U.S. short seller Muddy Waters takes aim at Manulife Financial Corp.

By Armina Ligaya

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ U.S.-based short-seller Muddy Waters has taken aim at Manulife Financial Corp., warning that an impending trial verdict could lead to “billions of dollars of losses” at the Canadian insurer.

Carson Block, the firm’s head of research, wrote in a report published Thursday that Manulife’s life insurance subsidiary has just concluded a trial that could “significantly damage its earnings, capital, creditworthiness, business, and solvency _ per its own expert’s sworn affidavit.”

“We believe a verdict is likely by the end of this year,” he wrote in the report announcing Muddy Waters’ short position in the firm.

“There are therefore material risks to the financial well-being of MFC. We do not believe investors are aware of these risks, nor do we believe they have been priced into MFC shares.”

Short selling is a trading technique that can produce a profit if a stock’s market value falls below a predetermined price.

Manulife, which has more than 13,000 staff in Canada and a global workforce of roughly 35,000, defended its actions. Manulife also operates as John Hancock in the United States.

“The Muddy Waters report is a short seller’s attempt to profit at the expense of our shareholders, and we disagree with its conclusions,” it said in a statement.

The company said consumers and issuers of universal life policies never intended to have the policies function as deposit or securities contracts.

“We expect we will prevail with respect to this matter and that it will not affect our business operations or our ability to meet obligations to our customers, vendors and other key stakeholders.”

Block whose 2011 report into timber company Sino-Forest triggered an investigation by regulators into what became one of Canada’s largest corporate fraud cases wrote that the trial involves one of Manulife’s insurance contracts purchased in 1997 by a hedge fund called Mosten Investment LP.

The report says that Mosten argues that it can deposit an unlimited amount of money with Manulife through the universal life insurance policy and receive an annualized guaranteed return of at least four per cent with one-month liquidity.

If Mosten prevails with its argument, the hedge fund could sell an unlimited amount of partnership interests backed by the Manulife insurance contract and “likely become the most lucrative money market fund in the developed world!” wrote Block.

“These terms alone could financially cripple Manulife,” he said.

Manulife, however, argues this is counter to the purpose of life insurance, which is to insure mortality risk, according to the report. The insurer also argues, according to Muddy Waters’ report, that insurance companies are not permitted to take deposits and taking unlimited premiums for deposit as investment would be illegal.

Block said Manulife’s argument  “strains credulity” as the product in question had an investment component.

“Insurance companies for some time have been blurring the line between insurance and investment, and universal life seems to me to be an example of such an attempt to blur the line,” he said in a phone interview from San Francisco.

Manulife, Canada’s largest life insurer by market value, said Thursday that Mosten’s position is “legally unfounded.”

Shares of Manulife closed down 65 cents, or 2.80 per cent at $22.54 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The stock was down as much as four per cent earlier in the day to $22.23.

Manulife’s stock performance has already been weighed down recently, including by negative issues in the industry regarding long-term care insurance, said Gabriel Dechaine, an analyst with National Bank Financial.

“While we are happy to see the company take a confident position, we cannot overlook how this issue is adding to an already “noisy” year for MFC,“ he said in a note to clients on Thursday.

BC Court of Appeal ~ “Segregated” Non-Pecuniary Awards Should be Avoided

Several years ago it was more common to see BC courts awarding damages for ‘diminished housekeeping capacity‘ as a stand alone head of damage in injury litigation.  More recently the common practice is for courts to roll these in to the general damages awarded for non-pecuniary loss without a stand alone analysis.  Last week the BC Court of Appeal published reasons indicating the latter is the preferred practice.

