Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The market for college football

The NY Times brings us up to date on the business which is college football:

What Made College Football More Like the Pros? $7.3 Billion, for a Start

"The story of college football’s gold rush can be told through television contracts. Under the championship playoff format that began this season, ESPN is paying $7.3 billion over 12 years to telecast seven games a year — four major bowl games, two semifinal bowl games and the national championship game. (In the first semifinal on Thursday, Oregon will play Florida State in the Rose Bowl; the title game is on Jan. 12.)

Each of the five major conferences — the Southeastern, the Atlantic Coast, the Pacific-12, the Big 12 and the Big Ten — will see its base revenue increase to about $50 million, from about $28 million under last season’s system. The base revenue will nearly triple for the five conferences that make up the next tier of college football."

Happy 500th birthday to Vesalius

Andreas Vesalius, son of an apothecary to Emperor Maximillian and to Charles V, was born in Brussels on December 31, 1514.

and this:

"Thus, the young, inquisitive, and impetuous Vesalius began his own studies of anatomy with a single-minded determination, frequently raiding the Cemetery of the Innocents and the gibbits of Montfaucon and storing the bodies in his bedroom. When news arrived of impending war between France and the Holy Roman Empire, Vesalius relocated to Padua, where he received his medical degree in 1537 and was appointed Professor of Surgery at the university."

In any event, he made a revolution in the scientific study of anatomy...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Early admissions come to English universities

The Guardian has the story:
Top universities 'ignoring final A-level grades' in race to sign up students
"Universities such as Lancaster and Birmingham are making record numbers of "unconditional offers" – places awarded irrespective of final A-level grades – in 2015"

"Leading universities have been accused of undermining A-levels by accepting students before they sit their final exams in a “desperate” rush to fill places.

"Research by the Telegraph shows universities are preparing to make increasing numbers of “unconditional offers” to sixth-formers next year.

"Top research institutions including Birmingham, Lancaster, Nottingham, Leicester, Sussex and Queen Mary, University of London, will admit students en masse in some subjects without waiting for results in August.

"Numbers are expected to significantly exceed the 12,000 unconditional offers made across the UK this year, with one university alone saying it will make 10,000 in 2015.
The move coincides with a government decision to abolish all restrictions on student recruitment in England for the first time in 2015 – creating a free market in undergraduate admissions.

"It has led to intense competition between universities to sign up the most talented sixth-formers before they are attracted to opposing institutions.

"In most cases, admissions tutors will make places available to candidates based on past performance in GCSEs and their predicted A-level grades, meaning students will win places even if they go on to fail their summer exams."

Uber apologizes to Sydney for surge pricing during the Sydney Siege

Ben Greiner writes from down under:

Here is something interesting, I am not sure if you followed the story. During the Sydney Siege last week, when companies closed down their offices and sent people home, Uber's price mechanism kicked in and raised Uber cab prices to get out of the city to as much as $200. People found that very repugnant, even though Uber argued that the high prices would increase cab supply when it was needed in such difficult moments ... Anyway, Uber just sent below email to its customers about 2 days ago.

Here is also an article arguoing that in general people do not like variable pricing.

Cheers from Sydney


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David at Uber Sydney <>
Date: Wed, Dec 24, 2014 at 9:34 AM
Subject: An apology

The events of last week in Sydney were upsetting


The events of last week in Sydney were upsetting for the whole community and we are truly sorry for any concern that our process may have added. 
Our priority was to help get as many people out of the CBD safely in the midst of a fast-moving event. The decisions we made were based only on helping to achieve this but we communicated this poorly, leading to a lot of misunderstanding about our motivations.
Surge pricing is algorithmic and kicks in automatically when demand for rides outstrips the supply of cars that are on the road. This encourages more drivers to the area where people are requesting rides. As an increasing number of people were requesting rides that morning in the CBD, surge pricing came into effect automatically and this is when you might have seen higher prices.
We didn't stop surge pricing immediately. This was the wrong decision. We quickly reversed course and provided free rides to people needing to leave the CBD. In the end, no rider was charged to leave the CBD on Monday and all higher fares resulting from surge pricing earlier in the day were fully refunded.
It's unfortunate that the perception is that Uber did something against the interests of the public. We certainly did not intend to. We will learn from this incident and improve as a result of this lesson. Uber is committed to ensuring users have a reliable ride when they need it most - including and especially during disasters and relevant states of emergency. We take our community commitment very seriously in the 250+ cities Uber serves around the globe.
Please know that we have listened to the feedback and we are working to standardise a global policy to ensure we're serving communities in the most efficient, effective and helpful way possible at all times. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims' families, those that were injured and the Sydney community of which we are so proud to be a part.
Have a happy holidays, 
David and the team at Uber Sydney 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Cass Sunstein in Harvard Magazine

