RLI 10-K 2007
Documents found in this filing:
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: NONE
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Exchange Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrants knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, or a non-accelerated filer. See definition of accelerated filer and large accelerated filer in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).
The aggregate market value of the registrants common stock held by non-affiliates of the Registrant as of June 30, 2006, based upon the closing sale price of the Common Stock on June 30, 2006 as reported on the New York Stock Exchange, was $1,011,588,725. Shares of Common Stock held directly or indirectly by each officer and director along with shares held by the Company ESOP have been excluded in that such persons may be deemed to be affiliates. This determination of affiliate status is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes.
The number of shares outstanding of the Registrants Common Stock, $1.00 par value, on February 23, 2007 was 24,084,305.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE.
Portions of the 2006 Financial Report to Shareholders for the past year ended December 31, 2006, are incorporated by reference into Parts I and II of this document.
Portions of the Registrants definitive Proxy Statement for the 2007 annual meeting of security holders to be held May 3, 2007, are incorporated herein by reference into Part III of this document.
Exhibit index is located on pages 51-52 of this document, which lists documents incorporated by reference herein.
Item 1. Business
RLI Corp. underwrites selected property and casualty insurance through major subsidiaries collectively known as RLI Insurance Group. We conduct operations principally through three insurance companies. RLI Insurance Company, our principal subsidiary, writes multiple lines insurance on an admitted basis in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Mt. Hawley Insurance Company, a subsidiary of RLI Insurance Company, writes surplus lines insurance in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. RLI Indemnity Company, a subsidiary of Mt. Hawley Insurance Company, has authority to write multiple lines of insurance on an admitted basis in 49 states and the District of Columbia. We are an Illinois corporation that was organized in 1965. We have no material foreign operations.
We maintain an Internet website at http://www.rlicorp.com. We make available free of charge on our website our annual report on Form 10-K, our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission as soon as reasonably practicable after such materials are filed.
As a niche company, we offer specialty insurance coverages designed to meet specific insurance needs of targeted insured groups and underwrite particular types of coverage for certain markets that are underserved by the insurance industry, such as our commercial earthquake coverage and oil and gas surety bonds. We also provide types of coverages not generally offered by other companies, such as our stand-alone personal umbrella policy. The excess and surplus market, which unlike the standard admitted market is less regulated and more flexible in terms of policy forms and premium rates, provides an alternative market for customers with hard-to-place risks. When we underwrite within the surplus lines market, we are selective in the line of business and type of risks we choose to write. Using our non-admitted status in this market allows us to tailor terms and conditions to manage these exposures more effectively than our admitted counterparts. Often the development of these specialty insurance coverages is generated through proposals brought to us by an agent or broker seeking coverage for a specific group of clients. Once a proposal is submitted, underwriters determine whether it would be a viable product in keeping with our business objectives.
We initially wrote specialty property and casualty insurance through independent underwriting agents. We opened our first branch office in 1984, and began to shift from independent underwriting agents to wholly-owned branch offices that market to wholesale producers. We also market certain coverages to retail producers from several of our casualty, surety and property operations. We produce a limited amount of business under agreements with managing general agents under the direction of our product vice presidents. The majority of business is marketed through our branch offices located in Phoenix, Arizona; Los Angeles, California; Oakland, California; San Francisco, California; Glastonbury, Connecticut; Sarasota, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Alpharetta, Georgia; Honolulu, Hawaii; Chicago, Illinois; Peoria, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Boston, Massachusetts; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Lincoln, Nebraska; Montvale, New Jersey; Summit, New Jersey; New York, New York; Saratoga Springs, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Dallas, Texas; Houston, Texas; and Seattle, Washington.
For the year ended December 31, 2006, the following table provides the geographic distribution of our risks insured as represented by direct premiums earned for all coverages. For the year ended December 31, 2006, no other state or territory accounted for 1.5 percent or more of total direct premiums earned for all coverages.
In the ordinary course of business, we rely on other insurance companies to share risks through reinsurance. A large portion of the reinsurance is put into effect under contracts known as treaties and, in some instances, by negotiation on each individual risk (known as facultative reinsurance). We have quota share, excess of loss and catastrophe reinsurance contracts that protect against losses over stipulated amounts arising from any one occurrence or event. The arrangements allow us to pursue greater diversification of business and serve to limit the maximum net loss on catastrophes and large risks. Reinsurance is subject to certain risks, specifically market risk, which affects the cost of and the ability to secure these contracts, and collection risk, which is the risk that our reinsurers may not pay on losses in a timely fashion or at all. The following table illustrates, through premium volume, the degree to which we have utilized reinsurance during the past three years. For an expanded discussion of the impact of reinsurance on our operations, see Note 5 to our audited consolidated financial statements included in our 2006 Financial Report to Shareholders, attached as Exhibit 13 and incorporated by reference herein.
Specialty Insurance Market Overview
The specialty insurance market differs significantly from the standard market. In the standard market, insurance rates and forms are highly regulated, products and coverage are largely uniform with relatively predictable exposures, and companies tend to compete for customers on the basis of price. In contrast, the specialty market provides coverage for risks that do not fit the underwriting criteria of the standard carriers. Competition tends to focus less on price and more on availability, service and other value-based considerations. While specialty market exposures may have higher insurance risks than their standard market counterparts, we manage these risks to achieve higher financial returns. To reach our financial and operational goals, we must have extensive knowledge and expertise in our markets. Most of our risks are considered on an individual basis and restricted limits, deductibles, exclusions and surcharges are employed in order to respond to distinctive risk characteristics.
We operate in the excess and surplus insurance market and the specialty admitted insurance market.
Excess and Surplus Insurance Market
The excess and surplus market focuses on hard-to-place risks. Excess and surplus eligibility allows our insurance subsidiaries to underwrite nonstandard market risks with more flexible policy forms and unregulated premium rates. This typically results in coverages that are more restrictive and more expensive than in the standard admitted market. The excess and surplus lines regulatory environment and production model also effectively filters submission flow and matches market opportunities to our expertise and appetite. The excess and surplus market represented approximately $28 billion, or 6 percent, of the entire $489 billion domestic property and casualty industry, as measured by direct premiums written. For 2006, our excess and surplus operation wrote gross premiums of $449.1 million representing approximately 56 percent of our total gross premiums written for the period.
Specialty Admitted Insurance Market
We also write business in the specialty admitted market. Most of these risks are unique and hard to place in the standard market, but for marketing and regulatory reasons, they must remain with an admitted insurance company. The specialty admitted market is subject to greater state regulation than the excess and surplus market, particularly with regard to rate and form filing requirements, restrictions on the ability to exit lines of business, premium tax payments and membership in various state associations, such as state guaranty funds and assigned risk plans. For 2006, our specialty admitted operations wrote gross premiums of $349.9 million representing approximately 44 percent of our total gross premiums written for the year.
