Financial Reporting Changes Create New Challenges for Actuaries

October 4, 2006

New laws and increased public scrutiny are changing financial reporting requirements in the property/casualty insurance industry. Actuaries, who play key roles in that critical arena, are being asked to broaden the scope and detail of their reviews and opinions, attendees were told at the annual Casualty Loss Reserve Seminar in Atlanta, Ga. The Seminar was co-sponsored by the Casualty Actuarial Society and American Academy of Actuaries.

Federal financial reporting laws are important to the work of actuaries as they are applied to the insurance industry and the regulation of insurance companies, said Maryanne T. Donaghy, an attorney with the firm of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP. She pointed out that the Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) Act that was passed in response to recent corporate financial scandals primarily applies to public companies, but its impact can be felt in other areas, such as state departments of insurance.

“SOX standards may also establish benchmarks in other areas of law. For example, some of its standards may be used to define what is a reasonable professional — a reasonable actuary or accountant,” Donaghy said.

She went on to point out that while the regulatory powers of state departments of insurance vary by state, they may include some regulation of professionals. Some state attorneys general are becoming proactive in the use of their enforcement powers against certain industries, Donaghy noted, either through their fraud statutes or their consumer protection statutes. Actuaries need to be aware of this activity because it can have an impact on their work, she said.

F. Laurence Lindberg, deputy division director of the Georgia Insurance Department’s Regulatory Services Division, addressed attendees from a regulatory viewpoint. He noted that with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) promoting best practices through the accreditation of state insurance departments, loss reserve development is being considered explicitly in financial analysis to a much greater degree than it has previously. “You can expect your work to be analyzed in greater depth than it has been in the past,” he cautioned.

Lindberg called on actuaries to educate their clients, to monitor the real-world effects on clients of premium growth, loss cost growth and changes in the competitive environment. Further, he urged them to help their clients work through problems to continue the progress that has already been made by the actuarial profession in responding to the changing financial reporting requirements.

Charles L. McClenahan, a director of Mercer Oliver Wyman Actuarial Consulting who formerly was with CNA Insurance Company and the Illinois Insurance Department, offered suggestions for actuaries to consider in order to meet some of today’s challenges, including disclosure of actuary and company-calculated ranges, changes in reserve development tests, and avoiding benchmarks for ranges based upon best estimates.

Sources: The Casualty Actuarial Society, The American Academy of Actuaries

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