at the company knew about that reputation and whether rumor and reputation are sufficient to exclude a claim based on the policy language,” Zola said.

The size of the claim makes a difference when it comes to knowledge-based exclusions, he added.

“The claims that I’ve handled in the past involving sexual harassment allegations, there was no media spotlight on them, and so, there wasn’t this deep-dig by the media and by the public into what people at the company knew or didn’t know about the allegations,” Zola said. Even so, an employer’s knowledge of harassment by an alleged harasser is a defense that the insurance companies will pursue through discovery rather than in the media, he said.

Other lines of insurance, including directors and officers (D&O), could potentially be involved as well.

“The idea with D&O policies is, especially for public companies, if there are widespread allegations, that the directors or officers failed to protect their fiduciary obligations to the shareholders by allowing a culture of impropriety,” Zola said.

When allegations are made, stock prices may drop, which can lead to “very serious derivative suits” that could be covered by D&O insurance.

Zola says general liability could be another line to come into play for allegations of bodily injury in certain states. According to Zola, in states like New York, sexual harassment can rise to a level of emotional distress even without any physical touching. “This is considered bodily injury, as that word is used in a general liability policy. In all states, physical touching that leads to damages is considered bodily injury,” he said. “It depends on the allegations by the claimant, but it could implicate both of those lines as well.”

In Kelly’s view, general liability would have excluded this type of coverage, but the D&O coverage could play a role as it can in cyber.

“We saw this with cyber where there were cyber breaches but then there were follow-on derivative suits brought on behalf of the company against the board of directors for failing to put the proper controls in place to prevent a breach,” said Sompo International’s Kelly. “You could have the exact same type of derivative suit for failing to supervise the CEO of the company who is a known harasser or failing to remove that person if there was a known event that occurred, and the board didn’t act appropriately.”

Time to Review

Lockton’s Gelot said this is a time for employers and agents/brokers to review policy wording carefully.

“You have some policies today that have specific wording meant to narrow the scope of covered sexual harassment – and those policies would drive a clear distinction between behavior that is insurable versus behavior that is so egregious that to insure it would be offensive or outright against public policy,” she said. That might include wording in some policies that the policy will cover “everything except harassment that is deemed licentious or immoral or sexual abuse or exploitation or abuse of child.” Not all policies contain such wording, she said.

EPLI Going Forward

The disturbing recent spate of workplace sexual harassment complaints could have positive effects for the industry and the EPLI market as well, experts say.

“Anytime there’s a major event in any line of insurance, it always raises awareness,” said Kelly. “Major senior level execs and the boards are even being called out on what they are doing (to prevent such behavior) and they are asking what kind of EPLI coverage do we have?”

These executives better make sure that they not only have EPLI coverage, but also that their limits are adequate, Kelly said, noting that this type of questioning is going to drive more demand in the market and potentially higher limits.

In 2016, gross written premium for EPLI was $2.1 billion, according to MarketStance, and it estimates a possible bump to $2.3 billion or more for 2017-2018.

There are many smaller employers that still do not purchase the coverage. Roughly seven out of 10 businesses don’t carry EPLI, according to TrustedChoice.com.

But just how market growth will be affected following the attention on sexual harassment in the workplace remains to be seen, Betterley said. Small commercial accounts, while forecast to grow most rapidly over the next year, have the lowest take-up rates for EPLI coverage, he said.

“I think it (the recent attention) will have an impact,” Betterley said. “I don’t know that I’ve seen it just yet. One impact perhaps is that if you’ve got a potential insured that has not been buying EPLI, now they will want to buy.”

Those employers that haven’t purchased the coverage might get a tougher reception from insurance markets, he added. “The underwriter is going to be really interested in the why now? A good answer, I guess, would be, ‘Have you read the newspaper?’” While insurers may be glad to gain more insureds, they may be more cautious about taking on employers that until now haven’t been buying coverage, he said.