In the recent case (Riley v. Ritsco) the Plaintiff was injured in a vehicle collision and sued for damages.  At trial non-pecuniary damages of $65,000 were assessed.  The Plaintiff successfully appealed and in doing so the BC Court of Appeal increased this head of damage to $85,000.  The Plaintiff also argued that the judge erred in not assessing damages for loss of housekeeping capacity as a stand alone head of damage.  In finding no error occured here the BC Court of Appeal provided the following guidance:

[101]     It is now well-established that where a plaintiff’s injuries lead to a requirement that they pay for housekeeping services, or where the services are routinely performed for them gratuitously by family members or friends, a pecuniary award is appropriate. Where the situation does not meet the requirements for a pecuniary award, a judge may take the incapacity into account in assessing the award for non‑pecuniary damages.

[102]     I acknowledge what was said in Kroeker about segregated non-pecuniary awards “where the special facts of a case” warrant them. In my view, however, segregated non-pecuniary awards should be avoided in the absence of special circumstances. There is no reason to slice up a general damages award into individual components addressed to particular aspects of a plaintiff’s lifestyle. While such an award might give an illusion of precision, or suggest that the court has been fastidious in searching out heads of damages, it serves no real purpose. An assessment of non-pecuniary damages involves a global assessment of the pain and suffering, loss of amenities, and loss of enjoyment of life suffered by a plaintiff. By its nature, it is a rough assessment and not a mathematical exercise.

[103]     The $85,000 figure that I have proposed for non-pecuniary loss takes into account all of the general damages the plaintiff has suffered and will suffer. It should not be augmented by a segregated award for loss of housekeeping capacity.

Drivers’ licence suspension system ‘fundamentally flawed’: Ontario ombudsman

By Peter Cameron

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Ontario’s ombudsman says the system for notifying drivers that their licence has been suspended is  “fundamentally flawed” leaving many people unwittingly driving with invalid licences.

In a report released on Thursday, Paul Dube makes 42 recommendations designed to make the system fairer and keep drivers better informed of their status.

Dube says the Ministry of Transportation has already begun to address the recommendations and overhaul the way it notifies drivers whose licences are suspended for unpaid fines.

For example, Dube says one woman was shocked to learn in 2016 that her licence had been cancelled four years earlier over a speeding ticket.

Although she had paid the fine, she was unaware she had to pay a licence reinstatement fee, and said she never received any notice that her licence was invalid.

The report says it ultimately cost her several days off work and hundreds of dollars to reinstate her licence, because the ministry required her to go through the graduated licence system meant for novice drivers.

About 90,000 Ontario drivers have their licences suspended for unpaid fines every year, Dube said.

“In 2017, an estimated 5,000 of the notices that were mailed to them were returned to the ministry, undelivered … but the ministry doesn’t track returned mail so it has no record of which drivers didn’t get the notices,” he said.

“We have heard from drivers who went for years without knowing their licences were suspended,” Dube said.

“When they finally found out, it was through their insurance company or police, not the ministry _ which then treated them as brand new drivers, requiring them to go through the graduated licencing program to have their licences reinstated,” he said.

“Even when the system works as intended, we found it is fundamentally flawed,” the ombudsman said.

Drivers are only ever warned that failure to pay fines “may” not “will” result in licence suspension and suspensions take effect on the day they are mailed before drivers receive them, he said.

Dube noted he will monitor this issue as the ministry reports back to his office every six months on its progress in implementing the recommendations.

Gatineau victims reassured after meeting with insurance bureau, Red Cross

Victims of the tornado that ripped through Gatineau said their concerns were answered during a meeting with the Insurance Bureau of Canada on Monday evening.

About 100 people attended the hour-long meeting at the Maison des citoyens, where IBC and the Red Cross provided information to those displaced by the storm on how to proceed with their insurance claims.

“It’s extremely reassuring to receive information and have answers to our questions,” said Monique Roy, who has had to leave her tornado-damaged home. “What’s happening is new for almost everyone, so it’s great to be able to ask questions and know what’s next.”

IBC had a presentation ready, but most of the meeting was dedicated to answering questions, said Pierre Babinsky, the bureau’s director of communications and public affairs.

