Sandra Fenters to Be on Panel @Western Regional Captive Insurance Conference

Tuesday, June 28th, 11am-12 noon.

A Deep Dive into the 4 C’s:

Captives, Control, Consolidation, and Changes

This course will assist service providers in understanding the impact of various captive arrangements on the financial statements and tax returns of captive companies. The ability to communicate the impact of various captive structures, including collateral issues on the financial statements of the insured is an important consideration for financial reporting and tax reporting, whether a separate account, protected cell, incorporated cell, single parent, group captive, or RRG. After attending you will have an overview of the impact of various captive structures on the financial statements of the captive owner/insured.

PANELISTS:

  • Leon Rives, Chief Visionary Officer, RH CPAs

  • Kevin Doherty, Member – Insurance Law Practice, Dickinson Wright

  • Sandra Fenters, President, Capterra Risk Solutions, LLC

  • Nate Reznicek, Head of US Distribution, International Re

A full conference agenda is available here.

Sandra Fenters Debuts on Power 50 List of Influential Captive Professionals

Capterra Risk’s President lands on the Captive Review Power 50 list in 2022.

The Power 50 is an annual list from Captive Review of the 50 most influential captive insurance professionals from the last year.

Captive Review summarized Sandra’s nomination in the following:

President of Capterra Risk Solutions, Fenters and her team manage a number of both national and multi-national captive structures. Passionate about the captive industry Fenters was on the faculty for the University of Delaware’s captive program, and often authors articles on captive insurance. A former broker Fenters has a wealth of experience and is making an impact in the industry.

Fenters began her insurance career with a large international insurance company as a surety underwriter. Her experience spans multiple disciplines including surety, professional liability, commercial liability, and high net worth personal lines insurance. Sandra is an active member of the Self-Insurance  Institute of America, Inc. (SIIA) and sits on committees specific to captives and advocacy. She is joining the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Captive Insurance Association (NCCIA) in 2022.

Congratulations to Sandra and her fellow nominees.

IRS Drops Case against Captive Puglisi Egg Farms

The captive insurance arrangement has been targeted by the IRS in recent years. An autumn court win is a highlight in this long-running battle; it is a victory not only for the captive taxpayer but also for the captive insurance industry.

Puglisi Egg Farms, an owner of a 831(b) captive insurance company, argued that the taxes and fees leveled by the IRS were unfair and unsubstantiated. The IRS decided to drop the fees and taxes before the decision would be announced by the court.

This comes on the heels of a May decision by the US Supreme Court that the IRS does not have special privileges that other government agencies also do not have.

We are pleased to see these cases land on the side of the captive companies. Congratulations to Puglisi Farms. To read more, click here.

 

Captive Insurance Brings Peace of Mind to Houston Business

Client Concern/Issue:

The principals of a Houston-area furniture retailer and interior design firm sought better control over potential business risks that its commercial policies were not covering.

Capterra Solution:

The firm launched a captive insurance program in 2013 to mitigate these risks.

Over 8 years the program has been called upon to cover a number of such claims.  The policy not only covered damage and business interruption losses from Hurricane Harvey, but it also paid claims on lost business due to a key employee exiting the company.

Capterra Risk’s Exceptional Support

The principals value Capterra’s deep expertise in risk mitigation and understanding the retailer’s requirements of their captive program. “Capterra allows us to focus our attention on our business with the ‘peace of mind’ that Capterra has our captive program fully covered.  They rigorously track the program’s details, keep us in full compliance, and update us on regulatory changes that affect our captive insurance company.”

Results/Benefits:

COVID-19: Illustrating the value of captive insurance

The captive program really showed its worth in spring 2020 when COVOD-19 shut down the United States economy. While US government programs did provide some payroll support, the business still suffered closures and significant delays, leading to lost profits. The captive’s Contingent Business Interruption policy paid a significant claim to cover these losses. This claim would certainly have been rejected under a commercial policy.

 

Construction Firm Appreciates Risk Mitigation of Captive Insurance

R.D., Controller of a privately held Pennsylvania-based $150 million construction firm, initiated a review of all the firm’s providers in 2017.  Insurance brokers were asked to complete a comprehensive RFP.

One of the areas the Controller looked to improve was the construction company’s risk mitigation efforts with the possible use of captive insurance.  She traveled to the Cayman Islands to gather more information of this potential risk mitigation tool.