Harvard Magazine has a nice long article about Cass Sunstein, who, when he's not thinking about choice architecture and nudges, also thinks about the Constitution: The Legal Olympian. Cass Sunstein and the modern regulatory state

"A central part of his argument is that debate about the Constitution’s meaning should expand to legislative, regulatory, and other democratic bodies, because “court-centeredness is a continuing problem for constitutional thought in the United States. It has helped to weaken the sense of responsibility of other officials and indeed ordinary citizens….”"

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kidney transplantation in Kenya?

Kenya is one of the countries in which a diagnosis of kidney failure is largely a death sentence, since there is little treatment available.  At a meeting in Ohio, there were recently signs that maybe that will change, and that the reluctance to donate organs might be relaxed, and that possibilities of international kidney exchange can be explored:

Governor William Kabogo donates all his organs to those in need

"In his speech as the chief guest at a dinner at the University of Toledo hosted by Professor Michael Rees, Governor Kabogo said, ‘when I was invited to come to America by the UK group lead by kidney transplant patient and founder of Kidney Research Kenya Macharia Gakuru, I was not sure what exactly we were to achieve. Now my mind is very clear. Having met Prof. Michael Rees who runs Alliance for Paired Donation and has developed software in collaboration with Nobel Prize Winner Prof Alvin Roth, I believe we have a solution to the less fortunate in our society to have affordable dialysis and kidney transplant in our county level four hospitals.’

I have come to know that the American population and our population can have a cross match of their donors to make the best match depending on blood groups and tissue typing that our population will also benefit from the American technology and international funding that this may attract because of our difference in financing and insurance costing resulting in savings to American tax payers and gain to Kenyans. The thing we need to embark on now is to educate our masses. Organ donation is a taboo in our culture. I lead from the front and offer my organs in the event of my death to be harvested and used to save lives and research to improve our knowledge of science. We must be our brothers keeper,’ he said.

 In reply, ‘Prof. Michael Rees said, this gives a great opportunity to share our knowledge and expertise in areas of kidney pairing that can solve the problems in America as well fund as solution for kidney patients in Kenya.  The University of Toledo is prepared to help train doctors, nurses and people involved in this project to the international standards. We are looking forward to visiting Kenya and more so Kiambu County where we have prepared the grounds to start our pilot project with our partners in the UK and elsewhere in the world. ’

Dr. Jonah Mwangi who is Kiambu Health Minister said, ‘our next step is to get reliable statistics in our county to identify our incident rates of kidney failure. People don’t have to go to India anymore but we will find our own solution from within.’ "

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Resident matching for urologists

The American Urological Association runs an independent matching program for urology residencies.  Here's a recently published history, from volume 1 of the new journal Urology Practice:

The History and Rationale of the American Urological Association Residency Matching Program
Steven J. Weissbart and Jeffrey A. Stock

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bringing sand to Dubai: The market for sand

The NY Times has the story (by John Gillis):
Why Sand Is Disappearing

"Today, however, 75 to 90 percent of the world’s natural sand beaches are disappearing, due partly to rising sea levels and increased storm action, but also to massive erosion caused by the human development of shores. Many low-lying barrier islands are already submerged.

"Yet the extent of this global crisis is obscured because so-called beach nourishment projects attempt to hold sand in place and repair the damage by the time summer people return, creating the illusion of an eternal shore.
"The sand and gravel business is now growing faster than the economy as a whole. In the United States, the market for mined sand has become a billion-dollar annual business, growing at 10 percent a year since 2008. Interior mining operations use huge machines working in open pits to dig down under the earth’s surface to get sand left behind by ancient glaciers. But as demand has risen — and the damming of rivers has held back the flow of sand from mountainous interiors — natural sources of sand have been shrinking.

One might think that desert sand would be a ready substitute, but its grains are finer and smoother; they don’t adhere to rougher sand grains, and tend to blow away. As a result, the desert state of Dubai brings sand for its beaches all the way from Australia.

"And now there is a global beach-quality sand shortage, caused by the industries that have come to rely on it. Sand is vital to the manufacturing of abrasives, glass, plastics, microchips and even toothpaste, and, most recently, to the process of hydraulic fracturing. The quality of silicate sand found in the northern Midwest has produced what is being called a “sand rush” there, more than doubling regional sand pit mining since 2009.