“The main goal for tonight was to meet as many people as possible to explain to them what’s covered and what’s not,” he added. “It’s important to explain to them that damages caused by wind are covered by a basic insurance. There is no need for additional protection.”

The tornado, rated high E/F3 by investigators from Environment Canada, left thousands of people without power and hundreds of others without a place to call home when it hit on Friday evening.

Gatineau resident Giselle Poirier said the support she has been receiving has helped her to stay positive.

“Everyone is here for us, even for those who are not insured. It’s great to see everyone come together,” she added.

Others who attended the meeting said they were concerned that the damage already caused by the storm could be made worse on Tuesday with rain forecast throughout the region.

“A lot of people are wondering what’s going to happen tomorrow as it’s supposed to rain, and a lot of us want to know whether further damages caused by the rain could also be covered by insurance, and we were able to have answers to some of our questions,” said Ahmed Housni, 27, who lives on rue Radisson, one of the areas most devastated by the tornado.

Babinsky said IBC has been assisting people since Saturday, answering questions and tracking down insurance companies when needed.

“We have helped people who did not have cellphones with them and who did not know who they were insured with,” he said. “We were able to lend them phones and track down their insurance companies to activate the process.”

Three days after the storm, more than 1,300 people had registered at the emergency shelter, including 437 families, the City of Gatineau said.

Two meetings will take place on Tuesday with the Red Cross and victims who don’t have insurance from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Gatineau City Hall.

Source: Ottawa Citizen 

Cyber Losses: A Serious Organizational Risk In The Modern World

Article by Brian Vail, QC

September 19, 2018, 2:21 PM EDT — Losses and costs relating to cyber liability incidents have escalated exponentially given that the world has become much more computer-dependent and technology is rapidly advancing. The losses suffered by organizations for cyber incidents that interrupt their operations as well as liability to third parties (customers, patients or others) have become commonplace. The question facing organizations today is not if they will suffer a cyberattack but when.

The world began rapidly changing with the Internet age. People and organizations are becoming increasingly involved and dependent on computers and electronic data and data transmission. An increasing number of companies operate e-businesses and many organizations are moving toward a paperless workplace. An entire economy has grown up whereby individual consumers access various online services, disclosing their personal information in the process. That information may be shared across connected multiple platforms.

The Allianz Risk Barometer for 2018 indicates that the number of cyber incidents is increasing at an “almost breathtaking pace.” It ranks cyber risk to be the second most serious business risk for 2018, after business interruption. The number of incidents of cybercrime is growing at an alarming rate.

This includes the introduction of malware to an organization’s computer systems to disrupt computer- controlled operations and corrupt data. The use of ransomware, whereby an organization’s data is encrypted subject to it providing a ransom (monetary or otherwise) to the hacker, has become big business. AON notes that “driven by widespread use of mobile technologies, cloud computing, corporate bring-your-own-device policies, big data analytics and 3D printing, cyber has emerged as one of the fastest growing risks for governments and companies across the globe” and is “in some instances more pervasive than traditional exposures.”[

In the United Kingdom alone, in 2016 46 per cent of all businesses reported at least one cybersecurity breach, including 66 per cent of medium-sized businesses and 68 per cent of large businesses.

Many small and mid-sized businesses have a false sense of security that they are not big enough or do not possess information that would attract the interest to cyber criminals. However the insurance industry suggests that 50 per cent of businesses report having been the victim of attack and 60 per cent of those struck are small and medium-sized businesses.

In Canada the average organizational cost of a data breach in 2016 was $6.03 million, up from $5.32 million in 2015, with an average cost of $278 per stolen record. Average notification costs rose from $120,000 in 2015 to $180,000 in 2016. The average costs of lost business rose from $1.99 million in 2015 to $2.24 million in 2016. These losses were caused 54 per cent by criminal/malicious attacks, 21 per cent by system glitches and 25 per cent by human error.