After deciding that a captive plan met the construction company’s goals, R.D. conducted due diligence of 3 captive insurance consulting firms. The construction company selected Capterra Risk Solutions based on its comfort with the team. The construction firm recognized that there are various risks in any business decision, but R.D. is confident that Capterra is a talented partner constantly working to keep the captive in compliance.

R.D. commented that the captive plan provides the following benefits for their Company:

  • Helps risk mitigation as captive covers previously uncovered risks
  • Creates potential to capture underwriting profits with strong loss mitigation techniques
  • Builds awareness of potential claims, risks, and exposures, resulting in improved operations

“Our expectations of launching the captive have been exceeded. The Capterra Risk team keeps us updated on changes in captive regulations and squarely within compliance with the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance.

“We like that Capterra is appropriately cautious. And they encourage us to get involved with activism.”

R.D., Controller, Pennsylvania based Construction Firm

Captive Insurance Pays Off Over the Years for Specialty Chemical Maker

10+ Years of Captive Coverage

The owner of a specialty chemical manufacturer has long utilized a captive program to mitigate company risk.

As a business owner, R.L.E. must look at the big picture and consider long-term decisions including purchasing insurance and best practices in risk mitigation.  With Company exposures in mind, the owner is constantly looking for products to help shore up uncovered or undercovered risks in the business his grandfather started two generations before. R.L.E. first learned about captive program benefits in a Vistage group and began working with Capterra Risk Solutions President Sandra Fenters in 2010.

At the time, the CEO found that his Pennsylvania-based Company could not purchase a policy insuring environmental pollution liability with a traditional insurance carrier. He found that a captive program could write a policy to insure for that risk as well as many other uncovered risks.

“We view our captive as a competitive advantage against our competitors.”

Captive Insurance during  COVID

More recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the chemical manufacturer had issues with its supply chain and struggled to get specific packaging parts delivered on-time or at customary prices to produce the company’s key consumer products. R.L.E. found it had to pay premium prices and to airfreight the pieces to his factory in order to fulfill customer orders. The additional expenses caused by the extraordinary situation were insured by a policy written by the captive; they would not have been reimbursed by their traditional insurance policies. The owner comments “After 10 years and as illustrated by the pandemic, our captive continues to serve our risk mitigation needs.”

“We view Capterra Risk Solutions as a very efficient team that serves our needs well. They know the industry and counsel us to ensure our captive is in compliance with regulations.”

What Brokers Really Need to Know about Working with Captive Managers

Sandra participated on a panel discussion at the SIIA 40th Annual National Conference & Expo in October titled “What Brokers Really Need to Know about Working with Captive Managers.”

Park Eddy from Active Captive Management and Ken Kotch from Ryan, LLC joined Sandra on the panel.  The panel discussed how the Broker and Captive Manager work together to best serve their joint clients.

Major Takeaways from Panel

Sandra and her fellow panelists highlighted these points:

  • The market is hardening: The panel discussed the hardening market where clients are seeing rising premium rates (20+%), reductions in limits and capabilities, and cancelation increases. All of this hardening is in absence of significant claim payouts.
  • Speak as one unified voice to the client: Captive Managers partner with brokers to fill in gaps in coverage for the client. It’s critical that the broker and captive manager provide one valuable solution, delivered in one consistent voice.
  • Eliminate duplicative coverage: After filling in gaps in a client’s coverage, it is key for the team to cut products that are overlapping.
  • Brokers benefit from working with captive managers: A complete risk mitigation solution leads to a happier client whose captive company fills in gaps in coverage as well as potentially being a profit center. Also, fruitful broker relationships with captive managers create access to a broader network of professionals that is likely to provide the broker with new business opportunities.
  • Captive Managers often fill the role of a quarterback: We are creating an insurance company so a number of qualified professionals with specific skills such as actuary, legal, and tax need to be brought to the team. Captive Managers have the expertise to recruit and coordinate these disparate functions to deliver on best practices.
  • Accounting experience for Captive Manager: Sandra recommended that accounting expertise, especially tied to insurance, is particularly valuable for this leader.
  • Recent business interruption losses due to COVID shutdowns are a big issue: Many brokers have unhappy clients who have suffered losses due to the pandemic. Given that traditional insurance is typically not paying business interruption claims, captive insurance can cover these losses. This should be attractive to brokers’ clients.
  • Code of conduct important for clients and brokers: Sandra discussed her work on a SIIA committee that created and distributed its code of conduct for Captive Managers. Clients and brokers should assess a Captive Manager’s adherence to these principles.
  • Quarterly claims reviews are important: Firms get busy and often neglect to make the appropriate and required claims for losses. These reviews are significant to ensure that a captive insurance company is taking on the required financial risk transfer within a company.