Business Segment Overview
Our segment data is derived using the guidance set forth in Statement of Financial Accounting Standards (SFAS) 131, Disclosures about Segments of an Enterprise and Related information. As prescribed by the pronouncement, reporting is based on the internal structure and reporting of information as it is used by management. The segments of our insurance operations include property, casualty, and surety. For additional information, see Note 11 to our audited consolidated financial statements included in our 2006 Financial Report to Shareholders, attached as Exhibit 13 and incorporated by reference herein.
Our general liability business consists primarily of coverage for third party liability of commercial insureds including manufacturers, contractors, apartments and mercantile. Net premiums earned from this business totaled $180.0 million, $180.3 million and $175.0 million, or 28 percent, 32 percent, and 30 percent of consolidated revenues for 2006, 2005, and 2004, respectively.
Commercial and Personal Umbrella Liability
Our commercial umbrella coverage is principally written in excess of primary liability insurance provided by other carriers and, to a modest degree, in excess of primary liability written by us. The personal umbrella coverage is written in excess of the homeowners and automobile liability coverage provided by other carriers, except in Hawaii, where some underlying homeowners coverage is written by us. Net premiums earned from this business totaled $64.7 million, $59.8 million and $53.5 million, or 10 percent, 11 percent, and 9 percent of consolidated revenues for 2006, 2005, and 2004, respectively.
We sell financial coverages, such as directors and officers (D&O) liability and other miscellaneous professional liability, for a variety of low to moderate classes of risks. Events affecting the economy over the past few years resulted in several insurers ceasing to write D&O coverage, which created an opportunity to raise rates significantly and reduce exposures. This situation rapidly changed in early 2004 with the return of price competition, particularly in the large account sector. As a consequence, we shifted our focus to smaller accounts. Our target accounts include publicly traded companies with market capitalization below $5 billion (where we are writing part of the traditional D&O program), Clause 1 (also known as Side A coverage) opportunities for investment-grade publicly traded companies, private companies, nonprofit organizations, and sole-sponsored and multi-employer fiduciary liability accounts. We are currently successfully transitioning from primarily writing high layers of excess D&O for publicly traded companies to writing more Clause 1 coverage. Additionally, we are having success rounding out our portfolio by writing more fiduciary liability coverage, primary and excess D&O coverage for private companies and non-profit organizations. Net premiums earned from this business totaled $13.0 million, $9.8 million, and $13.1 million, or 2 percent of consolidated revenues for 2006, 2005, and 2004.
Specialty Program Business
We offer program business in a variety of areas. Our program coverages include: commercial property, general liability, inland marine, and crime. Often, these coverages are combined into a package or portfolio policy. We have recently moved to a strategy of bringing most risk underwriting in house while continuing to rely upon program administrators for policy servicing and sales. We continue to develop new programs for a variety of affinity groups. Net premiums earned from this business totaled $25.5 million, $38.3 million, and $47.1 million for 2006, 2005, and 2004, respectively. These amounts represent 4 percent, 7 percent, and 8 percent of consolidated revenues for 2006, 2005, and 2004, respectively.
Our transportation insurance facility in Atlanta provides automobile liability and physical damage insurance to local, intermediate and long haul truckers, public transportation risks and equipment dealers. In early 2005, we expanded our focus to include other types of commercial automobile risks. We also offer incidental, related insurance coverages, including general liability, commercial umbrella and excess liability, and motor truck cargo. The facility is staffed by highly experienced transportation underwriters who produce business through independent agents and brokers nationwide. Net premiums earned from this business totaled $48.3 million, $51.7 million, and $56.0 million, or 8 percent, 9 percent, and 10 percent of consolidated revenues for 2006, 2005, and 2004, respectively.
We offer a variety of other smaller programs in our casualty segment, including deductible buy-back, at-home business, and employers excess indemnity. Net premiums earned from these lines totaled $16.6 million, $19.0 million, and $20.9 million, or 3 percent, 3 percent, and 4 percent of consolidated revenues for 2006, 2005, and 2004, respectively.
Commercial and Construction
Our commercial property coverage consists primarily of excess and surplus lines and specialty insurance such as fire, earthquake and difference in conditions, which can include earthquake, wind, flood and collapse coverages, and inland marine. We provide insurance for a wide range of commercial and industrial risks, such as office buildings, apartments, condominiums, and certain industrial and mercantile structures. We also write boiler and machinery coverage under the same management as commercial property. Net premiums earned from commercial property business totaled $91.5 million, $66.4 million, and $69.2 million, or 14 percent, 11.5 percent, and 12 percent of consolidated revenues for 2006, 2005, and 2004, respectively.
In late 2005, we began to exit the retail construction market, due to continued poor performance in this line. We have continued to wind down this coverage through 2006, which we expect to complete in 2007. In 2006, 2005, and 2004, construction net premiums earned totaled $4.5 million, $2.5 million, and $21.6 million, or 1 percent, 0.5 percent, and 4 percent, respectively, of consolidated revenues.
In 2005, we launched a new marine operation serving the marine business marketplace. The focus of this operation is on brown water ocean marine (near shore, river and Great Lakes) coverages including hull, cargo and P&I. This unit continues to meet expectations and has expanded its reach to a limited number of inland marine coverages including builders risk and contractors equipment. In 2006 and 2005, marine net premiums earned totaled $16.8 million and $3.3 million, or 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively, of consolidated revenues.
We offer a limited amount of homeowners and dwelling fire insurance in Hawaii. Recently, we have curtailed our wind exposure through a more restrictive policy, which limits wind coverage on new business. Net premiums earned from this business totaled $9.8 million, $8.3 million, and $7.2 million, or 2 percent, 1 percent, and 1 percent of consolidated revenues for 2006, 2005, and 2004, respectively.
Our surety segment specializes in providing coverage for individuals, contractors, small business owners, small to large
corporations, and businesses operating in the energy, petrochemical and refining industries. We also offer miscellaneous and contract surety bonds, including fidelity and court sureties. These bonds are written through independent agencies as well as regional and national brokers. Net earned premium totaled $59.5 million, $51.9 million, and $47.7 million, or 9 percent, 9 percent and 8 percent of consolidated revenues for 2006, 2005, and 2004, respectively.
Our specialty property and casualty insurance subsidiaries are part of an extremely competitive industry that is cyclical and historically characterized by periods of high premium rates and shortages of underwriting capacity followed by periods of severe competition and excess underwriting capacity. Within the United States alone, approximately 2,400 companies, both stock and mutual, actively market property and casualty coverages. Our primary competitors in our casualty segment are, among others, AIG, St. Paul/Travelers, Scottsdale Insurance, Lexington Insurance Company, General Star, CNA, Chubb, and Great West Casualty Company. Our primary competitors in our property segment are, among others, Lexington Insurance Company, ARCH Insurance Company, General Star, Philadelphia Insurance, Markel, and St. Paul/Travelers. Our primary competitors in our surety segment are, among others, North American Specialty Insurance Co., CNA Surety, and St. Paul/Travelers. Many of these competitors have significantly more financial and other resources than RLI. The combination of coverages, service, pricing and other methods of competition vary from line to line. Our principal methods of meeting this competition are innovative coverages, marketing structure and quality service to the agents and policyholders at a fair price. We compete favorably in part because of our sound financial base and reputation, as well as our broad geographic penetration into all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. In the property and casualty area, we have acquired experienced underwriting specialists in our branch and home offices. We have continued to maintain our underwriting and marketing standards by not seeking market share at the expense of earnings. We have a track record of withdrawing from markets when conditions become overly adverse. We offer new coverages and new programs where the opportunity exists to provide needed insurance coverage with exceptional service on a profitable basis.
