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Catastrophe Insurance, Capital Markets and Uninsurable Risks

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  • Dwight M. Jaffee
  • Thomas Russell

Abstract

This paper examines the causes of the failure of the private market for catastrophe insurance and examines some public solutions. Although the standard explanations of insurance market failure (adverse selection and moral hazard, large imprecise risks) are present, we argue that the primary explanation for the failure of this market lies in the inability of insurance companies to arrange for the level of capital necessary to settle a large loss. We examine four reasons for this: a) accounting provisions which preclude the setting up of reserves against losses anticipated but not yet incurred, b) the absence of tax incentives to reserve, c) management fear of loss of control associated with takeovers of companies with large stocks of free cash, and d) reluctance of regulators to raise the rates of firms with large holdings of cash. We examine new capital instruments (catastrophe options, contingency bonds) but find that these new instruments at present fail to provide adequate quantities of capital to meet a large loss. We then examine public schemes in California, Florida, and Hawaii, and argue that if the accounting, tax and regulatory advantages enjoyed by these schemes were made available to the private sector, private corporations would be likely to reenter this market. This paper was presented at the Financial Institutions Center's May 1996 conference on "

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania in its series Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers with number 96-12.

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Date of creation: May 1996
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Handle: RePEc:wop:pennin:96-12

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  1. Olivier J. Blanchard & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane, 1993. "What do Firms do with Cash Windfalls?," NBER Working Papers 4258, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Patricia Born & William M. Gentry & W. Kip Viscusi & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 1998. "Organizational Form and Insurance Company Performance: Stocks versus Mutuals," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Property-Casualty Insurance, pages 167-192 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Mayers, David & Smith, Clifford Jr., 1986. "Ownership structure and control : The mutualization of stock life insurance companies," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 73-98, May.
  4. Jensen, Michael C, 1986. "Agency Costs of Free Cash Flow, Corporate Finance, and Takeovers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 323-29, May.
  5. Dwight Jaffee & Thomas Russell, 1998. "The Causes and Consequences of Rate Regulation in the Auto Insurance Industry," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Property-Casualty Insurance, pages 81-112 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Black, Fischer & Scholes, Myron S, 1973. "The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 637-54, May-June.
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