Penni Chambers was elected chairwoman of the board of directors of the Surplus Lines Stamping Office of Texas by unanimous vote of the board members during its virtual meeting held March 25. Chambers is beginning her fourth year of service on the SLTX board as a public representative. She is the director of risk management for Dallas-headquartered Hillwood Development Group, a Perot Company, where she has worked for six years. Previously Chambers was director of risk management for Behringer Harvard Holdings, also headquartered in Dallas. Before that, Chambers was an account executive with Arthur J. Gallagher and Co. She holds a B.S. degree in biomedical science from Texas A&M University. Also elected to board offices by unanimous vote of the board members were Vice-Chairman Randy Myers, senior underwriter for AXA XL/XL Reinsurance, and Secretary Leslie Milvo, risk manager for the city of Austin.
Three new members have been appointed to the WSIA board of directors. Erin Dolan, RSUI, was appointed as the U40 representative to the board for 2021-2022. Dolan is immediate past president of WSIA’s U40 and serves on WSIA’s Education Committee. She is senior vice president of analytics and communications at RSUI and has nearly 20 years of industry experience. Danny Kaufman, Burns and Wilcox, was appointed to fill the remaining term for Joel Cavaness, Risk Placement Services, who concluded his term as immediate past president. Kaufman serves as COO of Burns and Wilcox and is executive vice president and board member of H.W. Kaufman Group. He served on the WSIA PAC Committee prior to joining the WSIA board. Carlton Maner, AXIS, was appointed to fill the remaining term for Bruce Kessler, who retired from the board. Maner is CEO of AXIS, U.S. Division, and serves as the global property practice leader. Maner previously served on the legacy NAPSLO board of directors and has been a WSIA Membership and Ethics Committee member. He currently serves as the chairman of WSIA’s Diversity Foundation board of directors. During the March 2 virtual meeting of WSIA, Maner received the Dana Roehrig Award for his exemplary volunteer service.
The Insurance Council of Texas Education Foundation has reported that it provided scholarships to 43 students from nine Texas universities during 2020. Total value of the scholarships is $72,000. Additionally, the foundation provided these universities with grants for books, conferences and virtual events that exposed 175 students to the insurance industry, despite the decrease in in-person engagement due to pandemic restrictions. To date, 628 students have received foundation scholarships totaling $1.29 million since the awards began in 2002. The report indicated that 60 percent of foundation scholarship recipients found jobs in the property and casualty industry. ICT expects that speed interviews will be conducted during the ICT/AFACT P&C Insurance Symposium this September in Austin. The symposium is slated for Sept. 1-2. Tax-deductible donations to the foundation can be made by check mailed to ICT or online.
The Independent Insurance Agents of Dallas will host its annual golf tournament June 14 at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, with the theme, “The Future’s Bright.” After a long pandemic year and a monster snowstorm, IIA Dallas is preparing for some fun in the sun. Registration opens at 9 a.m. with breakfast and a putting contest. Shotgun start for golf is at 10 a.m., with food and beverages on the course and a wrap-up awards social event in the afternoon. There is a player limit of 144. Cost to play is $200 for individuals, $995 for a foursome. Cost for non-golfing attendees is $50. Registration is available online. Executive Director Tammy Land has included details regarding sponsorships and registration on the IIAD website, www.iiadallas.org.
The board of directors of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association held a public workshop meeting of the board, members of the Actuarial and Underwriting Committee and the association’s reinsurance broker on April 21 to further study rate issues and make the rating process more understandable to the board members and the public. No action or rate filing was taken at the workshop meeting. The next quarterly meeting will be held virtually on May 18.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners unveiled its new logo during the opening session of its Spring National Meeting on April 12. The new intertwined C is intended to emphasize “the way commissioners collaborate in service of their shared mission of protecting consumers,” said the NAIC’s news release. The association announced additional modernization plans for the website and “a more fully integrated refreshed brand identity.” Also on April 12, the association released its annual report, describing its adaptive successes during 2020 and actions it has undertaken to protect consumers and ensure a stable U.S. insurance market. The NAIC looks ahead in this report to exploring how AI can be used to improve solvency monitoring. The report contains a statement of the NAIC’s financial position, statement of activities and cash flows. As of the end of 2020, the NAIC had assets valued at $190.3 million with $18.97 million in cash and cash equivalents, a year over year growth of $15.34 million. Member dues makes up about 1.8 percent of association revenues, with the rest of the income derived from database fees, valuation of asset services and filing fees. Largest expense drivers for 2020 were annual salaries at $56.72 million; employee benefits, $15.76 million, and professional services, $16.82 million.