A.M. Best ratings for the industry range from A++ (Superior) to F (In Liquidation) with some companies not being rated. Standard & Poors ratings for the industry range from AAA (Superior) to R (Regulatory Action). Moodys ratings for the industry range from Aaa (Exceptional) to C (Lowest). The following table illustrates the range of ratings assigned by each of the three major rating companies that has issued a financial strength rating on our insurance companies:
Publications of A.M. Best, Standard & Poors and Moodys indicate that A and A+ ratings are assigned to those companies that, in their opinion, have achieved excellent overall performance when compared to the standards established by these firms and have a strong ability to meet their obligations to policyholders over a long period of time. In evaluating a companys financial and operating performance, each of the firms reviews the companys profitability, leverage and liquidity, as well as the companys spread of risk, the quality and appropriateness of its reinsurance, the quality and diversification of its assets, the adequacy of its policy and loss reserves, the adequacy of its surplus, its capital structure, its risk
management practices and the experience and objectives of its management. These ratings are based on factors relevant to policyholders, agents, insurance brokers and intermediaries and are not directed to the protection of investors.
At December 31, 2006, the following ratings were assigned to our insurance companies:
For A.M Best, Standard & Poors and Moodys, the financial strength ratings represented above are affirmations of previously assigned ratings. A.M. Best, in addition to assigning a financial strength rating, also assigns financial size categories. During 2006, RLI Insurance Company, Mt. Hawley Insurance Company and RLI Indemnity Company, collectively referred to as RLI Group, were assigned a financial size category of X (adjusted policyholders surplus of between $500 and $750 million). As of December 31, 2006, the policyholders surplus of RLI Group reached $746.9 million.
RLI Corps existing $100 million of senior notes maturing in 2014 maintains a Standard & Poors rating of BBB+, Moodys Baa2, and an A.M. Best rating of A-.
We reinsure a significant portion of our property and casualty insurance exposure, paying or ceding to the reinsurer a portion of the premiums received on such policies. Earned premiums ceded to non-affiliated reinsurers totaled $265 million, $248 million and $242 million in 2006, 2005, and 2004, respectively. Insurance is ceded principally to reduce net liability on individual risks and to protect against catastrophic losses. Although reinsurance does not legally discharge an insurer from its primary liability for the full amount of the policies, it does make the assuming reinsurer liable to the insurer to the extent of the insurance ceded.
We attempt to purchase reinsurance from a limited number of financially strong reinsurers. Retention levels are adjusted each year to maintain a balance between the growth in surplus and the cost of reinsurance. Each of the top 10 largest reinsurers (listed below and ranked based on amounts recoverable) are rated A- or better by A.M. Best and Standard and Poors rating services. Additionally, over 94 percent of our reinsurance recoverables are due from companies rated A- or better by A.M. Best and Standard & Poors rating services.
The following table sets forth the ten largest reinsurers in terms of amounts recoverable, net of collateral we are holding from such reinsurers, as of December 31, 2006. Also shown are the amounts of written premium ceded to these reinsurers during the calendar year 2006.
Reinsurance is subject to certain risks, specifically market risk (which affects the cost of and the ability to secure reinsurance contracts) and collection risk (which relates to the ability to collect from the reinsurer on our claims). Much of our reinsurance is purchased on an excess of loss basis. Under an excess of loss arrangement, we retain losses on a risk up to a specified amount and the reinsurers assume any losses above that amount. It is common to find conditions in excess of loss covers such as occurrence limits, aggregate limits and reinstatement premium charges.
We analyze our reinsurance covers in conjunction with our three segments: property, casualty and surety.
In the property segment, the reinsurance structure is divided into three categories: commercial property, catastrophe earthquake and catastrophe other than earthquake which could include such events as hurricanes, windstorm, hailstorms, explosions, severe winter weather, fires, etc.
Commercial Property Reinsurance
We utilize both treaty and facultative coverage for our property risks. Treaty coverage refers to a reinsurance contract that is applied to a group or class of business where all the risks written meet the criteria for that class. Facultative coverage is applied to individual risks as opposed to a group or class of business. It is used for a variety of reasons including supplementing the limits provided by the treaty coverage or covering risks or perils excluded from treaty reinsurance.
In 2007, for most risks, we retain the first $1.0 million in losses. Reinsurance covers the following:
· 85% of the next $4.0 million in losses (we retain 15% of that $4.0 million); and
· 100% of the next $5.0 million in losses bringing our total retention to $1.6 million.
In 2006, for most risks, we retained the first $1.0 million in losses. Reinsurance then covered the following:
· 75% of the next $4.0 million in losses (we retained 25% of that $4.0 million); and
· 100% of the next $5.0 million in losses bringing our total retention to $2.0 million
In 2005, for most risks, we retained the first $0.5 million in losses. Reinsurance then covered the following:
· 100% of the next $0.5 million in losses;
· 85% of the next $4.0 million in losses (we retained 15% of that $4.0 million); and
· 100% of the next $5.0 million in losses bringing our total retention to $1.1 million.
Property Reinsurance- Catastrophe (CAT) Coverage
Our property catastrophe reinsurance reduces the financial impact a catastrophe could have on our property segment. Catastrophes involve multiple claims and policyholders. Over the three years presented, CAT premium costs increased as additional limits were purchased. For 2007, we purchased an additional $50.0 million in limit, bringing our total limit up to $500.0 million from $450.0 million. Our cost for catastrophe reinsurance for 2007 increased approximately 26% over 2006. We also purchased an additional $50.0 million in catastrophe reinsurance in 2006, bringing our total limits in 2006 to $450.0 million. In 2005, an additional $25.0 million in limit was added, bringing the total limit to $400.0 million for that year. These CAT limits are in addition to the per-occurrence coverage provided by facultative and treaty coverages.
Our property catastrophe program continues to be on an excess of loss basis. It attaches after all other reinsurance has been considered. Although covered in one program, limits and attachment points differ for California earthquakes and all other perils. The following charts use information from our catastrophe modeling software to illustrate our net retention resulting from particular events that would generate the listed levels of gross losses:
Catastrophe - California Earthquake
Catastrophe - Wind
These tables were generated using theoretical probabilities of events occurring in areas where our portfolio of currently in-force policies could generate the level of loss shown. Actual results could vary significantly from these tables as the actual nature or severity of a particular event cannot be predicted with any reasonable degree of accuracy.
Our catastrophe program includes one prepaid reinstatement for the first two layers of coverage for a catastrophe other than California earthquake. A reinstatement must be purchased for the remaining limits. For a California earthquake, there is a prepaid reinstatement for the $50.0 million excess $50.0 million layer (placed at 92%) and a reinstatement must be purchased for the remaining limits.
