News

The Plexus Groupe Hires Kari Fredrick as Vice President of HR

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The Plexus Groupe, an innovative, client-focused insurance brokerage and risk management consulting firm, has hired Kari Fredrick as Vice President of Human Resources.

Fredrick brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in human resources, said Matthew McKenna, Chief Financial Officer of The Plexus Groupe.

“Kari’s expertise is in developing and implementing strategic human resource initiatives that will ultimately help make our already thriving company the best workplace possible for our associates,” McKenna said.

Fredrick earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and a master’s degree from Roosevelt University in human resources management. She then attended Argosy University to earn a doctorate degree in business administration and holds the SHRM Senior Certified Professional credentials for HR.

Fredrick spent the last 14 years working in the manufacturing industry and now looks forward to showcasing her skills in the insurance industry with The Plexus Groupe.

“It is an honor to join the Plexus team,” Fredrick said. “I am excited to visit each office and become part of the culture of this great company.”

The Plexus Groupe offers innovative solutions in employee benefits, property and casualty, corporate retirement plans, personal lines insurance, human resources administration/consulting, benefits technology services, and mergers and acquisitions. Additionally, the Plexus Global Network gives clients access to insurance placement in 130 countries around the world. Plexus is headquartered in Deer Park, Ill., with additional locations in Chicago, Dallas, and Oklahoma City.

For more information on strategic insurance solutions, please contact the firm at 847-307-6100 and ask to speak to a client executive. The firm can also be reached via the Web at www.PlexusGroupe.com.

The Plexus Groupe Earns Bronze Workplace Health Achievement From The American Hearth Association

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The Plexus Groupe earned a 2018 Bronze Workplace Health Achievement award from the American Heart Association for its comprehensive wellness program.

The American Heart Association’s Workplace Health Achievement measures the comprehensiveness and quality of a company’s workplace health program, and the overall heart health of its employees.

The program takes into account seven organizational best practices: leadership, reporting outcomes, programs, policies and environment, partnerships, engagement and communications.

The Plexus Groupe offers a comprehensive wellness program that includes a walking challenges, fruit and vegetables served daily and preventive care and screenings among other initiatives.

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS NEWSLETTER: August 2018

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There are over 42,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—a figure that has been rising steadily since the turn of the century. The opioid death rate is now more than five times greater than it was in 1999.

In addition to the skyrocketing opioid-related deaths, there are countless Americans who are still abusing

In addition to the skyrocketing opioid-related deaths, there are countless Americans who are still abusing prescription medications. This means employers must figure out how to best address this crisis with employees. That is where The Plexus Groupe can help.

The purpose of this toolkit is to help employers understand and deal with the opioid epidemic, create a healthier and more productive workforce, and reduce costs. This toolkit is not intended to replace the advice of a medical or legal professional. In many cases, you may need to contact a professional for assistance. However, this information can serve as a starting point for developing a meaningful opioid strategy.

What Are Opioids?

In the most basic terms, the CDC defines opioids as “a class of drugs used to reduce pain.” However, not all opioids are the same. There is a wide range of legal and illegal drugs that are classified as opioids. For example, Vicodin, a legal painkiller commonly prescribed to patients, is an opioid. By comparison, heroin, an illegally manufactured drug that has no medical use, is also an opioid. Both are killing thousands each year.

Opioids vs. Opiates

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These terms are used interchangeably by many who report on the opioid crisis. While this may be fine for a basic understanding, knowing the difference between opioids and opiates could matter to your organization’s plan administrator.

This toolkit uses the term “opioid” exclusively to include both categories of drugs.

Common Types of Opioids

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It should be clear by now that many drugs are considered opioids. Here are the names of some commonly abused opioids, with their brand names listed for recognition. These include prescription medications and illegal offshoots.

What Employers Can Do

The opioid crisis is not going away. Estimates show this epidemic costs the U.S. economy over $95 billion annually, with employers paying $18 billion of that themselves. And, these figures are only expected to rise. Employers need to do everything possible to combat the impact opioids have in the workplace.

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There is no silver bullet for this crisis. However, exploring new initiatives can help you develop your own strategy to best suit the needs of your employees. This section provides examples that may help you.

Understanding the Impact

Employers across the country are working to curb the misuse of prescription opioids. With more employees falling victim to addiction, employers are seeing lower productivity, higher health care costs and fewer qualified job applicants.

When so much of the workforce is at risk of opioid abuse, that can put a strain on benefit programs—especially health care costs. Overprescribing creates ample room for abuse, which can result in employers paying more for their drug plan than they need to be.

It can be hard to identify illegitimate use, especially with prescribed medications. Employers may need to try more unique approaches to curb opioid abuse. Addressing the problem with employees directly can be a good place to start.

Employee Education

Opioid abuse is not happening in a vacuum. Even if employees themselves are not using opioids, their lives may be affected by loved ones who are. This can indirectly affect their job performance and contribute to the overall crisis.

Employers should do their best to provide employees with educational materials to help them understand and take action against the opioid crisis. Lasting reform can only happen if individuals take charge of their situation. Educating employees is the first step.

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Consider the following suggestions when developing your own communication campaign:

Explain the Risks

Reminding people about addiction’s tragic side effects could help motivate them to abstain from or seek treatment. Directly facing the consequences of your actions can be powerful, especially when paired with other resources. Try putting up posters or sending information directly to employees that calls attention to the dangers of opioid misuse.

Encourage Employees to Speak With a Doctor

Sometimes employees do not think to speak to their doctors about opioid abuse. This could be because employees are worried about losing their prescriptions, or perhaps they do not know how their doctor could help. Regardless, a doctor is more qualified than your organization’s HR department to help with medical issues stemming from opioids.

Educate employees on the importance of speaking openly with their doctors. If they are worried about losing a prescription, explain that there are other effective ways to treat chronic pain. Most importantly, reassure employees that their doctors are there to help, not get them in trouble for misusing medication.

