Месечни архиви: April 2015

Employers Names Brown Senior Vice President in California

Employers Names Brown Senior Vice President in California

RENO, Nev.-based Employers Holdings Inc. has named Lori A. Brown senior vice president and deputy general counsel.

Brown  is based out of the company’s San Francisco and Walnut Creek, Calif. offices.

She is the company’s primary attorney for employment and executive compensation law, is assistant corporate secretary to the holding company and corporate secretary to all of the company’s subsidiaries and works with the company’s statutory, regulatory and public company filings.

Brown has over 20 years of experience as an attorney in California primarily in the areas of labor and employment, corporate governance and SEC compliance. She previously served as vice president and deputy general counsel, a position she held with Employers since 2007.

Employers Holdings Inc.  is a holding company with subsidiaries that are specialty providers of workers’ compensation insurance and services focused on small businesses engaged in low-to-medium hazard industries.

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Bill Banning Local Drilling Rules Passes Oklahoma House

Bill Banning Local Drilling Rules Passes Oklahoma House

Legislation that prohibits cities and towns from regulating oil and natural gas drilling operations was approved by the Oklahoma House on April 22, one day after the Oklahoma Geological Survey said it is “very likely” that a swarm of recent earthquakes were triggered by the subsurface injection of wastewater from drilling operations.

House members passed the bill despite pleas from opponents who said the survey’s report is among many reasons that local communities should have the right to set rules for local drilling activities.

“It’s about a municipality being able to regulate themselves,” said Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater.

House Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Del City warned that passing the measure would send a message to citizens that lawmakers are unwilling to allow local officials to address the problems associated with drilling operations, including the recent earthquakes.

“The folks pushing this bill are the ones causing these earthquakes in our communities,” said Inman, who said his suburban Oklahoma City house has cracks in the floors and ceiling that are uncharacteristic for a structure that is only nine years old.

“My house shakes today. I know that I’m not the only one,” Inman said. “The big one is coming. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a question of when.”

House members voted 64-32 for the bill by Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman of Fairview and sent it to the Senate to consider House amendments, including one that allows local regulations involving floodplains to reduce local flooding risks to remain in compliance with National Flood Insurance Program regulations.

Oil and gas drilling operations in the state are regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The bill, which is similar to a measure passed last month by the House, prohibits communities from regulating oil and gas exploration, drilling, production and hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — activities that are part of the Corporation Commission’s authority.

The measure permits local communities to adopt “reasonable ordinances, rules and regulations” concerning road use, traffic, noise and odors incidental to oil and gas operations as well as the placement of drilling rigs and fencing requirements for oil and gas well site locations.

The bill is among several filed this year to limit local regulations in the wake of a ban on fracking that voters in the north Texas city of Denton overwhelmingly approved in November.

Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman, the bill’s House author, said local regulations involving oil and gas drilling have created a patchwork of guidelines that are difficult for oil and gas operators to follow. He said the measure still gives local communities authority to adopt drilling-related ordinances “to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.”

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said he believes it will pass the Senate and be sent to the governor.

Bingman, an executive with a Tulsa-based oil and gas exploration company, said the Corporation Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over oil and gas matters and it is monitoring earthquake activity in the state.

“Yes, the Corporation Commission can shut down those wells, and I’ve got the confidence that they’ll do what they have to do and the industry, certainly, will cooperate,” Bingman said. “They’ll work together to try and resolve and mitigate the situation.”

The measure is House Bill 809.


Oklahoma Geologists Also See Earthquake-Injection Well Link
Texas Earthquake Swarm Linked to Drilling, Wastewater Injection Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Michigan Bill Would Limit Liability of Private Air Strip Owners

Michigan Bill Would Limit Liability of Private Air Strip Owners

Horse owners and private air strip operators in Michigan would be exempt from liability in certain cases where people are injured under two bills that have moved through the Republican-controlled House.

One bill, passed by a 79-31 vote, would add aviation to the recreational activities for which an injured person couldn’t sue a landowner. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Peter Pettalia of Presque Isle, said it would protect landowners from people who trespass on private land with aircraft and are injured in the process.

Pettalia said the air strips impacted are typically in a farmer’s field, hunting camp or other privately owned and maintained land.

“What we are trying to do is protect that landowner … from somebody that would trespass without permission to land and somehow damage their plane or have a bodily injury,” he added.