Our 2007 casualty reinsurance includes both excess of loss treaties and quota share treaties, as was the case in 2006, and 2005. With respect to our 2007 Combined Casualty Treaty, we retain between $0.9 million and $2.0 million of the full losses, depending on type of policy or risk. This was also the case in 2006. In 2005, we retained between $0.6 and $1.8 million of the full losses. For our Executive Products Group (EPG) coverage, our maximum retained loss on a policy in 2007 will not exceed $4.0 million. In 2006 and 2005, our maximum retained loss on any EPG policy was $3.0 million. Over the three years presented, casualty reinsurance rates have been fairly stable.
Our surety reinsurance treaty is on an excess of loss basis for 2007, as it was in 2006 and 2005. Under the current treaty, we retain the first $1.0 million in loss (as was the case in 2006 and 2005). Reinsurance covers the following:
· 100% of the next $4.0 million in losses;
· 90% of the next $10.0 million in losses, we retain 10%; and
· 50% of the next $10.0 million in losses, we retain 50%.
Our maximum net loss for any one principal will not exceed $7.0 million. For most risks, our net loss does not exceed $2.0 million.
We continuously monitor and quantify our exposure to catastrophes, including earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist acts, and other catastrophic events. In the normal course of business, we manage our concentrations of exposures to catastrophic events, primarily by limiting concentrations of exposure to acceptable levels, and by purchasing reinsurance. We use third party catastrophe exposure models and internally developed analysis to assess each risk and ensure we include an appropriate charge for assumed catastrophe risks. For the application of the catastrophe exposure models, exposure and coverage detail is recorded for each risk location. Catastrophe exposure modeling is inherently uncertain due to the models reliance on a large number of data points, increasing the importance of capturing accurate policy coverage data. The model results are used both in the underwriting analysis of individual risks, and at a corporate level for the aggregate book of catastrophe-exposed business. From both perspectives, we consider the potential loss produced by individual events that represent moderate-to-high loss potential at varying return periods and magnitudes. In calculating potential losses, we select appropriate assumptions, including but not limited to loss amplification and storm surge. We establish risk tolerances at the portfolio level based on market conditions, the level of reinsurance available, changes to the assumptions in the catastrophe models, rating agency constraints, underwriting guidelines and coverages, and internal preferences. Our risk tolerances for each type of catastrophe, and for all perils in aggregate, change over time as these internal and external conditions change.
Marketing and Distribution
We distribute our coverages primarily through branch offices throughout the country that market to wholesale and retail brokers and through independent agents. We also market through agencies and more recently through e-commerce channels.
The largest volume of broker-generated premium is in our commercial property, general liability, commercial surety, commercial umbrella and commercial automobile coverages. This business is produced through wholesale and retail brokers who are not affiliated with us.
Independent Agent Business
Our surety segment offers its business through a variety of independent agents. Additionally, we write program business, such as at-home business and personal umbrella, through independent agents. Homeowners and dwelling fire is produced through independent agents in Hawaii. Each of these programs involves detailed eligibility criteria, which are incorporated into strict underwriting guidelines, and prequalification of each risk using a system accessible by the independent agent. The independent agent cannot bind the risk unless they receive approval through our system.
We contract with certain underwriting agencies who have limited authority to bind or underwrite business on our behalf. These agencies may receive some compensation through contingent profit commission.
We are actively employing e-commerce to produce and efficiently process and service business, including package policies for limited service motel/hotel operations, restaurant/bar/tavern operations and at-home businesses, small commercial and personal umbrella risks, earthquake property coverage and surety bonding.
Environmental, Asbestos, and Mass Tort Exposures
We are subject to environmental site cleanup, asbestos removal, and mass tort claims and exposures through our commercial umbrella, general liability, and discontinued assumed reinsurance lines of business. The majority of the exposure is in the excess layers of our commercial umbrella and assumed reinsurance books of business.
The following table represents inception-to-date paid and unpaid environmental claims data (including incurred but not reported losses) for the periods ended 2006, 2005, and 2004:
Our environmental, asbestos, and mass tort exposure is limited, relative to that of other insurers, as a result of entering the affected liability lines after the insurance industry had already recognized environmental and asbestos exposure as a problem and adopted appropriate coverage exclusions. During 2006, we reviewed our reserves for these exposures relative to industry benchmarks and re-evaluated its emergence patterns. As a result, net reserves for these exposures were increased $6.4 million. Other significant activity during 2006 was payment for the settlement of a large claim associated with a Superfund site. The claim arose out of commercial umbrella business written in the early 1980s. Gross payments of $4.0 million and net payments of $2.1 million for this claim caused the majority of the 2006 increase, reflected in the table above. This claim had no effect on 2006 incurred losses, however, because an adequate case reserve estimate had been established for it in 2004.
While our environmental exposure is limited, the ultimate liability for this exposure is difficult to assess because of the extensive and complicated litigation involved in the settlement of claims and evolving legislation on such issues as joint and several liability, retroactive liability, and standards of cleanup. Additionally, we participate primarily in the excess layers of coverage, where accurate estimates of ultimate loss are more difficult to derive than for primary coverage.
Losses and Settlement Expenses
Loss and loss adjustment expense reserves represent our best estimate of ultimate amounts for losses and related settlement expenses from claims that have been reported but not paid, and those losses that have occurred but have not yet been reported to us. Loss reserves do not represent an exact calculation of liability, but instead represent our estimates, generally utilizing individual claim estimates and actuarial expertise and estimation techniques at a given accounting date. The loss reserve estimates are expectations of what ultimate settlement and administration of claims will cost upon final resolution. These estimates are based on facts and circumstances then known to us, review of historical settlement patterns, estimates of trends in claims frequency and severity, projections of loss costs, expected interpretations of legal theories of liability, and many other factors. In establishing reserves, we also take into account estimated recoveries, reinsurance, salvage, and subrogation. The reserves are reviewed regularly by a team of actuaries we employ with periodic review by outside independent actuarial firms.
The process of estimating loss reserves involves a high degree of judgment and is subject to a number of variables. These variables can be affected by both internal and external events, such as changes in claims handling procedures, claim personnel, economic inflation, legal trends, and legislative changes, among others. The impact of many of these items on ultimate costs for loss and loss adjustment expense is difficult to estimate. Loss reserve estimations also differ significantly by coverage due to differences in claim complexity, the volume of claims, the policy limits written, the terms and conditions of
the underlying policies, the potential severity of individual claims, the determination of occurrence date for a claim, and
reporting lags (the time between the occurrence of the policyholder events and when it is actually reported to the insurer). Informed judgment is applied throughout the process. We continually refine our loss reserve estimates as historical loss experience develops and additional claims are reported and settled. We rigorously attempt to consider all significant facts and circumstances known at the time loss reserves are established.