Promote Your EAP

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be extremely beneficial for your workforce. Traditionally, EAPs help with personal issues, like smoking cessation or stress management. However, they can also help with opioid usage.

Like any other EAP, a program geared specifically toward opioids can help employees deal with this debilitating addiction and put energy back into their job. Read more about EAPs in the following section.

Employee Assistance Programs

Because substance abuse and mental health issues can impact the workplace so significantly, many companies choose to offer EAPs. However, an EAP is only useful if it is tailored to your employees’ needs. In this case, employees need resources to fight their opioid addictions.

An EAP supplies professionals who provide counseling to employees and their families in a safe and private atmosphere. Generally, all the information disclosed will remain confidential, and no disclosure to employers will be made without written permission. Using an EAP will not jeopardize an employee’s job or chance for promotion, which are two repercussions many drug users fear. These factors lower barriers and can encourage more people to seek help.

The EAP makes a limited number of counseling sessions available to employees at no cost. Should an employee and his or her counselor decide that a referral to an outside provider is necessary, those costs will then be the employee’s responsibility.

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Consult your EAP vendor to determine what the payment structure looks like so you can advise employees on best usage practices.

Benefits of an EAP

An EAP not only helps employees, it helps the entire business. When employees are in good mental and physical health, the whole organization benefits.

Offering an EAP can put employees in touch with experts who can help start their treatment.

Opioid addiction should be treated like a chronic illness. Simply providing one treatment option will not help create lasting change. It takes time, energy and ongoing treatment to help reverse opioid addiction.

Speak with your EAP vendor to discuss adaptions that can better meet the needs of your workforce.

Have questions regarding opioid addiction in the workplace, this newsletter, or any other employee benefits matters? Contact a client service team representative from The Plexus Groupe in Deer Park, Illinois at 847-307-6100, Chicago at 312-606-4800, Dallas at 972-770-5010 or Oklahoma City at 405-840-3033.

We’re here to help and we’re happy to help.

Content provided by Zywave.

The Plexus Groupe Hires Todd Neaves as Vice President, Business Development

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The Plexus Groupe, an innovative, client-focused insurance brokerage and risk management consulting firm, has hired Todd Neaves as Vice President of Business Development in its Oklahoma City office. Neaves brings a wealth of knowledge and experience working in the Oklahoma area with employer’s benefit plans, said CEO and Founder of The Plexus Groupe, Walter R. Fawcett, III.

“Todd’s expertise is providing cost effective employee benefit strategies that will help our clients recruit and retain the best employees while meeting all financial objectives,” Fawcett said.

Neaves, who graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in business administration, looks forward to showcasing his skills at The Plexus Groupe.

“It is an honor to join the Plexus team.  I have admired the client-centric focus and work done by Plexus for quite some time and am truly humbled to now be a part of this exciting organization,” Neaves said. “We have a tremendous opportunity to provide a unique service model to our clients. I look forward to continuing my focus of identifying cost-effective solutions that are borne out of each client’s needs and culture.”

The Plexus Groupe offers innovative solutions in employee benefits, property and casualty, corporate retirement plans, personal lines insurance, human resources administration/consulting, benefits technology services, and mergers and acquisitions. Additionally, the Plexus Global Network gives clients access to insurance placement in 130 countries around the world. Plexus is headquartered in Deer Park, Ill., with additional locations in Chicago, Dallas, and Oklahoma City.

For more information on strategic insurance solutions, please contact the firm at 847-307-6100 and ask to speak to a client executive.

PROPERTY & CASUALTY NEWSLETTER: August 2018

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The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union (EU) data protection law that applies to all individuals living in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) but has big implications for U.S. companies doing business around the globe. The law aims to put EU residents in control of their personal data. It regulates how their data is collected, processed, stored, deleted, transferred and used. U.S. companies doing business in the EU and EEA had to comply with the regulation by May of this year or face stiff fines of up to 4 percent of annual global revenue or $20 million, whichever is higher. But many companies are struggling to reach the level of compliance required.

This law has implications for nearly every global industry like healthcare, legal, finance, insurance, and consulting. When it comes to targeting industries, finance has a bullseye on its back. Because of this, financial organizations have processes and technologies in place to detect and respond to any breaches, thanks to industry regulations like FINRA.

GDPR regulations bring a huge shift for US businesses in terms of post-breach notification requirements, potential issues with the insurability of GDPR fines, and the regulation of equal liability on data owners and data processors.

Data breaches and cyber attacks are the new normal and the risks are becoming more mainstream, massive attacks being reported daily, and all of the breaches usually include personal data.

The United States doesn’t have a federal law like the GDPR, but some states are putting similar regulations in place. New York’s is called the Department of Financial Services cybersecurity regulation (23 NYCRR part 500) and became law in March 2017. This law protects citizens and consumers by forcing businesses to have secure cyber systems in place to safeguard the confidentiality and availability of identification and financial information. If their system is breached, they need to be able to detect a breach and respond to it immediately to mitigate the breach. They also must report the event and begin a cyber audit to identify how the breach occurred.

IT departments around the globe were scurrying to meet the May 2018 GDPR deadline but many U.S. businesses remain non-compliant and have purchased cyber insurance to rely in case of a breach. Cyber insurance can help cushion the cost of a breach, including secondary costs like the expense of containing, communicating, investigating and remediating the hack. However, many insurance policies don’t cover fines from non-compliance to the GDPR principles. That why multiple layers of defense are needed. Such layers could include technical and organizational controls that protect the integrity and confidentiality of EU personal data.

To be compliant, some businesses will:

  • Discover and classify all personal data
  • Create a plan to close all identified protection control gaps
  • Devise and communicate a data privacy policy
  • Encrypt all personal EU data
  • Develop a processing policy
  • Partner with third-parties that process personal EU data on its behalf
  • Produce a process to test the effectiveness of data protection control
  • Enhance security controls: monitor, detect, respond and report all policy violations and external threats.

 

Adhering to compliance and standards-based framework can help businesses attract and retain more customers. By building trust with consumers, businesses can differentiate and grow in an ever more competitive global market.