"But the greatest industrial consumer of all is the concrete industry. Sand from Port Washington on Long Island — 140 million cubic yards of it — built the tunnels and sidewalks of Manhattan from the 1880s onward. Concrete still takes 80 percent of all that mining can deliver. Apart from water and air, sand is the natural element most in demand around the world, a situation that puts the preservation of beaches and their flora and fauna in great danger. Today, a branch of Cemex, one of the world’s largest cement suppliers, is still busy on the shores of Monterey Bay in California, where its operations endanger several protected species.

"The huge sand mining operations emerging worldwide, many of them illegal, are happening out of sight and out of mind, as far as the developed world is concerned. But in India, where the government has stepped in to limit sand mining along its shores, illegal mining operations by what is now referred to as the “sand mafia” defy these regulations. In Sierra Leone, poor villagers are encouraged to sell off their sand to illegal operations, ruining their own shores for fishing. Some Indonesian sand islands have been devastated by sand mining.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas dinners in Switzerland may never be the same...

Swiss group wants sausage dogs to be petted, not eaten 

"ZURICH - An animal rights group has petitioned the Swiss government to ban a traditional, if rare, practice of eating cats for dinner and turning dogs into sausages.

Tomi Tomek, president of the animal rights group SOS CHATS Noiraigue, which campaigned successfully last year to ban the sale of cat fur, said 3 percent of the population still eat cat and dog, mainly in the regions of Appenzell, Lucerne, Jura and Berne.

"You can't report it to the police because there's no law against it," she said.

Dog meat is traditionally used to make sausages and a fatty remedy for rheumatism, while cat can be served for Christmas dinner.

The activists handed in a petition with 17,900 signatures calling for the consumption of family pets to be outlawed. "

HT: Ran Shorrer

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fushimi Inari-taisha: a shrine to business and a pioneer in advertising

The Inari shrine in Kyoto is devoted to a patron of business. Unlike many other shrines and temples we visited in Japan it does not support itself by charging admission to visitors. Rather, many of its "thousand gates" are endowed by an advertiser.  There are still gates available.

Below are some of the ads on gates, and a price list for adding your ad, to gates of different sizes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

International trade in french fries

There's an imported potato drought in Japan, leading to rationing: The Japan News (English language news from The Yomiuri Shimbun) has the story.

 Sorry! Small fries only

"Japan’s food service industry is in the middle of a potato shortage, due to a port labor dispute on the U.S. West Coast.

"Most of the nation’s chain restaurants use processed spuds from the United States to make french fries, and the prolonged dispute is delaying shipments of the fast food ingredient. McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan) stopped selling large- and medium-size fries on Wednesday, and other restaurant chain operators are starting to consider such measures as the expensive process of flying in supplies and suspending french fry sales."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Venture capital for lawsuits

There are lots of different kinds of financial markets, of which venture capital is among the most interesting and varied. Nevertheless, this headline struck me:

Steven Cohen’s Ex-Wife Gets Outside Financing for Lawsuit

"Helping to fuel the long-running legal battle is Asta Funding, a financial backer of a Beverly Hills, Calif., firm that has provided litigation financing to Ms. Cohen, according to court documents and people briefed on the matter. Asta and the firm that is financing Ms. Cohen’s lawsuit — Balance Point Divorce Funding — have an agreement to share in the proceeds of legal recoveries by clients.
"Balance Point is part of a niche business that provides financing in drawn-out matrimonial cases to litigants with wealthy spouses. Only a handful of companies provide such financing in the United States.

One of Balance Point’s main competitors is BBL Churchill, a New York firm that offers high-interest loans to a divorcing spouse in need of cash to pay legal bills. The firm, unlike Balance Point, does not seek to collect a portion of any divorce settlement and instead looks to collect on the loan at the end of the litigation. This summer, BBL Churchill secured financial backing from a large private equity firm, said a person briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

US policy that gives priority to prior organ donors who need a transplant

US policy that gives priority to prior organ donors who need a transplant is working

