HOUSE ENERGY COMMITTEE
APPROVES SUPERFUND BILL
WASHINGTON - The Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved Rep. Al Swifts' Superfund bill to reform the nation's hazardous waste cleanup law, and passed it on to the House Public Works Committee.
By a 44-0 vote, the committee, headed by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., made few changes to the measure, leaving intact an Environmental Insurance Resolution Fund funded by an $8.1 billion tax on property/casualty insurers over a period of years.
The committee approved several amendments dealing with such issues as citizen information on Superfund sites, companies that voluntarily clean up polluted sites, and the use of structured settlements.
Jack Ramirez, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the National Association of Independent Insurers, said Wednesday he was disappointed by the vote. His group objects to the ERIF and the persistence of some joint and several liability. In some circumstances, any company with some responsibility for pollution at a site could be held liable to pay for the entire cleanup, he said.
W.R. GRACE REINSTATES
BOCA RATON, Fla. - W.R. Grace & Co. on Tuesday reinstated a $200 million charge for asbestos-related property damage based on a federal appeals court decision on when the firm's asbestos insurance was triggered.
Grace initially took a $300 million after-tax charge in the third quarter last year based on a decision by the 2nd U.S. District Court of Appeals in New York that coverage was triggered when the asbestos was installed rather than when the asbestos damage was discovered.
The court decision reduced the amount of insurance coverage available to Grace on its asbestos lawsuits and claims.
When the court agreed to rehear the case this year, the specialty chemicals and health-care company rescinded $200 million of the charge to earnings for its 1993 fourth quarter.
The court confirmed its earlier ruling, however.
For Grace, the decision "is clearly not good news," said chief financial office Brian Smith. "This decision is contrary to the weight of authority nationally, and we plan to seek further judicial review."
BEST ISSUES 'D' RATINGS
TO LAWRENCE UNITS
OLDWICK, N.J. - A.M. Best Co. downgraded its ratings of United Community Insurance Co., Albany, N.Y., and United Republic Insurance Co., Houston, to ''D" from "B."
Both companies are units of the Lawrence Group.
The ratings had been placed under review with negative implications last month after a review of the adequacy of United Community's loss reserves and the potential impact on United Republic, which pools its business with United Community.
"The rating action reflects a loss reserve increase of $35 million, which essentially eliminated the pool's surplus at March 31 and gravely impacts the company's capitalization," Best said.
In addition, Best will keep the "B" rating of Senate Insurance Co. of Schenectady, N.Y., under review due to the financial problems at United Republic, its parent firm.
LIFE INSURANCE TOPS
$48 MILLION IN CRASH
TOKYO - Life insurance payments for those killed in the China Airlines jetliner crash at Japan's Nagoya Airport will total 5.06 billion yen ($48.3 million) the Life Insurance Association of Japan said.
The payments cover 73 men and 23 women who had contracted a total of 259 life insurance policies with the association's member firms.
The average per-person payment is 52.68 million yen, the 30-member association said.
All but seven of the 271 people on board died after a faulty landing attempt on April 26.
ITT HARTFORD TAKES ON
POLICIES OF FAILED FIRM
SIMSBURY, Conn. - More than 63,000 policyholders of the insolvent Pacific Standard Life Insurance Co. are now customers of ITT Hartford Life Insurance Co., the company said this week.
Under a rehabilitation plan developed by Hartford Life and the National Organization of Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Associations, Hartford Life assumed about $400 million in policyholder assets and 63,000 policies representing about 85 percent of the customers of the Davis, Calif.-based Pacific Standard.