If you have questions about this article or cyber insurance, contact a cyber insurance expert at The Plexus Groupe at 847-307-6100.

 

DID YOU KNOW? Prepare For Back To School With Insurance Policy Review

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A back to school insurance review is vital for anyone with children living at college or boarding school. Whether it's the first year away or the last, going away to school has several insurance implications that need to be addressed to ensure adequate coverage.

Housing

Students living away from home for the first time present new worries for their parents. What if they have friends at their dorm and someone gets hurt?  What if they forget to turn off an appliance and cause a fire?  What if their laptop is stolen?

Many schools require first-year students to live on campus, so renter’s insurance may not be necessary. Some insurance companies include student housing in their definition of a covered location, but it pays to check with your agent.  If the policy language is unclear or if the policy does not automatically include student housing, a liability extension endorsement can be added to the policy for a very modest increase in premium, usually less than $50 annually.  The endorsement changes the home insurance policy to provide liability coverage to include a student's dorm room at school.  With this extra coverage, if someone gets hurt in their dorm, there is now no question about coverage.

But what about all the stuff they brought with them to school? Most home insurance policies will provide coverage for property located outside the main residence, with some restrictions – usually 10% of the property limit on the home insurance policy. For example, if your home insurance policy provides you with $200,000 of personal property coverage, up to 10% of that limit ($20,000) may be automatically covered while at college or boarding school.

There are two drawbacks to using this approach to cover property located in a dorm. First, the deductible from your home insurance policy would apply to the loss. If you have a high deductible on your home insurance policy, a small personal property claim at the dorm may not clear your deductible. Secondly, Loss of Use coverage (or sometimes called Additional Living Expense) does not extend to other locations listed on the policy. Let’s say a pipe bursts in the dorm, causing damage that will take months to repair. There is no coverage for additional living expenses you might incur while your child is living elsewhere.

If you don’t want to accept these policy limitations, a separate renter’s insurance policy should be implemented. Renter’s insurance will provide liability insurance for the dorm, or off-campus address listed in the policy, as well as the personal property at that location. The amount of personal property coverage is usually subject to a minimum amount ($20,000 to $25,000 is common), but a separate policy will allow you to secure a lower deductible, keep any losses from showing up on your home insurance policy, and provide you with Loss of Use coverage.  Expect to pay around $200 per year for a basic renter’s policy.

Whether you choose to extend coverage or take out a renter’s policy, don’t forget to list this location on your personal umbrella policy.

Itemized personal property

If you’ve made a significant financial investment in a laptop for your student, it may make sense to itemize it on your home insurance policy – much like you would a new piece of jewelry. Some insurance companies don’t like to schedule laptops, but it pays to check.  Expect to pay between $20 and $25 per-thousand of coverage.

Paying this additional premium gives you extra coverage for misplacing the laptop and accidental damage, with no deductible applied to the claim.

Cyber Liability

Free wi-fi might be a great way to attract students to a coffee shop or a study room, but it is also a great way to become a victim of identity theft. Your son or daughter might have your credit card information or other personal data on their cell phone, exposing you to financial loss.  Many home insurance policies offer optional cyber liability coverage by endorsement.  The amounts of coverage can vary widely, and there may even be customizable limits within the endorsement, so a conversation with your agent is essential.

Vehicles

If your son or daughter does not bring a car with them to school, you may be able to get a discount on your auto insurance. Most companies will provide an “away at school” discount if the school is at least 100 miles from home.

If they bring a car with them to school, coverage will need to be amended to show a different “garaging location." Depending on the state and the insurance company, a separate auto policy may need to be written if the car is garaged in a different state.

It is also important to remind your son or daughter that the insurance follows the vehicle. If they let their roommate, a friend, or a friend of a friend borrow their car, the insurance on the car pays for the claim. By extension, this means your personal umbrella would also cover the claim if the claim was severe.  Strongly discourage your child from letting anyone use their car while it is with them at school.

And DO NOT let them sign up as a driver for Uber or Lyft while they are at school. They might think it’s a good way to make a few extra dollars, but there are absolute coverage exclusions on auto insurance policies when vehicles are used as a taxi or livery service. Uber and Lyft provide their own insurance, but there may be coverage gaps as to when their coverage applies and when it does not and how it coordinates with your own policy. The risk far outweighs the financial reward.

Have questions about a back to school insurance review? David Miller has answers. Miller, who writes the monthly, DID YOU KNOW? blog is The Plexus Groupe's Vice President, Client Executive for Private Client Solutions. Miller can be reached by calling 846-307-6141.

Top 5 Insurance Tips for CFOs

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When selecting an insurance brokerage and structuring a risk management plan, Chief Financial Officers (CFO) need a clear perspective on how and where that plan aligns with the business's short and long-term goals. Here are the top 5 insurance tips for CFOs to help select the right insurance brokerage and coverage:

Credit Quality: A.M. Best rates insurance companies on their financial strength. You should not choose an insurer with less than a A+++ or A+ rating. Insurers should have a record of prompt claims settlements and payments.

Risk Tolerance: All risk not financed, avoided or reduced is thereby retained by your business either actively or passively. Your risk manager should be making you aware of both insurance and non-insurance ways to mitigate your risk. This could be as simple as coverage placement, machine guarding or contract language. If you don't know, ask! A large uncovered claim could be detrimental to the balance sheet.

Reliability: Are the presented insurers and the brokers credible? Do they deliver even the small promises they make? Do you feel like you are treated the same as a multi-billion dollar company would be? If not, you should be thinking of change.

Communications: Do you have clear and reliable communication channels with your brokerage team? Do you know who to contact with a general question, a claim or a certificate request? Is your broker communicating information that is relative to your business? Were all of your concerns adequately addressed, or were they glossed over during the presentation?

Knowledge: Insurance lingo, coverage, case studies, bench-marking, and procedures can all be looked up, but is your broker taking the time to understand your business? Does it seem like they are asking a lot of questions? Does your broker ask you uncomfortable questions, or are they skirting around the issues to get a quick sale? A reputable insurance brokerage will ask a lot up-front in order to gain a better understanding of where your business is and where it is going.