Higginbotham, an independent insurance and financial services agency headquartered in Fort Worth with offices in 10 states, has partnered with an independent agency in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to establish its second office in the state. Higginbotham’s union with First Louisiana Insurance is another step in the agency’s strategy to expand its footprint and increase its service capability by partnering with other independent agencies that have strong reputations in their local markets. Higginbotham entered Louisiana in January 2021 with one such partner in Bossier City, and First Louisiana Insurance sets a path for further growth in the state. “We’ve expanded outside our home state of Texas by partnering with southern U.S. firms from Oklahoma to Florida,” said Higginbotham Chairman and CEO Rusty Reid. “Moving into our neighboring state of Louisiana was a natural progression, but not one that we rushed into. Each partnership we enter is a thoughtful decision based on cultural and operational congruency. It just so happens that we found the right fit with First Louisiana Insurance at the same time as our new partner in Bossier City.” First Louisiana Insurance founder and President Jack Harless said, “We continually look for creative ways to enhance the lives of our clients and our employees, and we were searching for a long-term strategic partner with the same focus.” Higginbotham named Harless a managing director, and he will continue leading First Louisiana Insurance with Executive Vice President Kase Gonzales. Subsequently, Higginbotham announced the rebranding of its 2018 and 2019 acquisitions in Georgia; TriGen Insurance Solutions in Atlanta and Resource Alliance in Alpharetta have adopted the Higginbotham name, the firm announced on March 25.
In a March 29 news release, the Surplus Lines Stamping Office of Texas commended 518 agents for timely filing all reportable transactions, citing by name seven of the Top 20 agents by premium who had no delinquencies during 2020. During the year that transitioned so many to work-from-home protocols, over 45 percent of surplus lines agents filed at least one policy late. A full report of 2020’s late filers was made to TDI on March 15, more than two weeks earlier than the report’s due date. The number of agents making late policy filings to SLTX in 2020 was marginally up compared with 2019. According to SLTX, administrative penalties associated with the 2020 late filings topped $601,000; further penalties imposed by TDI’s Enforcement Division could drive this amount even higher for the 131 agents whose tardiness met the enforcement threshold.
A grand jury has returned indictments against three attorneys and two law firms in Lewisville and Houston. The indictments stem from investigations by the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) Fraud Unit that were referred to DWC’s prosecutor embedded in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. The first round of indictments involve Leslie Casaubon, Roger Farahmand, and the Langford, Wise and Farahmand Law firm. The indictments allege that from July 1, 2017, to Aug. 31, 2019, Casaubon and her staff submitted billing to DWC’s attorney fee processing system for work they did not do. The grand jury also returned indictments against Houston attorney Adam Henderson and the Adam Henderson Law Firm. The indictment alleges that between Jan. 1, 2012, to Jan. 31, 2019, Henderson submitted bills for work he did not do. As a result of the false and fraudulent fee bills, the defendants were paid more than $900,000.
U.S. District Judge Zack Zouhary has sentenced the remaining defendants in the Forest Park Medical Center health care fraud bribery scam. It’s the final chapter in a $40 million dollar fraud and bribery case that began in 2016 and involved 14 defendants. The defendants involved in the case were sentenced to more than 74 years combined in federal prison and ordered to pay $82.9 million in restitution. The Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) Fraud Unit found that insurance carriers in the Texas workers’ compensation system alone were billed a little over $14 million and paid $2.6 million in this case. “Fraudulent billing within the health care system drives up the costs of health care for everyone,” said DWC Deputy Commissioner of Compliance and Investigations Debra Knight. “These significant sentences demonstrate that health care fraud will not be tolerated.”
The Texas Department of Insurance launched a YouTube video on March 31, Common Questions about Auto Insurance. Along with explaining the difference between liability coverage and comprehensive and collision coverages, John Mooney, manager in TDI’s property and casualty area, joins public affairs host Ben Gonzales to help consumers understand what types of coverage they need. Mooney advises those who live in hailstorm or tornado environments or an area prone to flooding to cover those risks of vehicle damage with comprehensive coverage. People who have liability or property damage policies and who took on delivery service work during the pandemic should look at their existing policy for exclusions that may trigger loss of coverage for damage to their personal vehicles while being used in business operations, said Mooney. Such drivers, he said, should contact their insurer or agent to learn if coverage for their delivery services or other work is available. Mooney also describes the underwriting process that insurers typically use to determine how much to charge in premium, including factors such as age, driving record, claims history, where the car is kept, type of car and credit score. In the long run, Mooney advised developing good driving habits for those looking to lower their auto insurance premium. The nine-minute video is available through www.tdi.texas.gov. TDI has other recent video releases on getting mental health services after the winter storm and spotting COVID-19 vaccination scams.