Thus, cyber claims are having and will continue to have a growing negative impact on the global economy. All organizations should be adopting strategies to protect themselves and minimize losses and planning to respond to such claims. Businesses should be reviewing their computer systems, training and monitoring staff and developing an incident response plan to prevent cyber incidents. They should also be reviewing and updating their insurance coverage to address the risks involved. Both prevention and response are not simply an IT problem. They require a team approach involving multiple departments and vendors (IT, management, human resources, public relations, an insurance broker and legal counsel).

It is a mistake for smaller or medium size business to ignore this issue as much as for large organizations as a cyber incident may seriously impact or even bankrupt an unprepared organization.

They are becoming the most sought-after target by cyber criminals.

Originally published in The Lawyer’s Daily

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Source: Mondaq

Mental health issues are less likely to be seen as a disability

Highlights:

  • Canadians still hold a bias toward viewing disabilities as being largely physical rather than mental in nature.
  • Yet, 30 per cent of Canadians who have taken time off because of a disability say it was for a mental illness.
  • For most Canadians, disability insurance isn’t something they think about in-depth until they need it.

Despite the rise in public awareness of mental health issues, Canadians still hold a bias toward viewing disabilities as being largely physical rather than mental in nature, according to a recent survey from RBC Insurance. While two in three view multiple sclerosis (65 per cent) and physical accidents (65 per cent) as disabilities, fewer than half feel the same way about depression (47 per cent) and anxiety (36 per cent).

“There is a misconception that disabilities tend to be catastrophic in nature, caused by one-time, traumatic events,” explains Maria Winslow, senior director, life & health, RBC Insurance. “What most Canadians don’t realize is that mental illness causes the majority of disabilities. In fact, almost one-third of group disability claims at RBC Insurance are related to mental health, and that number is higher if you count physical disabilities that lead to mental health concerns.”

Many have already been impacted
Despite Canadians’ perception of mental illness, 30 per cent of working Canadians who have taken time off for a disability say it was because of a mental illness.

“It’s important that we continue to raise awareness around mental illness and provide ongoing support so that Canadians are more comfortable speaking about their illness and being honest with their family, their friends and their employer,” adds Winslow.

Room to educate
While the majority of Canadians (82 per cent) with disability coverage feel they’re well covered through their disability benefits, many don’t fully understand the coverage they have:

  • Nearly one-in-five (23 per cent) say they don’t know anything beyond the fact that they have some sort of coverage.
  • Only one-in-three (33 per cent) who currently have disability coverage say they understand the details ‘very well’.
  • Half (52 per cent) know how their benefit plan defines a disability.

“When faced with a mental illness, the last thing you want to worry about is whether you have the proper coverage in place,” explains Winslow. “It’s important that Canadians not only ensure they have disability coverage, but that they understand the details of their policy. Find out how your plan defines a disability and what is and isn’t covered. For example, while some policies cover mental illness, others may not.”

Here are a few more tips to consider:

  • Ensure you have a trusted network in place such as family, friends or professionals you can reach out to for support when necessary.
  • Confirm you have adequate coverage. Some things to look for include how your plan defines a disability; does your plan provide valuable rehabilitation and return to work services; and if you’re covered for injury as well as illness.
  • Utilize programs and services that are available to you. For example, RBC Insurance offers their clients Onward by Best Doctors, a program that provides personal support and faster access to top mental health specialists.

About the RBC Insurance Survey
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between January 2nd and January 4th, 2018 on behalf of RBC Insurance. For this survey, a sample of 1,505 employed Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the results are considered accurate to within ±3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all working Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

About RBC Insurance
RBC Insurance® offers a wide range of life, health, home, auto, travel, wealth and reinsurance advice and solutions, as well as creditor and business insurance services to individual, business and group clients. RBC Insurance is the brand name for the insurance operating entities of Royal Bank of Canada, one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies. RBC Insurance is among the largest Canadian bank-owned insurance organizations, with approximately 2,500 employees who serve more than four million clients globally. For more information, please visit rbcinsurance.com.

SOURCE RBC Insurance

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