If you have not experienced all of the above, consider partnering with The Plexus Groupe. We value long-term relationships and we know that starts with you.

Matt Wilkens, ARM, can be reached at mwilkens@plexusgroupe.com or by calling 847-307-6157.

The Plexus Groupe Retains Best Practices Status

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The Plexus Groupe has retained its IIABA Best Practices status, once again being included in an elite group of independent insurance agencies across the United States. This status is earned by participating in the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big "I") Best Practices group. The annual survey of leading independent insurance agencies documents the business practices of the "best" agencies and urges others to adopt similar practices.

The Plexus Groupe, a fast gorwing, progressive insurance brokerage and risk management consultancy serving clients around the globe, has earned this distinction six times.

Walter R. Fawcett, III, The Plexus Groupe's Founder and Chief Executive Officer, said this designation is important to distinguish the company as a leader in the industry.

"This is something we take seriously and strive for each year," Fawcett said. "This recognition is the direct result of the efforts of all the associates at The Plexus Groupe."

Since 1993, IIABA and Reagan Consulting, an Atlanta-based management consulting firm, have joined forces to study the country's leading agencies. The agencies comprising the groups are selected every third year through a comprehensive nomination and qualifying process and awarded a "Best Practices Agency" designation. The agency was nominated by either an IIABA affiliated state association, or an insurance company, and qualified based on its operational excellence.

PCORI FEES DUE TUESDAY

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PCORI Fees, imposed by the Affordable Care Act to employers who provide health insurance to their employees, are due Tuesday to the IRS. The fee is the amount of money paid by employers who provide health insurance to their employees and imposed by the ACA to fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

The fee is required to be reported only once a year on the second quarter Form 720 and is based on the average number of lives covered under the policy or plan.

For most 2017 plans, the PCORI fee is set at $2.26 per covered life per year. The PCORI fee will be indexed yearly to national health expenditures until it ends in 2019.

For plan years ending from October 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017, the PCORI fee is $2.39 per covered life, with the fee due on July 31, 2018.

For plan years ending from January 1, 2018 through September 30, 2018, the PCORI fee is $2.39 per life, with the fee due on July 31, 2019.

Please refer to the following chart for the filing due date and applicable rate depending upon the month a specified health insurance policy or an applicable self-insured health plan ends.

Contact us

Have questions regarding the PCORI fee for 2018? Contact a Plexus client service team representative in Deer Park, Ill. (847-307-6100), Chicago (312-606-4800), Dallas (972-770-5010) or Oklahoma City (405-840-3033).

We’re here to help – and we’re happy to help.

The Plexus Groupe Holds Book Drive

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The Plexus Groupe is holding a book drive to benefit Bernie's Book Bank.

 

The progressive insurance and risk management consultancy firm, providing solutions for clients around the globe, has a goal of collecting 500 new and gently used books for readers through sixth grade by August 1, 2018.

 

According to the Chicago-based book bank, 2 out of 3 low-income children have no books of their own. Bernie’s Book Bank, the city's largest provider of quality children’s books, is changing that with 12 books per year for 12 years. Since 2009, the organization has collected 12,659,768 books since 2009 for young readers.

 

If you would like to donate books, drop them off at the company's headquarters located at 21805 W. Field Parkway Suite 300 in Deer Park.

The Plexus Groupe Announces Offering Work Shield Solution to Combat Harassment In The Workplace

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The Plexus Groupe recently announced providing Work Shield as a workplace harassment solution for its Employee Benefits clients. Work Shield and its ERISA-qualified Employer Harassment Prevention Plan (“EHP Plan”) is a new and innovative workplace harassment solution that works for everyone. This plan can be purchased and added at any time. The Work Shield solution provides an independent platform for employees to address -- and employers to prevent -- harassment issues in the workplace.

This program was created in part as a response to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement.

Women, usually the victims of sexual harassment at work, are just no longer taking the abuse. They are finding their voice, speaking up and demanding change causing human resource departments across the nation to scramble to reform their ways and find new solutions.

The movement has resulted in more workplace complaints, companies fine-tuning their policies and procedures and even developing new prevention education.

As set forth by the EEOC, more than 33 million women have experienced sexual abuse and about half of those incidents took place at work. However, that number may be low because according to the EEOC, 75 percent of workplace harassment incidents go unreported.

Most victims of workplace harassment don't report the incident because of fear - fear of not being believed, fear of retaliation, fear of losing their job, fear of being ridiculed, and fear of having the incident “swept under the rug”, among other factors. Employees rarely feel safe and protected with their employer's current sexual harassment policies and procedures.

Work Shield serves a third party that provides a safe and secure conduit between all parties involved in a workplace harassment incident. An employee who is feeling harassed can use the Work Shield platform to report the incident on a HIPAA-secured portal – both anonymously and not.

Once an incident report is filed, Works Shield and its team of experts begin an investigation that is based on listening and understanding, while finding the facts surrounding the incident.

Within 45 days, Work Shield will provide an incident report of the findings and make a qualified recommendation to the employer regarding the incident – all with compliancy, confidentiality (as it relates to keeping the matter between only those applicable parties) and sensitivity as the key components to the determination and recommendation.

The existing system of handling workplace harassment issues is broken. The only resource for employees is to file EEOC charges and even lawsuits. Oftentimes, these employees win – BIG – due to an employer not appropriately handling, investigating and procuring the right solution. Since 2010, companies have paid out nearly $700 million in settlements to victims of workplace sexual harassment.

Workplace harassment not only impacts companies through legal costs, but impacts job turnover, sick and low productivity. It is estimated that companies spend an additional $327 million –on these three issues due to workplace harassment. In total, that’s over $1 billion dollars spent on workplace harassment in the past seven years.

But for the price of a cup of coffee per employee per month, the Work Shield platform is the key to preventing and resolving workplace harassment before it gets to a hefty and costly lawsuit.