The protection already applies for cases involving fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, and other recreational activities where the injured person was trespassing.

There are more than 500 privately owned air strips in the state, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency.

An amendment by Rep. Jeff Irwin, an Ann Arbor Democrat, clarifies that landowners who know of a fault in the landing area and give permission to land could still be held liable for any damage or injuries.

Another bill approved 63-46 in the House would limit liabilities for horse and other equine owners if someone riding the animal is injured. It also would set the standard for negligence to “wanton and willful disregard” for the safety of the rider.

The bills will now go to the Senate for consideration.

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Parents of Missouri Teen Killed by Police Sue City of Ferguson

Parents of Missouri Teen Killed by Police Sue City of Ferguson

Ferguson, Mo., was sued by the family of an unarmed black teenager whose fatal shooting by a police officer triggered nationwide protests, while subsequent deaths at the hands of police fueled a national debate about how law enforcement treats minorities.

The lawsuit by Michael Brown’s parents may turn out to be the only legal proceeding to publicly examine the killing. A state grand jury declined in November to charge officer Darren Wilson, and the U.S. Justice Department said on March 4 that it also wouldn’t file charges.

The shooting of Brown, 18, during a midday street encounter on Aug. 9 was one of several police killings of black males in the past year that spurred protesters to call law enforcement to account for the treatment of black suspects. The choke-hold death of Eric Garner on New York City’s Staten Island and the November shooting of a 12-year-old wielding a replica gun by a Cleveland policeman also sparked demonstrations.

The Brown’s family lawyer Benjamin Crump said this country must “stop the sanctioning of the killing of unarmed people of color around the country.”

Other deaths have also sparked scrutiny of police tactics and outrage among blacks and civil rights’ advocates.

Scott Shooting

On April 7, an officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder for shooting a 50-year-old black man after they scuffled. In a killing captured on video by a bystander, Michael Slager shot Walter Scott as he ran away from the officer.

The April 19 death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray after his arrest by Baltimore police is being investigated by the Justice Department. Gray suffered severe spinal-cord injuries while in police custody, the Washington Post reported.

The Justice Department in a March 4 report depicted the Ferguson police and local court system as riddled with bias in a mostly black city of 21,000. Police Chief Thomas Jackson and City Manager John Shaw resigned following the report. Municipal Court Judge Ronald Brockmeyer stepped down after the state Supreme Court appointed an appellate judge to take over his duties.

Jackson Sued

Jackson also is named as a defendant in the Brown family’s complaint, which cites conditions identified in the Justice Department report as contributing to the circumstances of their son’s death.

Brown was shot minutes after stealing a fistful of cigarillos from a local convenience store. Wilson, who’d heard a radio report describing the offender and a companion, soon saw the teenager and friend Dorian Johnson walking in the middle of a two-way street.

Wilson stopped his police SUV, backed up past Brown and Johnson and then turned so that his vehicle blocked traffic, according to the officer’s grand jury testimony, which was made public.

While Wilson was still inside the vehicle, a struggle ensued and at least one shot was fired from his gun, striking Brown in the hand.

Brown retreated from the SUV as Wilson began to pursue him on foot, according to the grand jury testimony. Witness accounts differed as to whether the teenager then turned to surrender or charged at the officer. Wilson shot Brown several more times, including twice in the head, killing him.

Wilson resigned as a police officer in November.

Wilson was never rigorously questioned by authorities about the shooting, including during the grand jury proceedings, Crump said.

“We can’t believe that the shooter of an unarmed, 18-year- old has never been cross-examined,” Crump told reporters outside the county courthouse in Clayton, Missouri, where the lawsuit was filed.

Brown’s parents attended the press conference but didn’t speak.

Wilson’s lawyer, Neil Bruntrager, and Jeff Small, a spokesman for Ferguson, didn’t return phone calls for comment.

Training Failure

In addition to the civil rights claim leveled at Wilson, Brown’s parents accuse the city and Jackson of failing to properly train the officer or conduct a fair and impartial investigation.

They’re seeking at least $75,000 in compensatory damages, plus a punitive award. The lawsuit was filed by Clayton lawyer Anthony Gray and the Tallahassee, Florida, firm Parks & Crump LLC.

The case is Brown v. City of Ferguson, 15SL-CC01367, Twenty-first Judicial Circuit, St. Louis County, Missouri (Clayton).

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg.