Due to inherent uncertainty underlying loss reserve estimates, including but not limited to the future settlement environment, final resolution of the estimated liability will be different from that anticipated at the reporting date. Therefore, actual paid losses in the future may yield a materially different amount than currently reserved favorable and unfavorable.
The amount by which estimated losses differ from those originally reported for a period is known as development. Development is unfavorable when the losses ultimately settle for more than the levels at which they were reserved or subsequent estimates indicate a basis for reserve increases on unresolved claims. Development is favorable when losses ultimately settle for less than the amount reserved or subsequent estimates indicate a basis for reducing loss reserves on unresolved claims. We reflect favorable or unfavorable developments of loss reserves in the results of operations in the period the estimates are changed.
We record two categories of loss and loss adjustment expense reserves case-specific reserves and incurred but not reported (IBNR) reserves.
Within a reasonable period of time after a claim is reported, our claim department completes an initial investigation and establishes a case reserve. This case-specific reserve is an estimate of the ultimate amount we will have to pay for the claim, including related legal expenses and other costs associated with resolving and settling a particular claim. The estimate reflects all of the current information available regarding the claim, the informed judgment of our professional claim personnel, our reserving practices and experience, and the knowledge of such personnel regarding the nature and value of the specific type of claim. During the life cycle of a particular claim, more information may materialize that causes us to revise the estimate of the ultimate value of the claim either upward or downward. We may determine that it is appropriate to pay portions of the reserve to the claimant or related settlement expenses before final resolution of the claim. The amount of the individual claim reserve will be adjusted accordingly and is based on the most recent information available.
We establish Incurred But Not Reported (IBNR) reserves to estimate the amount we will have to pay for claims that have occurred, but have not yet been reported to us; claims that have been reported to us that may ultimately be paid out differently than expected by our case-specific reserves; and claims that have been paid and closed, but may reopen and require future payment.
Our IBNR reserving process involves three steps including an initial IBNR generation process that is prospective in nature; a loss and loss adjustment expense reserve estimation process that occurs retrospectively; and a subsequent discussion and reconciliation between our prospective and retrospective IBNR estimates which includes changes in our provisions for IBNR where deemed appropriate. These three processes are discussed in more detail in the following sections.
Loss adjustment expense (LAE) represents the cost involved in adjusting and administering losses from policies we sold. The LAE reserves are frequently separated into two components: allocated and unallocated. Allocated loss adjustment expense (ALAE) reserves represent an estimate of claims settlement expenses that can be identified with a specific claim or case. Examples of ALAE would be the hiring of an outside adjuster to investigate a claim or an outside attorney to defend our insured. The claims professional typically estimates this cost separately from the loss component in the case reserve. Unallocated loss adjustment expense (ULAE) reserves represent an estimate of claims settlement expenses that cannot be identified with a specific claim. An example of ULAE would be the cost of an internal claims examiner to manage or investigate a reported claim.
All decisions regarding our best estimate of ultimate loss and LAE reserves are made by our Loss Reserve Committee (LRC). The LRC is made up of the management team including the chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief actuary, vice president of claims, vice president of underwriting, and other selected executives.
Loss and loss adjustment reserves by product line at year-end 2006 and 2005 were as follows:
We do not use discounting (recognition of the time value of money) in reporting our estimated reserves for losses and settlement expenses. Based on current assumptions used in calculating reserves, we believe that our overall reserve levels at December 31, 2006, make a reasonable provision to meet our future obligations.
Initial IBNR Generation Process
Initial carried IBNR reserves are determined through a reserve generation process. The intent of this process is to establish an initial total reserve that will provide a reasonable provision for the ultimate value of all unpaid loss and allocated loss adjustment expense liabilities. For most casualty and surety products, this process involves the use of an initial loss and ALAE ratio that is applied to the earned premium for a given period. The result is our best initial estimate of the expected amount of ultimate loss and ALAE for the period by product. Paid and case reserves are subtracted from this initial estimate of ultimate loss and ALAE to determine a carried IBNR reserve.
For most property products, we use an alternative method of determining an appropriate provision for initial IBNR. Since this segment is characterized by a shorter period of time between claim occurrence and claim settlement, the IBNR reserve is determined by an initial loss percentage applied to the rolling twelve months premium earned. No deductions for paid or case reserves are made. This alternative method of determining initial IBNR reacts more quickly to the actual loss emergence and is more appropriate for our property products where final claim resolution occurs quickly.
The initial loss and ALAE ratios that are applied to earned premium are reviewed at least semi-annually. Prospective estimates are made based on historical loss experience adjusted for price change and loss cost inflation. The initial loss and ALAE ratios also reflect estimation risk. We consider estimation risk by segment and product line. A segment with greater overall volatility and uncertainty has greater estimation risk. Characteristics of segments and products with higher estimation risk, include those exhibiting, but not limited to, the following characteristics:
· significant changes in underlying policy terms and conditions,
· consisting of a new business,
· undergoing significant exposure growth or turnover,
· small volume or lacking internal data requiring significant reliance on external data,
· longer emergence patterns with exposures to latent unforeseen mass tort,
· high severity and/or low frequency,
· operational processes undergoing significant change, and/or
· high sensitivity to significant swings in loss trends or economic change.
Following is a table of significant risk factors by major product line. We distinguish between expected loss ratio risk and reserve estimation risk. Expected loss ratio risk refers to the possible dispersion of loss ratios from year to year due to inherent volatility in the business such as high severity or aggregating exposures. Reserve estimation risk recognizes the difficulty in estimating a given years ultimate loss liability. As an example, our property catastrophe business (identified below as Difference in conditions) has significant variance in year-over-year results; however its reserving estimation risk is relatively low.
Significant Risk Factors
The historical and prospective loss and ALAE estimates along with the risks identified in the table are the basis for determining our initial and subsequent carried reserves. Adjustments in the initial loss ratio by product and segment are made where necessary and reflect updated assumptions regarding loss experience and prevailing risk factors. The Loss Reserve Committee makes all final decisions regarding changes in the initial loss and ALAE ratios.
Loss and LAE Reserve Estimation Process
A full analysis of our loss reserves takes place at least semi-annually. The purpose of these analyses is to provide validation of our carried loss reserves. Estimates of the expected value of the unpaid loss and loss adjustment expense are derived using actuarial methodologies. These estimates are then compared to the carried loss reserves to determine the appropriateness of the current reserve balance.
The process of estimating ultimate payment for claims and claims expenses begins with the collection and analysis of current and historical claim data. Data on individual reported claims including paid amounts and individual claim adjuster estimates are grouped by common characteristics. There is judgment involved in this grouping. Considerations when grouping data include the volume of the data available, the credibility of the data available, the homogeneity of the risks in each cohort, and both settlement and payment pattern consistency. We use this data to determine historical claim reporting and payment patterns which are used in the analysis of ultimate claim liabilities. For portions of the business without sufficiently large numbers of policies or that have not accumulated sufficient historical statistics, our own data is supplemented with external or industry average data as available and when appropriate. For our executive products and marine business, we utilize external data extensively.
