Orderly Runoff Didn’t Work; Florida’s United P&C Now Insolvent, Headed for Liquidation
Just days after some 90,000 policies from troubled United Property & Casualty Insurance Co. were transferred to Slide Insurance as part of a wind-down of the carrier, it was announced that UPC is officially broke and will soon be liquidated.
“United was deemed insolvent Feb. 6, 2023, because if all of the assets of United, if made immediately available, (they) would be insufficient to discharge all of the liabilities of United,” reads an affidavit from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation’s director of property and casualty financial oversight. It was part of a consent order placing the company into receivership, made public in February.
It’s the 10th insolvency for a Florida property carrier in the last two years. It’s also one of the first major actions taken under newly appointed Florida Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworsky, who took over after former Commissioner David Altmaier resigned in December.
The demise of St. Petersburg-based United, which was once one of the larger carriers in the state with more than 180,000 policies in force, has played out over the last three years. The company, part of United Insurance Holdings, placed itself into an orderly runoff last August. In late January, the OIR signed an order granting Slide Insurance, headed by former Heritage P&C Insurance CEO Bruce Lucas, some 72,000 HO-3 and DP-3 polices from United. Slide also received the renewal rights on another 21,000 policies and gained an estimated $272 million in premium, but no outstanding claims.
A week later, on Feb. 9, United’s board of directors agreed to liquidate the company.
The Insurance Information Institute’s Mark Friedlander said Sunday that the Slide deal provided UPC policyholders with continuous coverage but did not reduce United’s obligations to pay hurricane claims.
As many as 20,000 claims will now have to be handled by the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, which will likely require another surcharge that will be paid by Florida policyholders, said FIGA Executive Director Corey Neal.
“That’s a pretty good volume of claims,” he said.
This may not be the last of the Florida insolvencies in 2023.
“The market remains very unstable, even with the substantial reforms that were implemented following December’s special legislative session,” Friedlander said in an email. “Other failures are possible this year due to storm losses, reinsurance costs and litigation expenses.”
A statement Friday from United Insurance Holdings suggested that Hurricane Ian in September was the final blow for United P&C.
“UPC was heavily concentrated in the Southwest Florida region and received approximately 25,000 claims from Hurricane Ian with a gross estimated loss of over $1 billion,” reads a statement emailed by United’s public relations firm. “UPC’s outside actuaries determined that its losses would exceed the prior estimate of gross losses, which resulted in UPC exceeding its catastrophe reinsurance coverage.”
Slide’s purchase of the policies was part of an effort to protect policyholders, the company said.
“For more than two years, UPC has made every effort possible to return to profitability, remain a going concern, pay covered claims and handle claims with professionalism, while abiding by all regulations,” the statement added.
United Insurance Holdings contributed $75 million in 2022 to UPC to mitigate losses and help it remain solvent. It attempted to reduce liabilities by selling renewal rights “in an effort to protect policyholders from UPC’s continued deteriorating results.”
The OIR affidavit and consent order recounted milestones on the 24-year-old company’s road to insolvency:
In March 2020, United reported underwriting losses of $36 million for 2019, after weather events in Florida, Texas and Louisiana. OIR then required the carrier to file monthly financial statements and have monthly calls with regulators.
Underwriting losses continued, with $69 million in 2020, $54 million in 2021 and almost $190 million in the first three quarters of 2022. The company’s surplus continued to drop, from $159 million at the end of 2019 to $57 million in fall of 2022.
United took a number of steps to reduce its exposure, including transitioning policies to other carriers.
In April 2022, the Demotech financial rating firm downgraded the strength rating of Journey Insurance Co., a United affiliate. Two months later, OIR approved a plan to merge Journey with another United affiliate, American Coastal Insurance. Another sister company, Family Security Insurance, was folded into United.
Also that month, United notified OIR that Wright National Flood Insurance would take over its flood book. United said it was looking for a buyer for the company.
In July, Demotech downgraded United’s financial rating below what was accepted by the secondary mortgage market, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. United then took advantage of OIR’s temporary market stabilization arrangement to allow Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to act as a reinsurer, or backstop on claims in case of insolvency. That was a work-around to the ratings downgrade and was eventually accepted by Fannie and Freddie. Friday’s consent order did not indicate how much in claims that Citizens may now be asked to cover, above what FIGA will pay in liquidation.
Just four days after the Citizens arrangement was announced, United notified regulators that it was withdrawing from Florida and other states altogether. A buyer could not be found and the company was entering an orderly runoff plan, due in large part to United’s inability to complete its reinsurance program.
In November, United submitted a revised runoff plan that included expected claims and losses from Hurricane Ian. Additional capital from United’s sister companies was infused into the company to aid in the runoff.
On Dec. 5, 2022, OIR issued a consent order, approving the runoff plan and placing United under administrative supervision.
On Jan. 23, 2023, United notified OIR of the transfer of the policies to Slide. OIR officials approved it a week later.
On Jan. 27, United warned that its reserves set aside for Hurricane Ian losses were some $140 million short of what its actuaries had estimated were needed. “If United booked those reserves at the actuary’s point estimate, United would be insolvent,” the affidavit from OIR’s Virginia Christy said.
On Feb. 6, United reported its retained losses and recognized the actuarial estimates. Its surplus for year-end 2022 was shown as a negative $218 million.
Three days later, United signed off on the consent order, agreeing to be placed into receivership.
The consent order was signed by United’s president and chief financial officer, Brad Martz.