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Bird Flu ‘Catastrophe’ Growing in Midwest

Bird Flu ‘Catastrophe’ Growing in Midwest

Deadly bird flu swelled in the poultry industry in Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin amid speculation that winds may be carrying virus particles into facilities housing turkeys and chickens.

“This is a catastrophe for both the turkey and the egg industries,” William Rehm, the president of Daybreak Foods Inc., said after his company’s farm in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, with 800,000 egg-laying hens was infected by bird flu. “Some USDA veterinarians are starting to believe the virus is spreading from particulates in the air,” he said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed that avian influenza was found in 13 turkey flocks in Minnesota with at least 430,300 birds. Since late 2014, the virus has been detected in commercial and backyard flocks with a combined estimate of at least 8 million birds, USDA data show. Migratory waterfowl along a Mississippi River flyway are believed by to be spreading the flu, agriculture officials say.

On a Minnesota visit, “there were 20 mile per hour winds, and you could see a lot of dust blowing,” John Clifford, the chief veterinary officer of the Washington-based USDA, said on a media conference call. “So what we’re talking about is the wind carrying potentially feathers or dust or things that could be a carrier of the virus and moving it” to structures with poultry, he said.

‘Best Biosecurity’

Closely held Daybreak Foods, based in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, found evidence of the virus on April 21 during routine inspections, and the USDA confirmed avian influenza, said Rehm, the company president. The case was the largest of five reported in the state and the second-biggest chicken flock to be affected since the outbreak started late in 2014 in the U.S.

“We have put up the best biosecurity parameters to defend our facilities against the disease,” Rehm said. The company has facilities with 13.5 million hens in Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, which includes another operation in Jefferson County.

On April 20, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker authorized the state’s National Guard to help agriculture authorities respond to the flu in three counties.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the risk to people from bird flu is low, while infection is “possible.”

Virus Carriers

Avian flu “is not generally an aerosolized virus, it’s not spread easily that way,” Clifford of the USDA said. In Minnesota, the biggest U.S. turkey producer “because of the close proximity some of these facilities are to lakes and large populations of wild waterfowl,” high winds may be a carrier of the virus, he said.

The stricken Jefferson County site was quarantined, and remaining birds will be “depopulated,” according to a statement from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

A flock of 3.8 million egg-laying hens in Osceola County, Iowa, was reported with the flu this week, the largest U.S. commercial case this year. The state is the nation’s top egg producer.

“We’re trying to determine the possible pathway of introduction into these houses,” Clifford said on a media conference call with the Iowa Department of Agriculture. “My guess is it’s probably multiple pathways of entry.”

Before this week, the highly pathogenic virus primarily afflicted turkey flocks and is considered “extremely infectious and fatal,” according to the USDA.

Hormel Foods Corp., the owner of Jennie-O turkeys, said that annual profit may be eroded because bird flu is hampering production. Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety banned the import of poultry meat and eggs from parts of Minnesota and South Dakota.

Almost 47 million young turkeys were slaughtered in Minnesota last year, a fifth of the U.S. total, USDA data show. Commercial flocks in the state are primarily raised indoors, according to the state’s board of animal health.

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg.

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MTM Insurance Associates Acquires Minichiello Insurance in Massachusetts

MTM Insurance Associates Acquires Minichiello Insurance in Massachusetts

MTM Insurance Associates, an independent insurance agency based in North Andover, Massachusetts, announced its acquisition of Minichiello Insurance Agency, an independent agency in Bradford, Massachusetts. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Following the transaction, Minichiello Insurance Agency will operate as MTM Insurance of Greater Haverhill Inc. This marks the third location for MTM Insurance.

Founded in 2007, MTM Insurance Associates offers personal and business insurance as well as life, disability and long term care insurance. The firm now has offices in North Andover, Billerica and Bradford, Massachusetts, and 27 employees.


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Vermont Mutual Names Bridge as President to Succeed Catto

Vermont Mutual Names Bridge as President to Succeed Catto

Daniel C. Bridge

Vermont Mutual Insurance Group announced that its Board of Directors has elected Executive Vice President Daniel C. Bridge as president of the Group. Bridge succeeds President and CEO William A. Catto who will retire on June 30, 2015.

Catto will continue in his CEO post until his retirement in June. After Catto’s retirement, Bridge will also assume the CEO post to become president and CEO of the Group.

