By Carrie E. Cope, Shareholder, Schuyler Roche & Crisham, P.C.
The colorful waterfront and temperate climate of San Diego, California was a welcome backdrop for the 24th Annual International PLUS Conference which took place November 2-4. For those of you not familiar with the organization, the Professional Liability Underwriting Society is a non-profit organization for professional liability insurance specialists interested in the promotion and development of the professional liability insurance industry.
PLUS has over 6500 members worldwide and the Annual International Conference, which is typically held in early November, is usually very well-attended as it offers a variety of educational sessions at a time of year when insurers are in the midst of negotiating their reinsurance contracts and brokers are pushing for those all-important fourth quarter results, giving attendees the opportunity to contemporaneously accomplish multiple goals. This year was no exception, with approximately 1700 attendees, even though an unexpected late October storm that dumped 32 inches of snow on parts of New England kept a few members and speakers from attending the conference.
The theme of the Conference was "Your Global Neighborhood: Explore. Connect. Evolve" which had tripartite goals of: 1) exploring how world events are changing the global marketplace; 2) investigating the connections between the global marketplace and the professional liability insurance industry; and 3) examining how the professional liability insurance industry will continue to evolve to meet the changes. PLUS also rolled out its new logo comprised of four wedges that create a "plus" symbol in the emblem's center. The four sections of the logo represent the history, tradition, diversity and future of PLUS.
Former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Tony Blair, was the opening keynote speaker. In his engaging and thoughtful manner, Mr. Blair discussed the role that historically powerful countries such as the United States and Great Britain may play in an evolving world where countries with large populations and rapidly developing technologies, such as China, are poised to become dominant players in the not-too-distant future. Mr. Blair also threw in some interesting, and more personal, comments about his life as prime minister such as why he will never see the movie "The Queen" which portrayed his relationship with Queen Elizabeth II. That decision was influenced by the Queen herself who had no intention of seeing the movie and apparently wanted his confirmation that he would not do so either! The questions directed to Mr. Blair at the end of his presentation reflected the interest and depth of knowledge of several conference participants who sought Mr. Blair's insight on how to address risks generated by political unrest in the Mideast.
PLUS presented several other featured speakers with diverse expertise including Gail Collins, author and op-ed columnist for the New York Times, Daniel H. Pink, best-selling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind and Michael Tchong, founder of Ubercool, Inc. Another featured speaker, Dr. Robert P. Hartwig, President and Economist of the Insurance Information Institute, addressed the question, which was incredibly apropos in light of the spate of natural disasters and financial failures that have taken place over the last year, of whether the world is becoming a riskier place. The answer, for those who did not attend Dr. Hartwig's session, was an unequivocal "no". Unfortunately for the insurers in the audience, he does not foresee a hard market glimmering on the horizon. His predictions for areas of growth in the next ten years included health care, health sciences and technology.
The educational programs proceeded on 3 tracks: Executive Liability Coverages, Errors and Omissions Coverages and Emerging Issues-Hot Topics. One panel on the "Emerging Issues-Hot Topics" track did an excellent job of combining education and technology in addressing developments in whistleblower and anti-retaliation laws. The panel used videotaped simulated testimony from a model retaliation claim to show how different aspects of a case, as well as the use of different witnesses, can impact a jury award. The audience was given the opportunity to vote at different stages of the presentation via wireless keypads. The results appeared on a screen at the front of the room which then gave the panel an opportunity to comment further. Panelist Jason Fogg, Vice President of Claims and Regulatory Compliance at Monitor Liability Managers, LLC said it best: "As the facts and testimony are developed, the nature of the claim, and the potential exposure becomes more clear. It's like putting tiles in a mosaic--you do not really have the whole picture until all of the tiles are in place.
It is usually difficult for conference participants to attend all of the sessions they are interested in, especially in light of all of the opportunities available to meet with clients and industry colleagues during the PLUS Conference. This year making a choice was more even more difficult given that the variety of panel choices was particularly good. Topic selections ranged from the risks of online behavioral advertising to a new trifecta of directors' and officers' liability exposures (involving the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on D&O liability, the FDIC's investigation of, and claims against, directors and officers of failed financial institutions under FIRRERA and state laws, and the U.S. government's efforts to enforce violations of the FCPA and the U.K. Bribery Act.) Fortunately, PLUS members can access some of the panel materials on the PLUS website and, in some cases, view a video of the panel or speaker they missed.
For those interested in developments in the D&O arena, the D&O Symposium is just around the corner (relatively speaking) in early February of 2012. While even the most avid "Big Apple" fan would agree that visiting New York in February is not quite the same as experiencing San Diego in the fall, those of us who plan on attending can look forward to consoling ourselves with a Broadway show (or two).
Please see the following Chapters MS. Cope has written on D&O Insurance.
New Appleman Law of Liability Insurance, Chapter 22 Directors' and Officers' Liability Insurance.
New Appleman Insurance Law Practice Guide, Chapter 37 Understanding Directors' and Officers' Liability Insurance.
Access The Store to learn more about the New Appleman Law of Liability Insurance and New Appleman Insurance Law Practice Guide.
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