Entitlement: We'd rather be known as pencil pushers than bosses

lunch-bucket-money My friend who works for the city of New York was crowing this month. His union had won its final courtroom verdict against the city and now he's in for a big payday. The case involved titles. Municipalities and companies across the country bestowed big titles on employees -- making them administrators. Wow! But these workers caught on to the fact that administrators aren't entitled to the same benefits as their underlings, who not only get protection through their unions but, most importantly, mandatory overtime pay. Show me the money So they have figured out that it isn't worth it to be a boss. Instead they want the money more than what may, or may not, be an promotion, particularly with the recession biting into their paychecks. Class-based wage claims filed under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act are becoming increasingly more common, according to people I've spoken to in the insurance industry. And some have resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements or verdicts against the employer. This hurts insurers twice. First, most big companies carry Employment Practices insurance, which protects against the cost of lawsuits by employees. Some of these suits, such as those for sexual harassment, can be minor, but… (continue reading......)

In the aftermath of Aurora horror, insurance companies reevaluate the risk

power meeting from above When the police, FBI and the media have finished probing the tragedy at Century movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., insurance companies will take over. The big insurers and brokers have risk-assessment units dedicated to preventing this from happening. But somehow it did. The insurers I called didn't want to talk about it. First, it's bad publicity to be connected to this kind of crime. Second, risk assessment teams don't want to give anyone a roadmap on how to do it. But what I learned in off-the record conversations -- and how insurers handled these risks in the past -- gave me insights into how they will evaluate this "lone gunman" threat in the future. And how people in a crowded public building should be protected. Ramping up for terrorism In happier times, insurance risk assessors spent their time checking fire alarms, sprinkler systems and forklifts. But Sept. 11, 2001, was a wake-up call for the industry, which now dedicates massive talent and computer time to defeating terrorism. The catastrophe-modeling firm AIR Worldwide, for example, has a counter terrorism team with operational and analytical expertise drawn from former FBI, CIA and Department of Defense personnel. Three major insurance brokers, Aon, Aon… (continue reading......)

When cities go bankrupt, what happens to their insurance?

bankruptcy-sign If you find yourself in one of the almost-bankrupt California cities and happen to drive through a busy intersection, beware. Any number of things could happen. The lights could go out because the municipality didn't pay its electric bill. Then you could be struck by a city vehicle careening through the intersection. If this happens don't sit there waiting for the police to show up; there are fewer of them than there used to be. Don't waste your time trying to find the nearby fire and rescue station since it's probably closed. And if by chance you need the Jaws of Life, don't expect prompt service. But your legal nightmare hasn't even started yet. You could have a valid claim against the city for negligence and want it to pay your hospital bills, time lost from work and, obviously, pain and suffering. But what's the point of filing that claim if the city is bankrupt and hasn't paid its insurance? Nobody's fool Thus far most of the ink spent on the California cities that have already filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy -- Stockton, San Bernardino and the much smaller Mammoth Lakes -- has been about the bonds they took out.… (continue reading......)

The little bang theory: Fireworks lose their spark this July 4

Fireworks cluster Fireworks on the Fourth of July are as American as apple pie. But get ready for a change. This year, many of us might have to watch the kids down the block set off their own cherry bombs and bottle rockets. Towns and cities across the country from Austin, Texas, to Euclid, Ohio, are canceling their pyrotechnics and "going dark," as they say on Broadway. This move will bring tears to children and would-be children such as myself, who brave rowdy crowds, dark, potholed fields and mosquito bites in exchange for the ear-splitting and eye-dazzling fun. Other municipalities are scaling back their shows, turning what was once a 20-minute display into 10 minutes and summoning up several choruses of "God Bless America" to fill in the gap. No fault of insurers It's not our fault, says Eric Treend (pronounced trend) vice president of Britton-Gallagher & Associates, which is the broker for more than half of the pyrotechnic industry's insurance needs and handles 10,000 requests each July 4. Treend services the world-famous Grucci family, which started shooting off fireworks in southern Italy as early as 1850. Treend says that insurance costs for fireworks displays have dropped like Roman candles over the… (continue reading......)

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