Have questions regarding Work Shield? Contact a client service team representative from The Plexus Groupe in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033).

We’re here to help — and we’re happy to help.

DID YOU KNOW? Texting While Driving Deaths On The Rise

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Drunk driving is down by 65 percent since 1982, but deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving – like texting while driving – are on the rise. People are busier than ever, juggling home and work lives, managing kids' schedules and rushing from one thing to the next. It is no wonder that people use their time in the car to navigate their day -- making appointments, responding to email, returning a text -- when instead they should just navigate the road.

This wasn't always the most prevalent problem on the road. Alcohol was.

According to the National Institutes of Health, in the mid-1970s, alcohol was:

  • a factor in over 60 percent of traffic fatalities
  • involved in two-thirds of traffic deaths among persons 16 to 20
  • allowed to be purchased by anyone 18-years old.

Since then, a number of factors have been implemented to reduce drunk driving fatalities. Some of those reasons include:

  • the drinking age is now 21 in all 50 states.
  • The level at which a person can be arrested for drunk driving has dropped from a 0.10% blood alcohol content (BAC) to 0.08%
  • a zero tolerance law of 0% BAC for underage drinking have been adopted.
  • drunk driving has been stigmatized
  • the use of designated driving has been promoted.

 

According to Responsibility.org, these efforts have reduced alcohol-impaired driving fatalties by 65% since record keeping began in 1982.

But with the onslaught of cell-phone use -- over 330 billion Americans use one daily -- the statistics for distracted driving are going in the other direction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 9 people are killed and 1,100 people are injured per day due to distracted driving and these statistics don’t include near-misses where an accident was avoided at the last second.

A number of years ago, Car and Driver magazine conducted a test that measured the reaction time of a drunk driver compared to a texting driver. The texting drivers took significantly longer to react to an alert than drivers who were legally drunk, yet texting and driving continues virtually unabated.

Despite these statistics, legal deterrents for distracted driving lag far behind those that have been implemented for drunk driving. In Illinois, the average fine for texting and driving is $75 for a first offense and little or no change in your insurance premium with most insurance companies.  Contrast this with a first-offense DUI in Illinois – A one-year suspension of your driver’s license, a fine of up to $2,500 (not counting attorney fees), and up to one year in jail.  From an insurance standpoint, a DUI may also result in non-renewal of your auto insurance, or astronomical increases in your premium combined with coverage restrictions or eliminations for up to seven years.

In order to fill this void, the insurance industry needs to get tougher on distracted driving. Awareness campaigns are a good first step, but meaningful financial penalties need to be implemented as a deterrent. Perhaps tripling a policyholder’s collision deductible for a distracted driving claim would work because it would have an immediate financial impact at the time of loss.

Have questions about your home and auto insurance coverage and want to make sure you are covered if a texting while driving accident occurs? David Miller has answers. Miller, who writes the monthly Did You Know blog, is The Plexus Groupe’s Vice President, Client Executive for Private Client Solutions. Miller can be reached by calling 846-307-6141.

Cyber attacks don't just affect computer systems. Your machinery may also be at risk.

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Cyber attacks threaten the financial stability of a company. The steep, monetary burden of a cyber attack isn't exclusively tied to damaged digital assets, lost records, and the price of investigating and reporting a breach. Damage to an organization’s physical assets can be just as harmful.

The physical damage of a cyber attack typically occurs when a hacker accesses a computer system that controls equipment. Examples include technology-based controls in a manufacturing plant, refinery or electric generating plant. After a hacker gains access to an organization’s machinery, they control it.

These types of events can lead to major disruptions and costly damages. To safeguard physical assets, it’s critical for organizations to understand the types of businesses and assets that are exposed to these attacks.

What’s at Risk?

Let's compare a cyber attacks to a natural disaster or other industrial accident. Following these kinds of incidents, organizations can incur costs to repair and replace damaged equipment in addition to any lost revenue caused by the disruption.

Unlike natural disasters, however, cyber attacks that result in physical damage aren’t limited to a geographic location and can impact an entire network. This means damages caused by a breach can be widespread, affecting multiple sectors of the economy depending on the target.

Because of this, cyber attacks that cause physical damage are often dynamic and extensive. When an attack on critical infrastructure occurs, it not only affects business owners and operators, but suppliers, stakeholders and customers.

Who’s at Risk?

Cyber attacks that cause physical damage — including the targets, assailants, motives and means of the attack — are constantly evolving.

Incidents can occur in a variety of ways, including: phishing scams, internet exchange point attacks, breaches of unsecured devices and plots carried out by rogue employees.

Many experts deem power and energy sector organizations the most at risk. However, vulnerabilities also exist in utilities, telecommunications, oil and gas, petrochemicals, mining and manufacturing, and any other sectors where industrial control systems (ICSs) are used.

ICSs are open computer systems used to monitor and control physical processes as well as streamline operations and repairs. ICSs are not often designed with security as a primary consideration. This leaves them susceptible to attack. And, for many automated processes, attacks don’t even need to cause physical damage to result in significant disruption and losses.

The targets of cyber attacks vary greatly by industry, and the damage can be extensive due to the interconnected nature of ICSs.

Real-World Examples

Organizations are not always required to report cyber attacks, so they largely go unreported. However, here are a number of high-profile incidents that demonstrate how important it is to consider infrastructure cyber exposures:

→ Ukrainian power grid attack. This was a multisite attack that disconnected seven 110 kilovolt (kV) and three 35 kV substations. The attack resulted in a power outage for 80,000 people and lasted for three hours. The attackers caused substantial, prolonged disruption to the economy and general public utilizing a phishing scam.

→ Saudi Arabian computer attacks. Hackers destroyed thousands of computers across six organizations in the energy, manufacturing and aviation industries. A simple virus stole data and then computers were wiped and bricked. Not only did this mean critical business data was lost forever, but all of the damaged computers had to be replaced — a substantial fee for businesses of any size.

