A defective product is recalled around the world. Human error results in a major shipping incident. Credit card data is stolen in a cyber-attack. A dam collapses causing significant damage to the environment: Modern corporate liability exposures can arise from a growing number of sources and have the potential to result in larger and more complex losses for businesses than ever before, warns Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) in a new report Global Claims Review: Liability in Focus.
The report identifies defective product or work, crash and human error incidents as the largest causes of liability loss for businesses, based on analysis of insurance claims. â€¨While ‘everyday’ liability claims like slips and falls or workplace incidents have been reducing due to more stringent safety regulations and better risk management, the report says the potential for more expensive liability losses around the world is increasing, particularly in relation to global product recalls, corporate liability, cyber and environmental incidents. Additionally, new corporate liability exposures will arise from disruptive technologies and the more complex business models of the growing ‘sharing economy’.
â€¨â€¨“Liability losses are and can range from minor and mundane incidents to major disasters, always causing third party damage or injury,” says Alexander Mack, AGCS Board Member and Chief Claims Officer. “The risk landscape for businesses is constantly shifting with liability risks on the rise globally. New technologies such as the internet of things, autonomous mobility or 3D printing will create fundamentally new liability scenarios for companies in almost every sector.” â€¨â€¨
The AGCS Global Claims Review analyzes over 100,000 corporate liability insurance claims from more than 100 countries, with a total value of €8.85bn (US$9.3bn), paid by AGCS, and other insurers, between 2011 and 2016. Over 80% of losses arise from ten causes. â€¨â€¨Top 10 causes of liability loss by total value of claims â€¨
Human error â€¨
Environmental damage â€¨
Property damage â€¨â€¨
Top causes of loss and claims trends
â€¨Impact of a defective product or work is the largest cause of loss, accounting for almost a quarter of the value of all claims (23%). The average loss costs businesses in excess of €260,000 with the cost of product recalls being a major driver. “The number of recalls has been steadily rising with increased focus on product and workplace safety, as well as more proactive regulation,” says Larry Crotser, Head of AGCS Chief Claims Office, North America.
â€¨â€¨Significant improvements in automotive and aviation safety may have reduced the number of collisions and crashes in recent years but these are still a major driver of liability losses, accounting for over a fifth of the value of all claims (22%), as well as generating the most claims. Human error (19%) is the third top cause of loss, driven by incidents which result in major losses, such as aviation and shipping events or employee injury.
â€¨â€¨Human error is a leading cause of claims in Africa â€¨
Africa’s leading cause of liability claims by value is human error at 77%. Defective product/work accounts for 10% of liability claims in value while natural hazards are at 4%. In South Africa, defective work/product leads the way at 37% in terms of top causes of liability loss by value followed by water/fire/smoke damage (26%) and property damage (15%). â€¨â€¨“Accidents happen and they are sometimes very difficult to foresee or prevent.
This is what insurance is for. However where a process or procedure can be engineered to ensure that that businesses carry out tasks with due care, foreseeable losses could be curbed. Companies have to be aware of the potential losses before they can mitigate them, so we share loss information and potential loss scenarios with our clients to enhance risk management methods,” says Storm Canham AGCS Africa Liability Team Leader.
â€¨â€¨Larger losses more commonplace
â€¨According to the report losses in excess of $1bn are becoming more commonplace and are no longer confined to the US, and Europe, as regulators become tougher, supply chains more complex and US-style litigation and compensation awareness spread around the globe. â€¨â€¨The US continues to be the world’s largest liability market generating both the highest number of claims, and many of the largest claims according to value.
“However, we do see a trend towards greater liability claims outside the US with rising awareness of consumer rights and compensation in Asia and Europe,” says Peter Oenning, Global Head of Liability Claims, AGCS. While class actions by consumers and investors remain largely a US affair, a growing number of countries now also allow for collective actions.
Conversely, foreign companies are increasingly being sued in the US. â€¨â€¨Insurers are also seeing a significant increase in large environmental liability loss activity, in the mining and construction sectors, and in Latin America and Asia. Analysis shows the average environmental damage incident costs businesses in excess of €2.3m, although costs will be significantly multiplied in major disasters.
â€¨â€¨Technology to drive big shift in liability losses
â€¨In future, digitalization and growing use of new technologies are likely to lead to a further shift in the liability risk landscape. Overall, the frequency of claims is expected to decline as trends such as autonomous driving improve road safety. However, technology will also bring new liability threats such as increasing cyber, product liability and recall risk.
Automation is likely to lead to increased product liability risk for machinery and component manufacturers and software providers, for example. New data protection laws around misuse or breaches of data will increase cyber liability for companies, potentially resulting in heavy fines and penalties, particularly in Europe from 2018, but also elsewhere. â€¨â€¨The growing “sharing economy” also raises new questions.
“Just imagine, a road traffic accident featuring an autonomous car share vehicle could involve the vehicle manufacturer, software provider and the fleet operator, as well as third parties involved in the accident. This would make liability harder to apportion and claims more complex to settle,” explains Oenning. Such a future car accident scenario will require claims handlers to understand sensors and algorithms to determine the cause of an accident. With the handling of liability claims becoming more complex and technical, investing in claims expertise and knowledge is increasingly important.
â€¨â€¨And finally…unusual liability claims
Liability losses also incorporate more unusual events. Almost 2% of claims analysed involve animals. Deer are the most dangerous due to being involved in collisions with vehicles in the US in particular. Bedbugs are an increasing bugbear for insurers, with the number of claims resulting from infestations and bites in hotels having increased over the past five years.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”