Bridge’s election to president is an important step in the leadership transition plan that began several years ago, Catto said in a statement.

Bridge joined Vermont Mutual in 2009. Prior to joining Vermont Mutual, he held senior leadership positions at several regional and national insurance companies within New England.

Chartered in 1828, the Vermont Mutual is one of the 10 oldest mutual property/casualty insurers in the U.S., having operated continuously since that time in Montpelier, Vermont. Along with the wholly owned subsidiary, Northern Security Insurance Company Inc. and the affiliated Granite Mutual Insurance Company, Vermont Mutual provides coverage throughout New England and New York.

Through more than 400 independent agencies, Vermont Mutual Insurance Group insures over 285,000 policyholders with a direct written premium of more than $380 million.


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TWFG Founder Named Gulf Coast Entrepreneur of the Year

TWFG Founder Named Gulf Coast Entrepreneur of the Year

Richard “Gordy” Bunch, founder, president, and CEO of The Woodlands Financial Group (TWFG) has been nominated Gulf Coast Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, making him eligible for the 2015 national award.

The Entrepreneur of the Year program is designed by Ernst & Young to give recognition and visibility to entrepreneurial leadership by honoring a leader of a public or private company who is responsible for the financial performance and culture of a company. Regional award winners will be inducted into the Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame and become eligible for the national awards.

The Woodlands, Texas-based TWFG is a multi-faceted $337 million business offering property and casualty insurance, personal lines, finance, and agency software technology. TWFG has 300 offices in 21 states with affiliated agencies expanding representation into 38 states.

Bunch serves on The Woodlands Township Board of Directors where he was elected its treasurer, and is chairman of The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Source: TWFG

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Home Builders Safety Group Earns 117 226 Texas Mutual Dividend

Home Builders Safety Group Earns 117 226 Texas Mutual Dividend

Austin-based Texas Mutual Insurance Co. announced it awarded a dividend of $117,226 to the Texas Home Builders (THB) safety group. The dividend was earned based on the group members’ dedication to making safety a priority in their businesses and therefore keeping the group’s loss ratio low.

Since 1999, Texas Mutual has distributed more than $125 million in safety group dividends among qualifying safety groups. Many group members also qualify for individual policyholder dividends from Texas Mutual based largely on their companies’ loss ratios.

In addition to potential dividends, THB safety group members also receive discounts on their workers’ compensation premiums and have access to free workplace safety materials designed for the construction industry.

Texas Mutual has distributed $1.6 billion in safety group and individual policyholder dividends since 1999. The majority of that total – $1 billion – has been distributed in the last seven years.

While Texas Mutual has awarded dividends each year since 1999, they are based on performance and therefore not guaranteed. Additionally, dividends must comply with Texas Department of Insurance regulations.

Source: Texas Mutual Insurance Co.

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Arkansas Plaintiffs Want Order Dismissing Exxon Oil-Spill Lawsuit Vacated

Arkansas Plaintiffs Want Order Dismissing Exxon Oil-Spill Lawsuit Vacated

Plaintiffs are urging a federal judge in Little Rock, Ark., to vacate his order dismissing a class-action lawsuit against Exxon Mobil, claiming the oil giant suppressed evidence in the case.

The lawsuit, filed over a 2013 oil spill in a Mayflower subdivision, was dismissed last month by the judge. It had been filed on behalf of landowners whose property was physically crossed by the pipeline.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the plaintiffs’ attorneys contend in a new filing that the judge’s order should be overturned because of new evidence. They claim that the evidence filed under seal shows that Exxon Mobil withheld evidence until after it filed a successful motion in court.

“Exxon’s timing of its discovery production after filing its motion for summary judgment placed Plaintiffs in an extremely, unfair position for complete resolution of the case,” the plaintiffs said. “This unfair prejudice is heightened by Exxon’s production of approximately one million pages of discovery materials, after Exxon filed its Motion for Summary Judgment.

Exxon Mobil spokesman Christian Flathman says they agree with the judge’s original order and will respond in court.

The Pegasus pipeline spilled an estimated 210,000 gallons of heavy crude oil on March 29, 2013 into Mayflower’s Northwoods subdivision, drainage ditches and a cove of Lake Conway.

The lawsuit only applied to a 650-mile section of the pipeline, which has since been shut down. The pipeline’s remaining 211 miles, has resumed service, and runs from Corsicana, Texas to Nederland, Texas.

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