In addition to the review of historical claim reporting and payment patterns, we also incorporate an estimate of expected losses relative to premium by year into the analysis. The expected losses are based on a review of historical loss performance, trends in frequency and severity, and price level changes. The estimation of expected losses is subject to judgment including consideration given to internal and industry data available, growth and policy turnover, changes in policy limits, changes in underlying policy provisions, changes in legal and regulatory interpretations of policy provisions, and changes in reinsurance structure.
We use historical development patterns, estimations of the expected loss ratios, and standard actuarial methods to derive an estimate of the ultimate level of loss and loss adjustment expense payments necessary to settle all the claims occurring as of the end of the evaluation period. Once an estimate of the ultimate level of claim payments has been derived, the amount of paid loss and loss adjustment expense and case reserve through the evaluation date is subtracted to reveal the resulting level of IBNR.
Our reserve processes include multiple standard actuarial methods for determining estimates of IBNR reserves. Other supplementary methodologies are incorporated as deemed necessary. Mass tort and latent liabilities are examples of exposures where supplementary methodologies are used. Each method produces an estimate of ultimate loss by accident year. We review all of these various estimates and the actuaries assign weight to each based on the characteristics of the product being reviewed. The result is a single actuarial point estimate by product by accident year.
The methodologies we have chosen to incorporate are a function of data availability and appropriately reflective of our own book of business. There are a number of additional actuarial methods that are available but are not currently being utilized because of data constraints or the methods were either deemed redundant or not predictive for our book of business. From time to time, we evaluate the need to add supplementary methodologies. New methods are incorporated if it is believed that they improve the estimate of our ultimate loss and loss adjustment expense liability. All of the actuarial methods tend to converge to the same estimate as an accident year matures. Our core methodologies are listed below with a short description and their relative strengths and weaknesses:
Paid Loss Development Historical payment patterns for prior claims are used to estimate future payment patterns for current claims. These patterns are applied to current payments by accident year to yield expected ultimate loss.
Strengths: The method reflects only the claim dollars that have been paid and is not subject to case-basis reserve changes or changes in case reserve practices.
Weaknesses: External claims environment changes can impact the rate at which claims are settled and losses paid (e.g., increase in attorney involvement or legal precedent). Adjustments to reflect changes in payment patterns on a prospective basis are difficult to quantify. For losses that have occurred recently, payments can be minimal and thus early estimates are subject to significant instability.
Incurred Loss Development Historical case-incurred patterns (paid losses plus case reserves) for past claims are used to estimate future case-incurred amounts for current claims. These patterns are applied to current case-incurred losses by accident year to yield an expected ultimate loss.
Strengths: Losses are reported more quickly than paid, therefore, the estimates stabilize sooner. The method reflects more information (claims department case reserve) in the analysis than the paid loss development method.
Weaknesses: Method involves additional estimation risk if significant changes to case reserving practices have occurred.
Expected Loss Ratio Historical loss ratios, in combination with projections of frequency and severity trends as well as estimates of price and exposure changes, are analyzed to produce an estimate of the expected loss ratio for each accident year. The expected loss ratio is then applied to the earned premium for each year to estimate the expected ultimate losses. The current accident year expected loss ratio is also used as the input into the determination of the prospective loss and ALAE ratio used in our initial IBNR generation process.
Strengths: Reflects an estimate independent of how losses are emerging on either a paid or a case reserve basis. Method is particularly useful in absence of historical development patterns or where losses take a long time to emerge.
Weaknesses: Ignores how losses are actually emerging and thus produces the same estimate of ultimate loss regardless of favorable/unfavorable emergence.
Paid and Incurred Bornhuetter/Ferguson (BF) This approach blends the expected loss ratio method with either the paid or incurred loss development method. In effect, the BF methods produce weighted average indications for each accident year. As an example, if the current accident year for commercial automobile liability is estimated to be 20% paid, then the paid loss development method would receive a weight of 20%, and the expected loss ratio method would receive an 80% weight. Over time, this method will converge with the ultimate estimated in the respective loss development method.
Strengths: Reflects actual emergence that is favorable/unfavorable, but assumes remaining emergence will continue as previously expected. Does not overreact to the early emergence (or lack of emergence) where patterns are most unstable.
Weaknesses: Could potentially understate favorable or unfavorable development by putting some weight on the expected loss ratio.
In most cases, multiple estimation methods will be valid for the particular facts and circumstances of the claim liabilities being evaluated. Each estimation method has its own set of assumption variables and its own advantages and disadvantages, with no single estimation method being better than the others in all situations and no one set of assumption variables being meaningful for all product line components. The relative strengths and weaknesses of the particular estimation methods, when applied to a particular group of claims, can also change over time; therefore, the weight given to each estimation method will likely change by accident year and with each evaluation.
The actuarial point estimates typically follow a progression that places significant weight on the BF methods when accident years are younger and claims emergence is immature. As accident years mature and claims emerge over time, increasing weight is placed on the incurred development method and the paid development method. For product lines with faster loss emergence, the progression to greater weight on the incurred and paid development methods occurs more quickly.
For our long- and medium-tail products, the BF methods are typically given the most weight for the first 36 months of evaluation. These methods are also predominant for the first 12 months of evaluation for short-tail lines. Beyond these time periods, our actuaries apply their professional judgment when weighting the estimates from the various methods deployed.
Judgment can supersede this natural progression if risk factors and assumptions change, or if a situation occurs that amplifies a particular strength or weakness of a methodology. Extreme projections are critically analyzed and may be adjusted, given less credence, or discarded all together. Internal documentation is maintained that records any substantial changes in methods or assumptions from one loss reserve study to another.
Our estimates of ultimate loss and LAE reserves are subject to change as additional data emerge. This could occur as a result of change in loss development patterns; a revision in expected loss ratios; the emergence of exceptional loss activity; a change in weightings between actuarial methods; the addition of new actuarial methodologies or new information that merits inclusion; or the emergence of internal variables or external factors that would alter their view.
There is uncertainty in the estimates of ultimate losses. Significant risk factors to the reserve estimate include, but are not limited to, unforeseen or unquantifiable changes in:
· loss payment patterns,
· loss reporting patterns,
· frequency and severity trends,
· underlying policy terms and conditions,
· business or exposure mix,
· operational or internal process changes affecting timing of recording transactions,
· regulatory and legal environment, and/or
· economic environment.
Our actuaries engage in discussions with senior management, underwriting, and the claims department on a regular basis to attempt to ascertain any substantial changes in operations or other assumptions that are necessary to consider in the reserving analysis.
A considerable degree of judgment in the evaluation of all these factors is involved in the analysis of reserves. The human element in the application of judgment is unavoidable when faced with material uncertainty. Different experts will choose different assumptions when faced with such uncertainty, based on their individual backgrounds, professional experiences, and areas of focus. Hence, the estimate selected by the various qualified experts may differ materially from each other. We consider this uncertainty by examining our historic reserve accuracy.