SIIA members can view the complete webinar on SIIA’s Canoe site.

Brokers are encouraged to contact Sandra for more discussion about these best practices. Sandra can be reached at sfenters@capterrarisk.com.

How Should You Best Manage Your Risk Given the Hardening of Commercial Insurance Markets

Are you getting decline letters from insurance carriers? Did rates go up at renewal resulting in higher premiums charged?  Are you seeing restrictions or retractions in coverage terms and conditions or reduction in limits available?

The pandemic has caused the greatest economic disruption in generations.  All industries are affected, causing many firms to rethink their business models, operations, and risk appetites.  Given the current circumstances, many companies are reviewing their risk management plan and uncovering potential risks and exposures they hadn’t considered in the past.

At Capterra Risk we have played active roles in the insurance industry for 25 years. There has never been one global shared risk that enacted such extensive global changes including those we are seeing in the commercial insurance market encompassing so many lines of coverage.

We are sure you are seeing some of these changes:

  • Premiums are going up, even if claim histories are low
    • Commercial property insurance pricing in the U.S. increased 22% in the second quarter of 2020, according to the Global Insurance Market Index by Marsh LLC.
    • Commercial financial and professional liability insurance average rates in the U.S. increased 30%, as pricing in the directors and officers market was up 59%, with more than 90% of clients experiencing an increase, Marsh said.
  • Insurers are limiting coverage or adding more exclusions
    • Several D&O insurers are also trying to impose both bankruptcy and COVID-19 exclusions in their policies
    • Joe Peiser from Willis Towers Watson adds “we’ve seen intense underwriting reviews, reductions in available limits, non-renewals and even some cancellations.”
  • Companies are scaling back or exiting sectors
    • According to Peiser, for distressed industries like retail, hospitality and health care, rate increases could be even worse, given a dramatic fall-off in insurance capacity for these sectors.

Hardening of Market

In the fall of 2019, the market began to firm and has continued to harden, meaning that insurance companies are reevaluating their coverages offered in light of the changing market and uncertainty. Consequently, we are seeing premium increases, reductions in available limits, retractions in coverage terms and conditions, denials, and even some insurers exiting markets.

With the pandemic, resulting recession, and current social unrest, this hardening market is not likely to change anytime soon.

As an owner looking to cover business risks, the limitations being added to the commercial insurance policies in this hardening market will likely impact you in a significant way.

What Does This Mean to Business Owners?

You have various (some undesirable) options including, but not limited to, (1) purchasing coverage in the traditional market with reduced limits, (2) purchasing coverage in the traditional market with higher deductibles, (3) going without certain coverages and taking on more risk in your business, (4) purchasing coverage with truncated terms and conditions, (5) reducing your highest-risk operations within your Company.

Another option that is getting more attention in 2020 is forming a captive to write coverages and ultimately reduce some of the effects of the hardening market.

Benefits of captive insurance include:

  • Captive owners better control their own risks, customizing policies to fit their operation and needs.
  • Take higher deductibles on traditional policies and have the captive write a deductible reimbursement policy.
  • If there is not capacity in the traditional market for higher limits, the captive may be able to write an Excess policy with additional limits above those written in the traditional policies.
  • A difference in conditions policy can be written to fill those gaps in the traditional policies.
  • Owners retain profits as opposed to simply paying premiums to commercial programs.
  • Encourages you to be better educated on risks, incenting your business towards better risk management behaviors.

Large companies have taken advantage of the benefits of operating a captive for many years.  The 1986 Tax Act provided the 831b captive framework for smaller companies to have the opportunity to form a captive and the ability to manage risks the way a bigger Company could, by utilizing a Captive.

The lines of risk customers are most keen on insuring through a captive are property DIC, directors and officers, cyber, professional liability, product liability, and trade credit.

 

Does it make sense for you to form a captive?

