Posts Tagged ‘Ask the Experts’

Improving a tested method to combat the California drought

According to the California Department of Water Resources, the state is in the midst of its fourth year of drought.  As a result, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed a $1 billion emergency drought package in March to accelerate emergency food aid, conservation awareness, infrastructure and flood protection funding, drinking water, species tracking, water system modeling, and water recycling.  The Governor also ordered the first mandatory statewide reductions on April 1 due to the lowest snowpack ever recorded, and no end in sight to the drought.  These courses of action were taken in addition to Governor Brown declaring a Drought State of Emergency on January 17, 2014, as well as a Proclamation of a Continued State if Emergency a few months later on April 25, 2014. Read more…

Exploring the risk of electric vehicles

The benefits of electric cars may be widely known, but the risks are often not talked about. There have been a few areas worth exploring when it comes installing charging equipment, how homeowners policies respond to charging stations and more importantly how drivers are treated following an accident.

With the increase of electric vehicles on the road over the past few years, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) has begun to train firefighters across the U.S. on how to approach and handle these unique cars when they are involved in accidents. Electric vehicles are tricky because it is difficult for emergency responders to hear whether the engine is on or off. Attempting to free a person who is trapped within a running electric vehicle could potentially cause electrocution. Read more…

DOL looking to redefine term “fiduciary” – what that means for employer responsibilities

Vicarious-Liability-employment-contract-426x272Am I a fiduciary? I never like to answer a question with a question but do you make decisions for the 401(k) plan on behalf of the company? If you answered yes then you are in fact a plan fiduciary. There is no hotter topic in the 401(k) industry than the Department of Labor’s effort to redefine the term “fiduciary.” Yet with all the buzz surrounding the DOL’s proposal, many employers who offer a retirement plan are not aware of their fiduciary responsibilities and the liability that comes along with making 401(k) plan level decisions.

What is a fiduciary and who established the rules? Fiduciary responsibilities were instituted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and are monitored by DOL. To ensure that fiduciaries are doing what is best for their employees and satisfying the DOL requirements ERISA has implemented standards of conduct, including:

Employers beware: Eurozone labor shortage continues to grow

December 1, 2014 Leave a comment

worldwideDuring a conversation at the Fall WBN (Worldwide Brokers Network) meeting in Santiago, Chile last month, one of my German colleagues spoke about the challenges some of his clients experienced as they expanded their business into the country. Facing severe labor shortages and the challenge to retain older workers, Germany ranks among the top countries struggling against a tightening labor market.

According to data from the German Chamber of Commerce, 1 in 4 German companies have a lack of skilled personnel, particularly engineers, IT, telecom specialists and software developers. As an increasing number of baby boomers depart the workforce, many national economies are dealing with worker shortages in a myriad of industries and markets. The demographic in Germany however, has been especially aggravated due to the implementation of recent retirement laws. Last May, German lawmakers passed major pension reforms, allowing employees who have contributed to the state pension system for 45 years to retire early at 63 without deductions.  Critics say the overhaul made little economic sense in the countries’ rapidly aging population, and leaves companies struggling with the premature exit of skilled, experienced workers. Read more…

What you should know about appealing an auto surcharge in Massachusetts

minor-accident-1Fewer Bay State drivers are appealing auto insurance surcharges for accidents or traffic violations than they have in the past, even though the odds of winning an appeal are favorable, according to a study by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

Data provided by the state Insurance Board of Appeals, which rules on traffic accident cases alone, shows that the number of drivers appealing those accidents – and the insurance surcharges that come with them – has declined by 36 percent since 2006, even though just over half of those drivers were winning their appeals. Only about 30% of motorists who appealed their cases were found to be more than 50 percent at fault and subject to a surcharge. Read more…

The “frenemy” within – data breaches by insiders a growing concern

Six-figure losses common for even small businesses

A survey by Symantec of more than 3,000 businesses provides useful information about the current state of corporate cybersecurity. Symantec’s 2011 State of Security Survey found that 73% of small and midsize companies had suffered a cyber attack in the past year, and that 30% of the attacks were “somewhat/extremely effective” in compromising the victims’ data. Companies are on alert. According to the study, in fact, companies considered cybersecurity their greatest threat — greater than criminal activity, natural disasters, and terrorism.

Many companies are already bristling with perimeter weaponry designed to prevent external attacks, but their defenses are not impregnable. More than 70% of the respondents experienced cyber Read more…

Tax implications of allocating insurance premiums to foreign subsidiaries

Dammit, Jim, I’m an insurance broker not a tax consultant. In the same way that Bones McCoy was forced by Captain James T. Kirk to provide advice or services that fell outside the scope of his chosen field of expertise, I recently found myself discussing the hairy issue of foreign tax liabilities with the finance team of a multinational company.

Their longtime practice of allocating the premiums paid for global coverages (e.g. Umbrella Liability, Excess Products Liability, Difference In Conditions/Difference In Limits, etc.) was being called into question by none other than their friendly neighborhood broker turned international tax guru. Leaning on knowledge that I gleaned from meetings with my broker partners around the world, I forged ahead with the bold opinion that it may not make sense Read more…