Hiscox’s Mitchell says it’s difficult to predict how EPLI insurers will react to a rise in sexual harassment claims in 2018, but it’s likely to be a mix of changes in premium rates, retentions and restructuring coverage. For now, one thing is certain. “It’s something all insurance companies will be monitoring closely,” he said.

Will master Cyber policies be the next EPLI product for PEOs?

With two carriers now offering master PEO cyber programs, the question here is PEO’s be able to sell these as part of their overall package?

A recent 2017 RIMS survey has shown that 83 percent of organizations have a standalone cyber insurance policy (up 3 percent from 2016) and only 14 percent are utilizing the cyber coverage offered in their other insurance policies.

One reason for this statistic could be that Risk Managers want specific endorsements and add-on coverages that apply directly to their industry or are a result of a problem they’ve faced in the past.  This has been a crucial part of individual cyber policies over the past few years as the carriers try to keep up with the quickly evolving cyber space.

With the above in mind, it may be difficult for PEO’s to make this as part of their basic package as EPLI has become over the past decade.

I would like to note the PEO cyber program has one crucial endorsement, Social Engineering, that can be added on for an individual client company.  This has to be individually underwritten for each client company adding another layer for the PEO sales rep to cross-sell.

If you work in the PEO industry, please comment below with your thoughts of PEO’s offering cyber coverage to client companies. For more statistics from the RIMS survey please visit: http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2017/08/25/462357.htm

 

-David Campbell

Risk Consultant at Libertate Insurance

Does your EPLI policy cover against employee harassment to a Third Party?

Most employers understand their Employment Practices Liability Insurance policy to cover against employee to employee or employer to employee harassment and discrimination.  But many of these employers could be liable for claims that they do not have coverage for under their current EPLI policy without the proper endorsements.  The most reoccurring of these claims have been third party claims against the behavior of your employee to the third party.  The language in a Lexington policy of an event resulting in a claim is: “allegation(s) of intentional or unintentional Discrimination, Harassment or any civil rights violations committed by an Insured and brought by a Third Party, whether such event against the Third Party occurs directly or through the Virtual Environment.”.  Their terminology for this coverage is Wrongful Business Environment.

So, we have coverage for your employee harassing or discriminating against a third party.  But what happens when the scenario is flipped and a third party discriminates or harasses your employee?  The employee would go to the employer or manager, and one of two things will happen: The employer will address the issue or the employer will ignore the issue.  In the first scenario, the employer and employee can work together on behalf of the employee to file a claim against third party’s employer.  Let’s hope they have third party coverage on their EPLI policy.  In the second scenario, where an employer fails to do anything, the employee can file a claim against the employer.  This would actually be looked at as a “hostile work environment claim” (your typical EPLI claim) and would be covered.  In this scenario, as well, the employee would also be able to go after the third party’s employer as well.

 

For more examples and details on this coverage, please visit: : http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2006/11/01/third-party-coverage-can-be-an-important-part-of-epli-policies

“Suppose a document messenger makes daily stops at a real-estate agency, where he greets the receptionist. After a number of visits, the messenger begins making suggestive sexual remarks. The receptionist complains to the owner of the business, who does nothing other than advise the receptionist to just tell the messenger to stop bothering her.

One day the messenger appears and makes suggestive remarks to the receptionist and even touches her inappropriately. Visibly shaken, the receptionist complains again to her boss, who takes no action. Not being able to endure the continuing harassment, the receptionist quits and sues her boss for emotional distress and failing to prevent an assault.

This is a clear example of an employer tolerating a hostile work environment, a typical EPL claim. The mere inaction of the employer makes him responsible. This also could be pursued as a third-party claim against the messenger’s employer.”

 

If you have any questions regarding your EPLI policy or would like a free audit of your current policy and coverage, feel free to reach out to David Campbell at dcampbell@libertateins.com or 407-613-5483.

The 72’nd Annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference – Orlando

Another year and another convergence of the who’s who in the field of workers’ compensation at the Marriott World Center in Orlando this week.  Known as the largest insurance conference in the country, the Workers’ Compensation Institute brings together “centers of influence” in law, medicine, claims adjusting, underwriting, brokerage, risk-bearing, managed care, regulation, legislation, staffing and of course coemployment.