→ Petrochemical plant attack. This attack targeted a Saudi Arabian petrochemical plant. The unique attack wasn’t designed to steal data, but rather sabotage operations and trigger an explosion. The only thing that prevented an explosion was a mistake in the attackers’ computer code. Had the attack been successful, the plant would likely have been destroyed and many employees could have died. Experts are concerned that similar attacks could happen across the globe.

→ Hospital ventilation attack. In this incident, a hacker was able to control a hospital’s HVAC system using malware. This attack put the safety of staff, patients and medical supplies in jeopardy, as the hacker could control the temperature of the facilities.

Cyber attacks will likely become increasingly common, as technology advances and hackers become more creative. Even more concerning is that these kinds of attacks not only endanger a company’s data, reputation and finances, but human lives as well.

How Do I Protect My Organization?

Insurance coverage for cyber attacks is still in its infancy, and your organization may have gaps in protection. Even if your property insurance policy includes physical or nonphysical damage overages, you may not necessarily be covered from first- or third-party losses from cyber attacks.

The level of protection your company has depends largely on the structure of your policies. Therefore, it’s critical for businesses to do their due diligence and understand if their policies do the following:

→ Impose any limits on coverage, particularly as it relates to physical damage of tangible property.

→ Cover an attack and any resulting damages.

→ Provide contingent coverage for attacks that aren’t specifically targeted at the organization.

There are a number of steps businesses can take by themselves to protect their physical assets. In addition to implementing a cyber risk management plan, businesses should consider the following:

→ Keep all software up to date.

→ Back up files regularly.

→ Train employees on common cyber risks and what they should do if they notice anything suspicious.

→ Review your exposures and speak with your insurance broker to discuss policy options for transferring risk.

Contact Us

Have questions about today's newsletter or other commercial insurance matters? Contact a property and casualty client executive at The Plexus Groupe at 847-307-6100, or reach out via the Web.

Disclaimer and publishing credit: This Risk Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. © 2018 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

Plexus Hires Christa Oldham as Vice President, Client Executive in Employee Benefits

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CHICAGO -- The Plexus Groupe hires Christa Oldham as Vice President, Client Executive in Employee Benefits. She will be based out of the national insurance brokerage and risk management consultancy firm's Chicago office. Christa brings nearly two decades of employee benefits consulting and brokerage success to The Plexus Groupe. The Plexus Groupe hires Christa Oldham because she has executed numerous high-level benefits initiatives. She has expertise creating, developing, and deploying strategies that positively impact clients and their employees. She will be responsible for personally managing a portfolio of clients.

“The Plexus Groupe hires Christa Oldham to fill a niche area with her strengths,” said John Dwyer, Plexus Senior Vice President. “Her impressive scope of experience and ability to build client relationships makes her a great addition to our firm. She will be a big part of our efforts as we continue to grow our presence in the greater Chicagoland area.”

WHO IS THE PLEXUS GROUPE?

The Plexus Groupe offers expertise in employee benefits, property and casualty, corporate retirement plans, personal lines insurance, human resources administration/consulting. It also offers benefits technology services and mergers and acquisitions. Additionally, the Plexus Global Network gives clients access to insurance placement in 130 countries around the world. The Plexus Groupe's headquartered in Deer Park, Ill., with additional locations in Chicago, Dallas, and Oklahoma City.

For more information on Plexus’s strategic insurance solutions, contact the firm at 847-307-6100 and ask to speak to a client executive or visit PlexusGroupe.com.

Plexus Introduces 2018 Summer Internship Program

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Deer Park, IL, April 18, 2018. -- The Plexus Groupe, a national insurance brokerage, is proud to introduce its Summer Insurance Internship Program. The Insurance Internship Program allows students entering their junior or senior year in Fall 2018 to apply. Interns will gain valuable real-world business and insurance experience in a workplace environment annually honored as one of the "Best Places to Work in Insurance" by Business Insurance magazine and Best Companies Group. The firm seeks a pair of interns for its Deer Park, Ill. office. It also looks to fill one position in its Dallas office. The paid insurance internship program runs from Monday, June 11 through Friday, August 3.

"We're excited for the launch of our insurance internship program," said Stephanie Martinez, Plexus VP of Human Resources. "It's a wonderful opportunity for students pursuing a career in insurance, a fast-paced field that employs three million nationwide. Also, a field that is undergoing considerable change because of technology. These are exciting times for our firm and we are looking forward to working with these students."

Internship Qualifications

In order to qualify for a Plexus insurance internship, candidates must have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Candidates will preferably major in Risk Management, Insurance, Human Resources, Business, or Finance. Employee Benefits will have two internships open: one in Deer Park, one in Dallas. One intern will work with Plexus's Property & Casualty team in Deer Park.

The Plexus Groupe will nominate interns for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers' Scholarship. This will give them a chance to win $5,000 towards their college educations.

Who is The Plexus Groupe

Plexus offers expertise in employee benefits, property and casualty, corporate retirement plans, personal lines insurance, human resources administration / consulting, benefits technology services, and mergers and acquisitions. In each of the last eight years, the firm has been honored as one of the "Best Places to Work in Insurance" by Business Insurance magazine and Best Companies Group. Headquartered in suburban Chicago (Deer Park), Plexus also has offices in Chicago (Loop), Dallas and Oklahoma City.

For more information on Plexus's 2018 Summer Internship Program, please contact the firm at 847-307-6100 and ask to speak to a Human Resources team member, or visit the firm's Career Opportunities page to apply.

The new tax law has changed the way employers can treat some fringe benefits. Here's what you need to know.

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The Plexus Groupe explains new fringe benefits tax law changes in the Tax Cuts and Job Act released by the IRS for employers. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released the 2018 version of Publication 15-B, Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits. This contains information for employers on the tax treatment of fringe benefits.

The new fringe benefits tax law, released in 2018, incorporates the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to the following fringe benefits:

→ Qualified transportation plans.

→ Moving expense reimbursements.

→ Employer-provided meals.

→ Employee achievement awards.