  • Washington, DC (November 20, 2014) -- Prior organ donors who later need a kidney transplant experience brief waiting times and receive excellent quality kidneys, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). The findings indicate that a US policy that gives priority to prior organ donors on the transplant waiting list is working.
    Live organ donors provide a remarkable gift to relieve another person of the burden of organ failure. While most live kidney donors enjoy excellent health after kidney donation, recent research has revealed that kidney donation is linked with an increased risk of developing kidney failure.
    Because of the gift of kidney donation, prior live organ donors receive priority on the kidney transplant waiting list. Peter Reese, MD MSCE (University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine), Vishnu Potluri, MD, MPH (Lankenau Medical Center), and their colleagues looked to see whether the current national kidney allocation policy was succeeding in its goal of minimizing waiting time to transplant forpeople who had once donated an organ. The researchers analyzed prior organ donors and matched non-donors who were wait-listed during the years 1996 to 2010.
    "The research reveals that, fortunately, these donors did not wait a long time for their kidney transplants and received high quality kidneys," said Dr. Reese. Prior organ donors had much shorter waiting time to receive a kidney transplant, and they received better quality kidneys compared with similar people on the waiting list who had not donated an organ. "This study shows that the policy is working: prior organ donors get rapid access to high quality organs. After transplant, their survival is excellent compared with similar people whowere not organ donors," said Dr. Reese. He noted, however, that most prior organ donors needed dialysis before they received their transplant. Ideally, these prior donors would have received kidney transplants before they ever needed dialysis.
  • Saturday, December 20, 2014

    How Werner Güth's ultimatum game shaped our understanding of social behavior

    Just out in JEBO, and temporarily un-gated, here is a multi-part paper in honor of Werner Guth and the ultimatum game. (Being one of so many coauthors is probably as close as I'll get to the experience of being a high energy physicist or a planetary scientist...)

    How Werner Güth's ultimatum game shaped our understanding of social behavior 

    Friday, December 19, 2014

    Roads and escalators in Japan: national versus regional equilibria

    I presume that drivers drive on the left on roads throughout Japan, and so I wasn't surprised, in Tokyo, to find that pedestrians tend to keep to the left as well, and that on escalators, riders stay to the left to allow those in a hurry to pass on the right.

    But in Osaka, the escalator equilibrium is reversed: on escalators one stays to the right to allow passing on the left. Roads and sidewalks seem to be as in Tokyo however.

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

    Klein Lecture in Osaka, Dec 19 2014

    I'll be speaking Friday in Osaka...

    Prof. AlvinRoth
    Nobel Prize in Economics
    Title: The Economist as Engineer   
    2014.12.19 (Fri.)
    Open15:30 Start16:00
    Conference Room C01-02, 8th Floor, TOWER-C, Knowledge Capital, Grand Front Osaka   MAP
    *Lecture will be given in English

    Time: 18:30
    Venue: URGE (3rd Floor, Knowledge Capital, Grand Front Osaka)

    Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research
    6-1 Mihogaoka, Ibaraki, Osaka 567-0047 JAPAN

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    Punishing puns in China

    The Chinese government is reported to have taken steps to make puns repugnant. The Guardian has the story:

    China bans wordplay in attempt at pun control
    Officials say casual alteration of idioms risks nothing less than ‘cultural and linguistic chaos’, despite their common usage

    "From online discussions to adverts, Chinese culture is full of puns. But the country’s print and broadcast watchdog has ruled that there is nothing funny about them.
    It has banned wordplay on the grounds that it breaches the law on standard spoken and written Chinese, makes promoting cultural heritage harder and may mislead the public – especially children.
    The casual alteration of idioms risks nothing less than “cultural and linguistic chaos”, it warns.
    Chinese is perfectly suited to puns because it has so many homophones. Popular sayings and even customs, as well as jokes, rely on wordplay.

    Programmes and adverts should strictly comply with the standard spelling and use of characters, words, phrases and idioms – and avoid changing the characters, phrasing and meanings, the order said.But the order from the State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television says: “Radio and television authorities at all levels must tighten up their regulations and crack down on the irregular and inaccurate use of the Chinese language, especially the misuse of idioms.”
    “Idioms are one of the great features of the Chinese language and contain profound cultural heritage and historical resources and great aesthetic, ideological and moral values,” it added.
    “That’s the most ridiculous part of this: [wordplay] is so much part and parcel of Chinese heritage,” said David Moser, academic director for CET Chinese studies at Beijing Capital Normal University.
    When couples marry, people will give them dates and peanuts – a reference to the wish Zaosheng guizi or “May you soon give birth to a son”. The word for dates is also zao and peanuts are huasheng.
    The notice cites complaints from viewers, but the examples it gives appear utterly innocuous. In a tourism promotion campaign, tweaking the characters used in the phrase jin shan jin mei – perfection – has turned it into a slogan translated as “Shanxi, a land of splendours”. In another case, replacing a single character in ke bu rong huan has turned “brook no delay” into “coughing must not linger” for a medicine advert."