Given the significant impact of the reserve estimates on our financial statements, we subject the reserving process to significant diagnostic testing and outside review. Multiple outside reserving specialists periodically review the reserving estimation process and the resulting estimates. We give consideration to these outside opinions and implement recommended improvements as deemed appropriate. We have incorporated data validity checks and balances into our front-end processes. Leading indicators such as actual versus expected emergence and other diagnostics are also incorporated into the reserving processes.
Determination of Our Best Estimate
Upon completion of our full loss and loss adjustment expense estimation analysis, the results are discussed with the Loss Reserve Committee (LRC). As part of this discussion, the analysis supporting an indicated point estimate of the IBNR loss reserve by product is reviewed. The actuaries also present explanations supporting any changes to the underlying assumptions used to calculate the indicated point estimate. Review of the variance between the indicated reserves and the carried reserves determined from the initial IBNR generation process takes place. After discussion of these analyses and all relevant risk factors, the LRC determines whether the reserve balances require adjustment.
As a predominantly excess and surplus lines and specialty insurer servicing niche markets, we believe that there are several reasons to carry on an overall basis reserves above the actuarial point estimate. We believe we are subject to above average variation in estimates and that this variation is not symmetrical around the actuarial point estimate.
One reason for large variation is the above average policyholder turnover and changes in the underlying mix of exposures typical of an excess and surplus lines business. This constant change can cause estimates based on prior experience to be less reliable than estimates for more stable, admitted books of business. Also, as a niche market writer, there is little industry-level information for direct comparisons of current and prior experience and other reserving parameters. These unknowns create greater than average variation in the actuarial point estimates.
Actuarial methods attempt to quantify future events. Insurance companies are subject to unique exposures that are difficult to foresee at the point coverage is initiated and often many years subsequent. Judicial and regulatory bodies involved in interpretation of insurance contracts have increasingly found opportunities to expand coverage beyond what was intended or
contemplated at the time the policy was issued. Many of these policies are issued on an all risk and occurrence basis. Aggressive plaintiff attorneys have often sought coverage beyond the insurers original intent. Some examples would be the industrys ongoing asbestos and environmental litigation, court interpretations of exclusionary language on mold and construction defect, and debates over wind versus flood as the cause of loss from major hurricane events.
We believe that because of the inherent variation and the likelihood that there are unforeseen and under-quantified liabilities absent from the actuarial estimate, it is prudent to carry loss reserves above the actuarial point estimate. Most of our variance between the carried reserve and the actuarial point estimate is in the most recent accident years for our casualty segment where the most significant estimation risks reside. These estimation risks are considered when setting the initial loss ratio for the product and segment. In the cases where these risks fail to materialize, favorable loss development will likely occur over subsequent accounting periods. It is also possible that the risks materialize in an amount above what we considered when booking our initial loss reserves. In this case, unfavorable loss development is likely to occur over subsequent accounting periods.
Our best estimate of our loss and LAE reserves may change depending on a revision in the actuarial point estimate, the actuarys certainty in the estimates and processes, and our overall view of the underlying risks. From time to time, we benchmark our reserving policies and procedures and update them by adopting industry best practices where appropriate. No significant changes were made in 2006.
We have undergone significant changes over the last several years including rapid growth in exposures, diversification in our product portfolio, and changes in our actuarial leadership. Although we believe our existing reserving methodologies produce appropriate results, we likewise believe in continual review and enhancement of our critical reserving processes. As a result, we are benchmarking and evaluating several of our key operational and actuarial processes against other industry best practices, considering what is the most appropriate for us. Changes in our reserving methodologies and processes, possibly significant, could result once our review is completed. Although the precise nature of any new process is uncertain at this time, one important change being considered involves the refinement of our reserve estimation process to include additional recognition of risks within our actuarial point estimate. If implemented, this revision would likely change the point estimate and result in a corresponding revision in our variation from the point estimate. This change would not be anticipated to have a significant impact on carried reserves, but rather would impact the calculated variance between our carried reserves and the actuarial point estimate.
A reserve estimate implies a pattern of expected loss emergence. If this emergence does not occur as expected, it may cause us to challenge our previous assumptions. We may change loss development patterns, the various method weights, and/or expected loss ratios used in our analysis. The impact can be much greater and more leveraged for products with longer emergence patterns. Our General Liability product is an example of a product with a relatively long emergence pattern. A $1 deviation from expected emergence and its effects on other assumptions may result in a change in estimated ultimate loss and ALAE as large as $3.
There are often significant inter-relationships between our reserving assumptions that have offsetting or compounding effects on the reserve estimate. Thus, in almost all cases, it is impossible to discretely measure the effect of a single assumption or construct a meaningful sensitivity expectation that holds true in all cases. Our overall reserve estimates for General Liability in 2005 and 2006 were impacted by very favorable loss and ALAE emergence. The favorable emergence created a cascading impact on other assumptions and an overall reduction in our reserves. In 2005 and 2006, prior accident year losses emerged approximately $13.9 million and $17.1 million better than expected, respectively. As a result, booked reserves were decreased $36.8 million in 2005 and $25.4 million in 2006. The 2006 favorable emergence was concentrated in the three most recent accident years. The company experienced unfavorable emergence in several older accident years that caused us to reevaluate the loss development patterns and thus resulted in some offset to the overall favorable 2006 emergence.
It is difficult for us to predict whether the favorable loss development observed in 2005 and 2006 will continue for any of our products in the future. We have reviewed historical data detailing the development of our total balance sheet reserves for each of the last 10 years. Based on this analysis and our understanding of loss reserve uncertainty, we believe fluctuations will occur in our estimate of ultimate reserve liabilities over time. During 2007, it would be reasonably likely for us to observe development relating to prior years reserve estimates ranging from approximately $50 million favorable to $25 million unfavorable.
Historical Loss and LAE Development
The table which follows is a reconciliation of our unpaid losses and settlement expenses (LAE) for the years 2006, 2005, and 2004.
The deviations from our initial reserve estimates appeared as changes in our ultimate loss estimates as we updated those estimates through our reserve analysis process. The recognition of the changes in initial reserve estimates occurred over time as claims were reported, initial case reserves were established, initial reserves were reviewed in light of additional information, and ultimate payments were made on the collective set of claims incurred as of that evaluation date. The new information on the ultimate settlement value of claims is therefore continually updated and revised as this process takes place until all claims in a defined set of claims are settled. As a relatively small insurer, our experience will ordinarily exhibit fluctuations from period to period. While we attempt to identify and react to systematic changes in the loss environment, we also must consider the volume of experience directly available to us, and interpret any particular periods indications with a realistic technical understanding of the reliability of those observations.
The table below summarizes our prior accident years loss reserve development by segment for 2006, 2005, and 2004.
A discussion of significant components of reserve development for the three most recent calendar years follows:
2006. During 2006, we continued to experience favorable loss development and a reduction in its prior years loss reserve estimates. Pricing increased substantially and policy terms and conditions became more favorable for most of our products during the 2001-2004 policy years. Many of the improvements in market conditions were difficult to quantify at the time of the original estimate. Our significant growth in premium and exposures made precise quantification
of these changes even more challenging. In 2006, losses continued to emerge on the prior accident years much more favorably than the company expected when making its original estimates. We experienced favorable development of $43.4 in aggregate on prior years estimates.