Dating back over a decade, the Workers’ Compensation Institute and specifically Jim McConnaughhay and Steve Rissman have granted the PEO community a one day educational track.  Shortly thereafter, FAPEO and NAPEO threw their influence and sponsorship behind it.  Special thanks to the WCI, FAPEO and NAPEO for making this a success and bringing positive exposure to the PEO industry.

I am proud to participate on a panel Tuesday morning at 9:00 am with Andy Olwert (Next Level), Deb Hetzer (PEMCO), Phil Herron (Continuum HR) and Robert Barrett (Rissman, Barrett, Hurt, Donahue, McLain & Manganese’s, PA) titled “Accountability in the PEO Industry – Posting Wins for PEO’s and Their Claims Teams”.  More information on this data-driven session can be found on the WCI 360 site here:

http://www.wci360.com/conference/professional-employer-organization-breakout

Hope to see you Thursday morning and look forward to catching up with lots of old friends!

Insurance Nerd Day 2017!

…was yesterday and we did not celebrate it here on the Compass where we take that title as a compliment!

July 18 is Insurance Nerd Day

25% of insurance professionals will reach retirement age by 2018 and only 5% of college graduates are very interested in pursuing a career in the insurance industry.  That will create huge opportunity for newly-minted insurance nerds of all ages in the near future.  Data management and predictive modeling are going to make this industry far sexier in the years to come…

 

FBI: Cybercrime Losses Reached $1.33B in 2016, a 24 Percent Rise

Unfortunately, cybercrime isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Below is a brief update from the FBI on the topic.

FBI: Cybercrime Losses Reached $1.33B in 2016, a 24 Percent Rise

June 22, 2017 by Laharee Chatterjee

Losses from cyber crimes rose 24 percent in 2016 to over $1.33 billion, according to a report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

The center, which was set up in 2000 to receive complaints of internet crime, received 300,000 complaints during the year from hacking victims.

Businesses lost $360 million to cyber criminals, who tricked them into wiring money using fraudulent emails that appeared to be from corporate executives and suppliers, according to the report released on Wednesday.

IC3 said it received 2,673 complaints last year from victims of ransomware, with losses totaling over $2.4 million.

In May, the WannaCry ransomware attack infected 300,000 computers in more than 150 countries, disrupting factories, hospitals, shops and schools.

Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts data on infected machines, then typically asks users to pay ransoms in hard-to-trace digital currencies to get an electronic key so they can retrieve their data.

 

Cyber Insurance is quite possibly one of the most discussed and equally misunderstood concepts over the past several years.  If you own a business, you must ensure you are protected from cybercrime. Libertate Insurance has access to several markets one of which is a new PEO Cyber Master program.  Contact us today for more information.

Sharlie Reynolds, 305.495.5173 / sreynolds@libertateins.com

Engage PEO Hits INC 500/5000

It is with great pride that I announce that our friends at Engage have hit the INC 500/5000 for 2016!  Hitting the 5000 is a big enough deal but in the top 500 growth companies in the United States is a very special accomplishment.  Congratulations Jay, Midge and the rest of the Engage team!

“Inc. ranked Engage as the 127th fastest-growing private company in the country. The report notes that Engage’s three-year revenue growth exceeded 2,700 percent. Engage ranked as the fastest growing professional employment organization, second among all human resource companies, and 12th of all companies in Florida.”

Having started operations less then five years ago, Engage has grown its coemployee base to almost 25,000 employees at present.  With a focus on healthcare and human resources, the firm’s average client size is arguably almost triple the industry norm at over 60 employees.  With recent hirings of industry stalwarts Steve Scott and Craig Hill, it is my opinion that this is just the opening chapter for Engage.

Congratulations !

-PRH

 

The American International Group (“AIG”) Decision

Bar none, there has been no more innovative and successful organization in the property and casualty insurance realm then AIG.  The following headline today:

AIG Chairman Defends Keeping Both Life and P/C Insurance Units – Insurancejournal.com

…amazes me to even be in consideration.  AIG did not just distribute the most product, they created the most.  Their entities provide the largest amount of “excess and surplus” (aka non-admitted) capacity then any other insurer times three in the country.

