LaCroix is new PLUS President

LaCroix is new PLUS President

Zinkewicz, Phil

Conference to explore challenges, opportunities

The forces of transition and change that now characterize the environment in the professional liability insurance industry are the focus of the 16th annual Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) International Conference being held next month, November 9-11, in Philadelphia. Incoming PLUS President Kevin LaCroix, who is also the chair of the PLUS annual, says that the 2003 conference, titled “Challenges & Opportunities,” will explore the often conflicting circumstances that the professional liability insurance industry now faces. Among those conflicting circumstances, according to LaCroix, is the fact that, although the market is tight and rates are rising along with restricting of conditions, there is still competition coming from new players, particularly the offshore arena.

“Our agenda this year covers many current and emerging topics in professional liability,” says the PLUS president, who is also president of the Beachwood, Ohio-based Genesis Professional Liability Managers. “The sessions will be aligned into ‘tracks’ to allow registrants to attend all topically related panels without experiencing session time conflicts. In addition, the conference opening session will feature an address by Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the industry leader panel discussion will be moderated by Todd Buchholz, noted economist and author. On Tuesday, our keynote presentation will be made by Sandy Berger, former national security advisor to President Clinton.”

The “tracks” that LaCroix refers to are a series of sessions on a particular specialty area that run in sequence. PLUS has had multiple “breakout” sessions on particular topics in the past, but this time sessions are running in sequence, LaCroix explains. “We recognize that many of our members specialize in one area or another, so we have tried to arrange the sessions so that they can attend all of the sessions in their specialties without too much downtime,” he says.

For example, on the first day (Monday, November 9) of the annual conference there will be a panel discussion on the emerging impact of Sarbanes-Oxley, during which experienced plaintiff and defense counsel will discuss the impact of Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance reforms, including the principal officer certifications, the new MD&A requirements, and audit committees’ expanded responsibilities. The exposure of corporate inside and outside directors will also be discussed.

Later that day, a panel will examine emerging E&O trends for insurance agents and brokers. The presentation will cover the general rules regarding when agents and brokers are found to assume fiduciary responsibilities or heightened duties regarding their clients’ insurance coverages. The presentation will also address the emerging trend in which agents and brokers are being viewed as having greater responsibilities for understanding their clients’ needs and taking appropriate measures to ensure that they are met.

Also to be discussed are the whistleblower provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley, which prohibit companies from retaliating against an employee who, among other things, provides information or makes a complaint regarding conduct the employee “reasonably believes” constitutes a securities violation or securities fraud. The “mock mediation” event will also examine what insurers can to do to identify, limit, and handle the enhanced exposures.

Finally on November 9, a special panel will discuss the growing number of ERISA lawsuits flowing from the existence of employer securities in 401(k) plans. The panel will consider the buyer, broker, and underwriter perspectives with respect to the fiduciary liability product line. The group will also explore potential litigation increases in a troubled economy surrounding benefits reductions, plan terminations, plan asset impairment due to investment losses, and managed care initiatives.

Employment practices liability D&O, fiduciary liability, and fidelity crime exposures for middle market companies will be the subject of a panel early on Tuesday, November 10. The panel will explore overlapping coverages, claims handling issues, and package policy solutions.

Another panel on Tuesday will feature a discussion on defending bad faith claims brought against insurance carriers. The discussion will explore the triggering events that cause bad faith claims, the defense of such claims, and ethical questions arising from the tripartite relationship among the carrier, the insured, and the attorney retained by the carrier to represent the insured.

“Cyber Hurricane: The Potential for Aggregated Internet Losses and the Insurance Industry” is the title of yet another panel to be featured at the PLUS annual. The panel will examine the economy’s growing dependence on the Internet and the losses that can come about because of massive interruptions due to terrorist attacks, natural disasters, viruses, and similar malicious tampering, among other things.

The medical malpractice insurance crisis will certainly not be ignored at the annual. From the perspective of hospitals, a panel will discuss the increasing legislative oversight of hospitals, withdrawal of physicians’ services, and other risks faced by health care institutions.

Another topic of discussion will center on the changing environment for D&O coverage for banks, insurance companies, and broker/dealers, and concurrent educational sessions will focus on teaching litigators how to negotiate settlements.

Asked what his goals are for his coming year as president of PLUS, LaCroix says that he plans to build upon the progress made by past presidents. “The need for professional education in the professional liability arena has never been more important,” says LaCroix. “Past presidents of PLUS have addressed this issue, and I plan to reinforce the concept. I also plan to continue to try to raise the profile of the RPLU designation and continue our outreach to PLUS chapters. You won’t see any dramatic changes during the year because PLUS is already a well-run organization. My goal is to build on that.”

Phil Zinkewicz is the author of the articles appearing on pages 128 through 153.

Zinkewicz is an insurance journalist with some 25 years’ experience covering the international insurance and reinsurance arenas. He was the insurance editor of the Journal of Commerce for a number of years, handling all their domestic and international supplements. In addition, he regularly writes for a number of London publications.

Copyright Rough Notes Co., Inc. Oct 2003

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