IRS Publication 15-B also discusses the new fringe benefits tax law for a variety of other benefits and includes key benefit limits for 2018.

Fringe Benefits: Tax Rules

A fringe benefit is a form of additional pay for an employee’s performance of services. Fringe benefits may include, for example, employer-provided cars, discounts on property or services, memberships in country clubs or other social clubs, and tickets to entertainment or sporting events. Fringe benefits are generally included in an employee’s gross income, unless a specific tax exclusion applies.

The Internal Revenue Code includes tax exclusion rules for certain types of fringe benefits. These include transportation benefits, meals, achievement awards, educational assistance and dependent care assistance. The new fringe benefits tax law excludes all or part of the value of certain fringe benefits from employees’ pay. In most cases, the excluded benefits are not subject to federal income or employment tax withholding, and are not reported on IRS Form W-2.

IRS Publication 15-B: An Overview

IRS Publication 15-B contains information for employers on the tax treatment of certain kinds of fringe benefits. The IRS updates Publication 15-B each year for tax law changes. The 2018 version of Publication 15-B is significant because it includes changes made by the new tax law.

Key provisions of Publication 15-B include the following:

Qualified Transportation Benefits

The new fringe benefits tax law, effective for 2018, does not allow employer deduction for qualified transportation benefits. IRS Publication 15-B clarifies that when an employer directly pays for qualified transportation benefits, through a bona fide reimbursement arrangement or through a compensation reduction agreement, their is no employer deduction. Thus, employers cannot deduct the wages that employees choose to contribute on a pre-tax basis for qualified transportation benefits.

IRS Publication 15-B does not address the unrelated business income tax (UBIT) issue for tax-exempt employers that provide transportation benefits.

While employers may no longer deduct payments for qualified transportation benefits, the fringe benefit exclusion rules still apply and employee wages may exclude deductions for qualified parking, commuter expenses and transit passes. However, the tax exclusion suspends qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2026.

Moving Expense Reimbursements

Also, the tax exclusion suspends qualified moving expense reimbursements for tax years beginning after Dec. 1, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2026. The exclusion is limited to members of the U.S. armed forces on active duty who move due to changing stations.

Employee Meals

The 50% limit on food or beverage expense deductions also applies to these expenses that are excluded from employees’ income. However, food or beverage expenses related to employee recreation, such as holiday parties or annual picnics, are not subject to the 50 percent limit on deductions when made primarily for the benefit of employees, other than certain highly compensated employees.

Employee Achievement Awards

Employers may exclude the value of tangible personal property that is given to an employee as an award for either length of service or safety achievement. The new tax law clarifies that the tax exclusion does not apply to awards of cash, cash equivalents, gift cards, gift coupons or gift certificates (other than arrangements in which the employee selects from a limited array of items preselected and preapproved by the employer). The tax exclusion also does not apply to vacations, meals, lodging, tickets to theater or sporting events, stock, bonds, other securities and similar items.

Let Plexus Lend a Hand

Have questions regarding this newsletter or or other employee benefits matters? Contact a Plexus client service team representative in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033). We’re here to help — and we’re happy to help.

Disclaimer and publishing credit: This Compliance Bulletin is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. © 2018 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

Plexus Points: Insurance stories we're reading

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We enjoy reading about insurance. Here are seven insurance stories we're sharing, bookmarking, and highlighting as the work week rolls on:

Insurance Stories

The Economist takes a look at how insurance is working to tailor policies for the freelance workforce.

→ Fixing something and need insurance fast? One agency is offering on-demand coverage.

→ Why are major non-insurers like Walmart suddenly looking to get into the business?

→ Dog bite insurance claims totaled close to $690 million in 2017, according to one study.

→ The state of Kansas allows teachers to be armed in schools, but the state schools' insurer has made it clear it won't cover schools with armed teachers.

→ Here's a neat story from the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal on how area insurers and schools are working to attract students to careers in insurance.

→ The deadly Montecito mudslide has led to more than $400 million in insurance claims.

 

San Francisco Employer Annual Report Due April 30

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The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement requires their Annual Employer Report to be filed by Monday, April 30, 2018. This Plexus Benefits News Alert answers some FAQs regarding these regulations:

Q: Which firms have to file the Annual Employer Report?

A: Employers covered by San Francisco’s Health Care Security Ordinance or Fair Chance Ordinance are subject to the annual reporting requirement.

Generally, this means that employers of 20+ employees with at least one employee within the city or county of San Francisco are covered.

Additionally, employers who are contractors, subcontractors, or leaseholders of the city of San Francisco are covered.

Q: When is the deadline?

A: Covered employers must file the San Francisco 2017 Employer Annual Report by Monday, April 30.

Q: What penalties are possible for missing the deadline?

A: The penalty for not filing in a timely fashion is up to $500 per quarter.

Q: What other requirements do employers face under San Francisco law?

A: In addition to the annual report, there are several other requirements under San Francisco law for covered employers, including but not limited to:

→ Mandatory paid parental leave.

→ Paid sick leave.

→ Posting employee notifications.

→ Keeping specific records in-house.

Therefore, if your clients have at least one employee within the city or county of San Francisco, please inquire as to whether these laws apply to their businesses.

Let Plexus Lend a Hand

Have questions regarding today's Alert or other employee benefits matters? Contact a Plexus benefits client service team member in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033). We're here to help, and we're happy to help.

Why checking your homeowners insurance should be a rite of spring

Double-checking your homeowners insurance probably isn’t on many spring to-do lists. But it should be.

That’s the advice from David Miller, Vice President and risk management expert at Plexus Private Client Solutions, a suburban Chicagoland personal insurance agency protecting the life’s work of successful families and individuals with tailored home, auto, and umbrella coverage solutions.

In his recent article, “Eight Things That Might Surprise You About Your Home Insurance Policy,” Miller highlights some hot-button issues for homeowners, including:

Your home may be underinsured. Via Consumer Reports, which cited data from analytics firm CoreLogic, three out of every five homes are 20% underinsured on average. In the case of a total rebuild, this could leave homeowners left to pick up the pieces — while also picking up the check.

