Panelists See No Soft Market, Disagree on Future of Insurance Regulation

November 25, 2003

Panelists at the 15th Annual Executive Conference for the Property/Casualty Industry in New York on Nov. 20-21 concurred that a soft market is not around the corner. There was less agreement on another hot topic at the meeting, the direction insurance regulation will take in the near future.

Property/casualty insurance executives, producers and industry analysts were nearly unanimous in their belief that the industry will not experience the falling prices and broader coverages that are the hallmarks of a soft market any time in 2004. The most significant divergence of opinion was purely semantic, with some speakers characterizing the current market as “hard” and others describing it as “firm.” Whatever their choice of words, they all espoused the position that insurance prices will hold firm through next year.

Panelists took a more divergent view on the immediate future of insurance regulation, and their predictions reflected their preferences. AIG Chairman and CEO Maurice R. Greenberg asserted that before Congress can consider federal regulation of insurance it needs to address three issues for which it has not yet found solutions: asbestos litigation reform, modifying the current system for class action lawsuits, and the medical malpractice crisis.

Craig Barrington, senior vice president and general counsel of the American Insurance Association, described a growing wave of support that will make an optional federal charter for insurers a reality in the near future. New York Superintendent of Insurance Gregory V. Serio argued that state regulators have already put in place reforms that adequately address the improvements that federal regulation is supposed to work. He pointed to the reluctance of property/casualty insurers to embrace regulatory reforms introduced by the New York Insurance Department as evidence that intervention by Congress is not the prescription for making the industry more competitive and responsive.

Extended coverage of the conference will appear in the Dec. 15 edition of Insurance Journal.

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