Of this decrease to prior years loss reserve estimates, approximately $40.0 million occurred in the casualty segment. The development is primarily from our general liability, executive products liability, and Texas employers indemnity products. In our general liability product we experienced $25.4 million of favorable development. Most of this development came from the 2004 and 2005 accident years. As part of our normal reserving process, we reviewed the expected loss ratios used in several of its reserving methods. This review confirmed the favorable emergence from 2002-2005 accident years. As a result of this study, the expected loss ratios were reduced for 2004-2006 with the most significant change occurring to the 2005 accident year. Approximately $15.4 million of the favorable general liability development can be attributed to this update in expected loss ratios. The remaining portion of the decrease in prior years loss reserve estimate was the result of the continued favorable loss emergence and the natural progression of shifting more weight to our incurred and paid development methods as accident years get older. In our executive products liability business, we experienced $7.4 million of favorable development. Most of this change can be attributed to accident years 2001, 2003, and 2004. The estimates improved as a result of lower than expected loss severity in those accident years. For our Texas employers indemnity product, we experienced $5.7 million of favorable development. We experienced significantly less loss emergence than expected for accident years prior to 2003 and benefited from favorable settlements on several claims in accident years 2001-2003.
Overall, our property and surety segments experienced relatively small changes in prior years estimates of reserves. However, we experienced $4.2 million of favorable development from 2004 and 2005 hurricane estimates. We also saw $7.2 million of unfavorable development on our construction product that is in runoff. Most of this development came from accident years 2002-2005. The construction emergence pattern revealed itself to be longer than originally anticipated and has not behaved consistent with reporting patterns expected from a property segment. We do not anticipate any further deterioration in our estimates.
2005. During 2005, we experienced an aggregate of $62.5 million of favorable development. Of this total, approximately $57.5 million of this reserve development occurred in the casualty segment. It was primarily from accident years 2002, 2003, and 2004 for our general liability, specialty programs, and transportation products. Pricing and policy terms and conditions rapidly became more favorable for most of our products beginning in 2002. Many of the improvements in market conditions were difficult to quantify at the time of our original estimate. Our significant growth in premium and exposures over this same time period made precise quantification of these changes more challenging because of the resulting mix changes, new exposures underwritten for the first time, and uncertainty in whether the new exposures would have similar emergence patterns as those reflected in our historical data. We appropriately reflected these significant risks in our 2002-2004 initial carried reserves for this business. During 2005, we regularly observed emergence of losses lower than expected for these accident years as the anticipated risks failed to materialize. This resulted in a re-evaluation and corresponding reduction in expected loss ratios used in the loss reserving analysis for these products. The lower than expected emergence, lower expected loss ratios, and the natural progression of increased weighting on the incurred and paid development actuarial methods caused the reserve estimate to decrease. In response to the reduction in reserve estimates, we released $36.8 million, $11.6 million, and $6.3 million of IBNR loss and LAE reserves to general liability, specialty programs, and transportation, respectively. The release for these products was consistent with our loss reserving processes. These releases comprise a majority of the favorable development within our casualty segment.
The property segment also experienced $7.6 million of favorable development. A portion of this positive development is due to the claims department reassessing and decreasing the estimated ultimate level of loss payments for the 2004 hurricanes. Overall, the surety segment experienced $2.6 million in adverse development. Reserve additions on surety products for the 2002 accident year exceeded favorable experience on surety products for accident years prior to 2002.
2004. During 2004, we experienced an aggregate of $10.8 million of favorable development. Of this total, approximately $5.1 million of favorable development occurred in the property segment. Approximately half of the favorable development within our property segment was due to a favorable settlement of an outstanding claim from the Northridge, California earthquake of 1994. The remainder relates primarily to favorable development on losses that occurred during 2003.
In 2004 the cumulative experience attributable to many of our casualty products for mature accident years was materially lower than the IBNR reserves originally booked. Due to the low emergence of loss and LAE, we released $9.7 million of IBNR reserves during the fourth quarter of 2004, which accounted for the majority of the favorable development within our casualty segment. While we had been experiencing robust price improvements in this segment for several years, we also produced significant new business with new exposures. Our reserving evaluation process requires adequate time periods to elapse to assess the impact of such changes in marketplace conditions on our book of casualty business.
The surety segment experienced $6.1 million in adverse development. A portion of this development comes from contract bond products, where we increased IBNR reserves on bonds primarily written before 2003. Additionally, we experienced adverse development on reserves for other surety products, primarily related to the 2002 accident year.
The following table presents the development of our balance sheet reserves from 1996 through 2006. The top line of the table shows the net reserves at the balance sheet date for each of the indicated periods. This represents the estimated amount of net losses and settlement expenses arising in all prior years that are unpaid at the balance sheet date, including losses that had been incurred but not yet reported to us. The lower portion of the table shows the re-estimated amount of the previously recorded gross and net reserves based on experience as of the end of each succeeding year. The estimate changes as more information becomes known about the frequency and severity of claims for individual periods.
Adverse loss and loss adjustment expense reserve development can be observed in the table for years ending 2000-2002 on a net basis, and 1999-2003 on a gross basis. This development is related to unexpectedly large increases in loss frequency and severity and unquantifiable expansion of policy terms and conditions that took place in accident years 1997-2001 for our casualty segment. These causes widely impacted the property and casualty insurance industry during this time as soft market conditions were prevalent. These factors, combined with our rapid growth during 1999-2002, caused significant estimation risk, and thus had a related impact on our reserve liabilities for those years.
As the table displays, variations exist between our cumulative loss experience on a gross and net basis, due to the application of reinsurance. On certain products, our net retention (after applying reinsurance) is significantly less than our gross retention (before applying reinsurance). Additionally, the relationship of our gross to net retention changes over time. For example, we changed underwriting criteria to increase gross retentions (gross policy limits) on certain products written in 1999 through 2001, while leaving net retention unchanged. These products contained gross retentions of up to $50.0 million, while the relating net retention remained at $0.5 million. Loss severity on certain of these products exceeded original expectations. As shown in the table that follows, on a re-estimated basis, this poor loss experience resulted in significant indicated gross deficiencies, with substantially less deficiency indicated on a net basis, as many losses were initially recorded at their full net retention. In 2002, we reduced our gross policy limits on many of these products to $15.0 million, while net retention increased to $1.0 million. As the relationship of our gross to net retention changes over time, re-estimation of loss reserves will result in variations between our cumulative loss experience on a gross and net basis.
Premiums to Surplus Ratio
The following table shows, for the periods indicated, our insurance subsidiaries statutory ratios of net premiums written to policyholders surplus. While there is no statutory requirement applicable to us that establishes a permissible net premiums written to surplus ratio, guidelines established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or NAIC, provide that this ratio should generally be no greater than 3 to 1. While the NAIC provides this general guideline, rating agencies often require a more conservative ratio to maintain strong or superior ratings.