    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    Organs and Inducements: Special Issue of Law and Contemporary Problems edited by Cook and Krawiec

    Volume 772014Number 3

    Organs and Inducements

    Philip J. Cook & Kimberly D. Krawiec
    Special Editors

    A Primer on Kidney Transplantation: Anatomy of the Shortage
    Six Decades of Organ Donation and the Challenges That Shifting the United States to a Market System Would Create Around the World
    Regulating the Organ Market: Normative Foundations for Market Regulation
    Perceptions of Efficacy, Morality, and Politics of Potential Cadaveric Organ-Transplantation Reforms
    Philanthropically Funded Heroism Awards for Kidney Donors?
    Reverse Transplant Tourism
    Organs Without Borders? Allocating Transplant Organs, Foreigners, and the Importance of the Nation-State (?)
    State Organ-Donation Incentives Under the National Organ Transplant Act
    Designing a Compensated–Kidney Donation System
    Altruism Exchanges and the Kidney Shortage
    Reciprocal Altruism—the Impact of Resurrecting an Old Moral Imperative on the National Organ Donation Rate in Israel
    Organ Quality as a Complicating Factor in Proposed Systems of Inducements for Organ Donation

    Monday, December 15, 2014

    Virginia Postrel on the new allocation rules for deceased donor kidneys

    Virginia Postrel is skeptical about the new rules for allocating deceased donor kidneys, and thinks there is likely to be some good news (about slower-growing waiting lists) that will just be an artifact of removing some incentives to get on the list early.

    Old, Sick and Need a Kidney? Good Luck

    "Within a few years, new rules about allocating kidneys, which went into effect last week, could shrink the waiting list. But this apparent improvement will be an illusion -- an artifact of the incentives the new rules create, not genuine progress. Changing who gets priority for scarce kidneys will help some patients and hurt others, and it might squeeze out a few more total years of healthy living for the lucky recipients. But a different process for managing the existing supply of kidneys won’t make a serious difference for the skyrocketing number of patients who need transplants.
    In the past, how long you’d been on the waiting list was the main factor that determined how close you were to getting a compatible kidney. (Some blood types are harder to match than others, so someone with less compatible type O blood would wait longer than someone with type A.) The longer you waited, the further you moved up the list. The clock started when your transplant center did the necessary tests and listed you as a transplant candidate.
    The old system hurt those patients, most of whom were black, who had spent years on dialysis before they got referred for transplants, whether because of medical factors, insufficient health insurance or complacent nephrologists. (About a third of the patients, about 35,000 people, currently on the waiting list are black.) The new system instead starts the clock when a patient goes on dialysis.
    “In the previous system, it would make sense to list somebody even if they weren’t quite ready to get a transplant, so they could accrue waiting time,” Benjamin E. Hippen, a transplant nephrologist at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, explained in an interview. Now, since they won’t have a shot at a kidney for years, there’s no reason to put them on the waiting list so soon. “It’s going to look like the overall list has shrunk,” he predicted, “when really it’s just a strategic move by the transplant center.”
    While arguably fairer, counting dialysis years creates much more uncertainty. Every time a new patient is added, that person’s dialysis history rejiggers the list. It’s like waiting for an airline upgrade: If you’re a lowly gold status member, you may start out at the head of the line, only to end up in coach as platinum and executive platinum travelers put in their requests and push you down the queue. In this case, there’s a lot more at stake than more legroom and better meals."
    “The people who lose in all this are going to be the people who are a little older, who are diabetic and who don’t have a lot of years of waiting time -- which is most patients,” said Hippen, a critic of the new system. “That sort of describes the average new patient.”

    Sunday, December 14, 2014

    Yotel: hotel rooms to match the new airline leg room

    It's a good thing we're all getting smaller...

    Tiny Hotel Rooms Follow High Land Prices in Yotel Growth

    "...Yotel, a minimalist hotel brand whose signature feature is tiny rooms, or “cabins,” of about 175 square feet (16 square meters). That means Synapse can fit 202 revenue-producing rooms into a building that would accommodate just 94 were it a standard hotel, he said.

    “People in the industry in San Francisco thought we were crazy until they figured out that we were fitting in two times the amount of keys,” said Palmer, who bought the property with Yotel’s largest shareholder in April and expects to open the hotel in 2017.