Not a life guy, so admittedly come from a position of not understanding how anyone with a right mind would ever consider selling the crown jewel of AIG – their property and casualty insurance portfolio.  It seems “investor activists” such as Carl Icahn have a different take:

“Icahn Renews Attack on AIG CEO Hancock; Insists ‘Drastic Shift’ Needed”

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2016/01/19/395397.htm

Icahn Renews Attack on AIG CEO Hancock; Insists ‘Drastic Shift’ Needed

Activist investor Carl Icahn has again called for American International Group (AIG)  to be divided into three separate companies and expressed doubt that AIG CEO Peter Hancock’splanned strategy presentation next week will satisfy his demand.

He said that if Hancock “fails to present a drastic strategic shift and instead is limited to only incremental changes such as small-scale asset sales and incremental cost cutting” then what “little credibility management now has will be lost.”

Icahn says the split would let AIG to “shrink below the threshold for systemically important financial institutions” (SIFI) and avoid SIFI-related regulatory restrictions.

“[I]t is abundantly clear to me there is only one sensible path for AIG to follow: become a smaller, simpler company with a path to de-SIFI,” he said in a letter on his website. – Carl Icahn

So the greatest insurer in the past century has to disband its units because the federal government has given it the equivalent of the “franchise tag” in the NFL.  Really man?

Let’s look at their numbers…

AIG Consolidated Operating Financial Highlights ($ in Millions, Except per Share Amounts) 1Q15 1Q16 Inc. / (Dec.)

Operating revenues $14,590 $12,737 (13%)

Pre-tax operating income (loss):

Commercial Insurance: Property Casualty 1,170 720 (38%)

Mortgage Guaranty 145 163 12%

Institutional Markets 147 6 (96%)

Total Commercial Insurance 1,462 889 (39%) “…the p and c side”

Consumer Insurance: Retirement 800 461 (42%)

Life 171 105 (39%) Personal Insurance (26)

222 N/M Total Consumer Insurance 945 788 (17%) “…the life side”

Total Insurance Operations 2,407 1,677 (30%)

and today’s article out of the journal.,,,

Breaking up AIG is a huge mistake as well as continuing to drill the current CEO.  How does one run a company when he is is constantly under seige… They have already lost many top execs recently such as John Doyle (Marsh) and Russell Johnston (QBE) whom I amagine had to be frustrated with more time spent defending the company versus advancing it.  These two Industry stalwarts, with the help of course of their colleagues, allowed AIG the second chance in this writer’s opinion and to see them leave and press like this is saddening.  Let’s hope Icahn gets bought out…

-PRH

By Sonali Basak and Emma Orr( | May 12, 2016 

American International Group Inc., which is shrinking under pressure from activist investors, is committed to retaining operations in both life insurance and property/casualty coverage, Chairman Doug Steenland said.

“We remain of the view that that is the right long-term position for AIG,” Steenland said Wednesday at the company’s annual meeting in New York. “Although, the specific components of what’s in each of those businesses may change.”

Billionaire Carl Icahn said last year that AIG is too big and should split into separate companies. Chief Executive Officer Peter Hancock instead is selling smaller units as part of a plan to free up $25 billion in capital to be returned to shareholders over two years. That has helped ease tension with activists including John Paulson, who was elected to the insurer’s board Wednesday along with a representative of Icahn’s firm.

Hancock reached a deal in January to sell a broker-dealer operation, and AIG’s mortgage insurance unit filed in March for an initial public offering. The CEO has also been cutting jobs.

“This is hard and sometimes painful work,” he said at the meeting. “We have much left to accomplish.”

AIG advanced 14 cents to $56.49 at 12:15 p.m. in New York. That compares with the closing price of $60.92 on Oct. 27, the day before Icahn disclosed a stake in the insurer and publicly called on Hancock to break up the company.