Not a Surprise: Projected Asbestos Loss for Insurers Raised by 18% by A.M. Best

A projected 18% increase in insurance company asbestos losses was announced yesterday by A.M. Best. Some of us are not surprised. Indeed, over the last two years, some of us wrote and sold two different white papers that explained why insurer losses would be going up (here and here). The white papers, it appears, helped some people better focus on scientific and legal realities. In fact, it’s actually been a pleasure to interact with the open minded segment of the actuarial community on multiple occasions on this topic (e.g. here)  And, some insurers actually raised reserves last year But some other insurers chose not to read the papers, think more expansively or to increase reserves.

The A.M Best press release is pasted below. You can buy a copy for $145.

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A.M. Best Special Report: A.M. Best Increases Estimate for Net Ultimate U.S. Asbestos Losses to $100 Billion

November 28, 2016 08:30 AM Eastern Standard Time

OLDWICK, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A.M. Best has increased its estimate for losses that U.S. property/casualty insurers can ultimately expect from third-party liability asbestos claims by approximately 18% to $100 billion. The $15 billion increase to the net ultimate asbestos loss estimate comes as insurers are incurring approximately $2.1 billion in new losses each year while paying out nearly $2.5 billion on existing claims. The updated figures are contained in a new Best’s Special Report, titled “A.M. Best Increases Estimate for Net Ultimate Asbestos Losses to $100 Billion.”The report also states that A.M. Best is not making any change to its $42 billion estimate on net ultimate environmental losses; therefore, A.M. Best’s view of ultimate industry losses for asbestos and environmental (A&E) is now $142 billion.

“A.M. Best Increases Estimate for Net Ultimate Asbestos Losses to $100 Billion.”

According to the report, industry funding of the $142 billion in net A&E exposures has reached approximately $124 billion, broken out by $98.1 billion in cumulative paid-to-date losses and $26.3 billion in reserves set aside for future payments. This translates into a funding rate of 88% of ultimate A&E exposures, or approximately $85 billion of asbestos funding (85% funded) and $40 billion of environmental funding (94% funded).

A.M. Best utilizes a combination of three approaches when evaluating an insurer’s A&E reserve adequacy: historic premium market share, post-1990 paid loss share (1991) and three-year survival ratios. Consistent with historical trends, the industry has continued to pay out more losses than it has incurred (funded) since 2006, paying out $16.7 billion for asbestos and environmental claims over the past five years, while incurring $13.5 billion in losses. The industry has incurred $10.5 billion in asbestos losses over the past five years, while paying out $12.7 billion. A&E reserves have not declined by a significant amount, but they have decreased in nine of the past 10 years, including a 2.9% fall in 2015, with the only exception being a slight uptick in 2010.

A.M. Best believes the property/casualty industry’s asbestos losses will continue to be an issue given an unstable environment faced with evolving litigation, increasing secondary exposure cases and an increase in life expectancy. Asbestos losses continue to dominant the discussion around the industry’s A&E exposures, comprising more than 80% of total A&E liabilities. However, it is extremely difficult to quantify the industry’s ultimate loss exposure, given the evolving nature of asbestos litigation, tort reform and the growing incidence of lung cancer being linked to asbestos exposure. A.M. Best will continue to monitor asbestos litigation and losses and will periodically revisit its benchmarks as needed.

To access a copy of this report, please visit http://www3.ambest.com/bestweek/purchase.asp?record_code=256155.

A.M. Best Company is the world’s oldest and most authoritative insurance rating and information source. For more information, visit www.ambest.com.

Copyright ©2016 by A.M. Best Rating Services, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Contacts

A.M. Best Brian O’Larte Associate Director +1 908 439 2200, ext. 5138 brian.o’larte@ambest.com or Christopher Sharkey Manager, Public Relations +1 908 439 2200, ext. 5159 christopher.sharkey@ambest.com or Jim Peavy Director, Public Relations +1 908 439 2200, ext. 5644 james.peavy@ambest.com

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About Kirk

Since becoming a lawyer in 1983, Kirk’s over 30 years of practice have focused on advising a wide range of corporations, associations, and individuals (as both plaintiffs and defendants) on both tort and commercial law issues centered around “mass torts.”

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