    "Yotel is finding that its small rooms are a big selling point as it seeks to expand globally. With land costs soaring in cities such as New York, San Francisco and London, the company is pitching itself to developers as a revenue-maximizing solution for small and odd-sized lots.

    “You can unlock the potential from sites in an area where you don’t know what to do,” Chief Executive Officer Hubert Viriot, who’s based in Dubai and took the helm of London-based Yotel in May, said in an interview. “We fit pretty much everywhere.”

    Saturday, December 13, 2014

    Herve Moulin at The Adam Smith Business School of the University of Glasgow

    The University of Glasgow highlights the work of Herve Moulin:
    Economists as Social Engineers: Professor Hervé Moulin, Donald J Robertson Chair in Economics at the University of Glasgow, explains mechanism design.

    Hervé Moulin graduated in 1971 from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, and received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the Universite de Paris in 1975. Before joining the University of Glasgow as a Professor (Donald J Robertson Chair) of Economics, he has taught at the Ecole Nationale de Ia Statistique et Administration Economique in Paris, University of Paris at Dauphine, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Duke University, and Rice University. His research has been supported in part by seven grants from the National Science Foundation  (USA). He has written five books and over 100 peer-reviewed articles.

    Friday, December 12, 2014

    Some potentially repugnant markets

    Jan Zilinsky writes with a selection of potentially repugnant markets:

     "I saw several pieces since late August, so I thought I would send along a few links:

    -        Quebec is planning to cut in vitro fertilization insurance coverage and also “ban on in vitro fertilization for all women under the age of 18 and over the age of 42”
    o   Is the distinction between animals we eat and animals we love is entirely arbitrary?
    o   Data: “producing six pounds of rabbit meat requires the same amount of food and water as it takes to produce one pound of cow meat”
    o   Legal situation: “Altruistic surrogacy is legal throughout Australia but commercial surrogacy is banned everywhere except in the Northern Territory, which has no surrogacy laws.”
    o   Stated concern: “The Chief Judge warns that lack of regulation in many countries “creates a risk that children could be ‘commissioned’ specifically for trafficking or abuse purposes’’.”

    I don't think there's any repugnance involved in this last story, but it's still an interesting one, and where there's blood there may be repugnance...

    Thursday, December 11, 2014

    Insurance markets for terrorism

    From Business Week:

    The Unexpected Threat to Super Bowl XLIX
    By Howard Kunreuther and Erwann Michel-Kerjan, December 09, 2014

    "If you’ve already bought tickets for Super Bowl XLIX or are looking forward to watching it with your friends and family, you may be surprised to learn that there is a chance it might not be played. Congress first needs to make a decision on renewing a piece of legislation that you possibly never have heard of: TRIA—the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

    "TRIA was signed into law in 2002 in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, establishing a risk-sharing partnership between the federal government and the insurance industry that made terrorism insurance widely available to U.S. businesses—among them, organizers of sporting events. Without federal support, most insurers had been unwilling to offer coverage. TRIA was renewed in 2005 and in 2007. It is set to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress renews it. With two weeks until the deadline, the clock is ticking.
    "Before 9/11, insurers included terrorism coverage in all commercial policies without charging for it because the risk was below their threshold level of concern. But after paying $44 billion in claims for 9/11—at that time the most costly disaster in the history of insurance—most insurers excluded terrorism from commercial policies.
    "TRIA addresses the insurance supply problem. Under the program, the federal government provides a financial back-up for insurers by covering a portion of insured losses above $27.5 billion, up to $100 billion, giving the insurance industry some certainty as to its maximum exposure. In return, insurers are required to offer terrorism coverage to all business clients, which can decide to purchase coverage or not. About 60 percent of large businesses carry terrorism insurance, indicating strong demand for it.

    Unless TRIA is reauthorized during the next two weeks, insurers will have the right to cancel terrorism insurance policies after Jan. 1. They are likely to do so for fear of insolvency should a massive terrorist attack take place with no government backup. By law, only insurance companies offering workers’ compensation insurance must include terrorism peril in their policies, whether or not TRIA is renewed. The only way for those insurers to limit their exposure to terrorism—say, in large metropolitan areas where they are heavily concentrated—might be to cancel some commercial insurance policies altogether if TRIA is not in place. Some businesses would then be unprotected against a wide variety of risks, ranging from fire to industrial accidents."

    See also the Wharton Risk Center report, “TRIA After 2014