Contact Capterra Risk Solutions, LLC to find out if your Company is a good fit to form a captive.

Now might be the time to consider captive insurance.  Let us provide a free evaluation of your business’ risk mitigation needs and whether captive insurance can benefit you in this hardening market.

Micro Captives Dropped from IRS’ 2020 ‘Dirty Dozen’; Reason to Celebrate?

By Sandra Fenters

For the first time since 2014, micro captives have been omitted from the IRS’ list of what it perceives as areas of tax avoidance.

This is good news for our industry and the broader industry as well.

However, we need to be realistic in understanding that the IRS has not dropped captive insurance from its’ focus in the future.  You will see in the article below that the IRS explicitly states that it will continue to address issues related to micro-captives.

But given all that is on the plate of the IRS and the government in general, we may see less enforcement activity in 2020.

 

ARTICLE:

Micro captives were not listed on the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) 2020 ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of tax scams, for the first time in five years.

Published in Captive Insurance Times, July 16, 2020

The annual list is a compilation of a variety of common scams that the IRS suggests represent “the worst of the worst tax scams” and should be avoided by taxpayers.

For the last five years, the IRS has referred to micro captives as an “abusive tax shelter” and suggested that certain micro captive “structures, promoters, accountants or wealth planners persuade owners of closely-held entities to participate in schemes that lack many of the attributes of insurance.”

Although micro captives were not mentioned on the IRS’ official list, it did state that an upcoming series of releases will be published on topics such as abusive micro captives and fraudulent conservation easements.

The IRS said that these releases “will emphasize the illegal schemes and techniques businesses and individuals use to avoid paying their lawful tax liability”.

The IRS has had a number of tax court successes against micro captives over the past few years.

In the Avrahami case in 2017, the US tax court disallowed the “wholly unreasonable” premium deductions the taxpayer had claimed in a micro captive arrangement and concluded that the arrangement was not insurance under long-established law.

Last year, in the Reserve Mechanical case, the tax court determined that the transactions in another micro captive arrangement were not insurance.

Prior to those two rulings, the IRS issued guidance that micro captive transactions have potential for tax avoidance and evasion in 2016, and established reporting requirements for them via Notice 2016-66.

More recently, the IRS mailed a time-limited settlement offer for certain taxpayers under audit who participated in ‘abusive’ micro captive insurance transactions last September.

The IRS announced earlier this year that 80 percent of taxpayers who received offer letters elected to accept the settlement terms.

SIIA Objects to IRS Notification Letter

By Sandra Fenters

On March 20th, just four days after the National Covid-19 Emergency was declared, The IRS sent 150,000 letters to captive insurance companies who take the 831(b) election.

This memo was clearly designed to ignite fear in the minds of captive insurance owners.  It’s yet another scare tactic in the Services’ bullying efforts to induce doubt about the health and viability of captive insurance arrangements.

The timing for the IRS could not have been poorer. Despite presenting massive challenges to the global economy, the coronavirus pandemic may well be captive insurance companies’ finest hour. Last week a number of publications highlighted that high severity, low-frequency events like Covid-19 are when captive insurance shows its’ real value in protecting America’s small and mid-sized businesses from disaster.

SIIA Expresses Concerns about Ill-Timed Letters

The Self-Insurance Institute of America (SIIA) wrote to Treasury and IRS on March 30, calling the letters “insensitive and draconian.”

Ryan Work, SIIA VP of Government Relations who leads the SIIA Advocacy Committee on which I am very active, requested that the IRS reconsider its letter and its timeframes given the crisis.

Given the current crisis, combined with the timing and the burden being placed on small- and medium-sized businesses, the IRS should suspend further audit activity until the National COVID-19 Emergency Declaration is withdrawn so as to allow businesses operating captive insurance to mitigate the risks that Congress and the Tax Code allow them to appropriately address. Furthermore, while the deadline is suspended, the overall need for the IRS Letter itself should be reconsidered and information clarified as it is possible for the IRS to deduce the answers to its own questions from information that has already been reported by taxpayers who have complied with the requirement to file Form 8886 over the past two years.

Here is a link to the full SIIA letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Rettig.

We are hopeful that captive insurance companies play a pivotal role in covering losses in the coming months of the pandemic and that the IRS recognizes their critical and legitimate role in mitigating risk not properly covered by other insurance products.