Take a look at your deductible, because it may have changed. Miller, who has more than two decades of insurance experience, cautions homeowners to be aware of wind and hail deductibles. These have been on the rise, with an uptick in roof-related claims particularly an issue. An insurance company can only change your coverage at renewal; make sure to read the fine print. Your agent can help.

Do not assume you have sump pump failure coverage. Most insurance companies will exclude this damage as a cause of loss. However, you can usually buy back a limited amount of coverage. Writes Miller: “Even if you have an unfinished basement, the costs associated with a sump pump/sewer claim might surprise you.”

For more information on the home and personal insurance expertise offered by Plexus Private Client Solutions, contact David Miller at 847-307-6100, or visit plexusgroupe.com. The firm's located at 21805 W. Field Parkway, Suite 300, in Deer Park, Illinois.

About Plexus Private Client Solutions

The personal insurance practice of national insurance brokerage The Plexus Groupe LLC, Plexus Private Client Solutions delivers a superior client experience and comprehensive personal insurance for successful individuals and families, including auto, home, and umbrella coverage. Our experienced, dedicated team takes a consultative approach to your personal risk management needs. For more information on Plexus Private Client Solutions, contact the firm at 847.307.6100 or via the Web.

Claims history, employment practices among underwriting considerations for D&O insurance

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Directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance is an insurance coverage sought by public, private and non-profit organizations to help protect their executives from costly legal actions. Over the years, insurance companies have refined their underwriting practices for D&O insurance to reward organizations that implement proactive risk management measures. While organizations across the United States have developed a greater appreciation for the importance of D&O insurance, many misconceptions about the underwriting process for D&O insurance persist. This Coverage Insights article examines some of the information that underwriters generally review when they receive an application for D&O liability insurance.

The Basics

Applications for D&O insurance generally start by asking applicants for a basic profile of their organization. In particular, underwriters want to establish the organization’s size, location, and industry. While this information may seem basic, it impacts an underwriter’s willingness to accept an application for coverage, and sets the price, terms, and conditions of the policy.

Note that an organization’s industry may contribute to an insurance company’s perception of the D&O risk posed by an applicant. When forming an opinion of a potential new client, underwriters will often take into consideration any recent litigation trends, along with their own underwriting experience with organizations in that sector.

The Organization’s Financial Condition

Typically, underwriters will require organizations to submit a copy of their audited financial statements along with their application for D&O coverage. Underwriters require this information in order to develop an understanding of an organization’s financial circumstances, particularly its key income statement components and balance sheet components. With this information, insurance companies create a range of financial ratios to benchmark an applicant to other similar organizations within its industry.

One of the main questions the underwriters will be trying to answer is whether an organization has sufficient cash or credit available to fund its operations and service its debt obligations for the proposed policy period. Organizations with a strong financial standing operating in an industry with positive economic outlook are generally looked upon favorably by underwriters.

Claims History

Insurance companies, by their nature, want to extend coverage to organizations that will allow them to remain profitable. Insurance companies generally view an organization with a history of frequent claims or pending litigation as undesirable and may decline to offer coverage or charge more for coverage based on the likelihood of a future loss.

While each insurance company has its own internal D&O underwriting practices, underwriters typically look at the following:

-- Recent civil or criminal action, or administrative proceedings alleging violation of a federal, state, or foreign securities law.

-- Involvement in insolvency or bankruptcy proceedings.

-- Instances of employment or labor-related litigation or proceedings.

-- Disputes over employee benefit or pension plan.

Mergers and Acquisitions

If an organization has been involved in merger or acquisition (M&A) activity, underwriters will typically investigate the reasons for these transactions to gain an understanding of its associated risk. This information interests insurance companies because financing activities and M&A activity are events that often lead to D&O claims.

Depending on the nature of an organization’s M&A activity, an underwriter may recommend certain conditions or restrictions in the D&O coverage provided to the organization or choose to decline coverage altogether.

Employment Practices

Current and former employees are a common source of D&O insurance claims, especially for private and non-profit organizations. In order to get a better sense of how likely an organization’s directors and officers are to become involved in a  dispute with employees, insurance companies will typically ask a series of questions related to employment practices. Common questions include, but not limited to, the following:

-- Does your organization have a formal human resources department?

-- Does your organization have an employee handbook?

-- Has your organization recently completed any layoffs, facility closures, or early retirement programs?

-- What is your organization’s annual turnover rate?

-- Does your organization have policies forbidding discriminatory conduct in the workplace?

-- Does your organization have formal hiring and interviewing guidelines?

International Exposures

Organizations that have operations in foreign countries tend to face a higher degree of D&O risk due to the complex compliance requirements that exist in each jurisdiction.

Accordingly, underwriters will typically ask an organization applying for D&O coverage what percentage of its business is in the United States and other countries.

Diversity of Business Activities

Generally, D&O risk is lower for organizations that concentrate their efforts in one core business activity. For this reason, underwriters may look more critically at organizations that involve themselves too many unrelated areas where the directors don’t have expertise in that type of operation. As a rule of thumb, the longer an organization has been involved in a business activity, the D&O risk associated with performing that activity decreases.

Additional Considerations for Public Companies

For publicly traded companies, insurance companies often require additional analysis from their underwriters during the application process. In addition to the areas previously mentioned, D&O underwriters may examine a publicly traded company’s accounting practices, corporate structure, stock price volatility, executive compensation, disclosure practices, and corporate governance.

Contact Us

Whether your organization is a non-profit, privately held, or public company, it is likely that it can benefit from a D&O policy. While the application and underwriting process for D&O insurance may seem daunting, The Plexus Groupe's knowledgeable insurance professionals are here to ensure your organization finds the insurance coverage it needs.

For more information on Plexus's management lines insurance expertise, including directors and officers coverage, contact a Property & Casualty executive at 847-307-6100 or visit ThePlexusGroupe.com

Disclaimer and publishing credit: This Coverage Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. © 2017 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.