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MCY > SEC Filings for MCY > Form 10-Q on 29-Jul-2014All Recent SEC Filings

Show all filings for MERCURY GENERAL CORP



Quarterly Report

Item 2. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

Cautionary Statements
Certain statements in this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q or in other materials the Company has filed or will file with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") (as well as information included in oral statements or other written statements made or to be made by the Company) contain or may contain "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. These forward-looking statements may address, among other things, the Company's strategy for growth, business development, regulatory approvals, market position, expenditures, financial results, and reserves. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of performance and are subject to important factors and events that could cause the Company's actual business, prospects, and results of operations to differ materially from the historical information contained in this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q and from those that may be expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements contained in this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q and in other reports or public statements made by the Company.
Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, among others: the competition currently existing in the automobile insurance markets in California and the other states in which the Company operates; the cyclical and generally competitive nature of the property and casualty insurance industry and general uncertainties regarding loss reserves or other estimates; the accuracy and adequacy of the Company's pricing methodologies; the Company's success in managing its business in non-California states; the impact of potential third party "bad-faith" legislation, changes in laws, regulations or new interpretations of existing laws and regulations, tax position challenges by the FTB, and decisions of courts, regulators and governmental bodies, particularly in California; the Company's ability to obtain and the timing of required regulatory approvals of premium rate changes for insurance policies issued in states where the Company operates; the Company's reliance on independent agents to market and distribute its insurance policies; the investment yields the Company is able to obtain on its investments and the market risks associated with the Company's investment portfolio; the effect government policies may have on market interest rates; uncertainties related to assumptions and projections generally, inflation and changes in economic conditions; changes in

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driving patterns and loss trends; acts of war and terrorist activities; court decisions, trends in litigation, and health care and auto repair costs; adverse weather conditions or natural disasters, including those which may be related to climate change, in the markets served by the Company; the stability of the Company's information technology systems and the ability of the Company to execute on its information technology initiatives; the Company's ability to realize deferred tax assets or to hold certain securities with current loss positions to recovery or maturity; and other uncertainties, all of which are difficult to predict and many of which are beyond the Company's control. GAAP prescribes when the Company may reserve for particular risks including litigation exposures. Accordingly, results for a given reporting period could be significantly affected if and when a reserve is established for a major contingency. Reported results may therefore appear to be volatile in certain periods.
The Company undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information or future events or otherwise. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q or, in the case of any document the Company incorporates by reference, any other report filed with the SEC or any other public statement made by the Company, the date of the document, report, or statement. Investors should also understand that it is not possible to predict or identify all factors and should not consider the risks set forth above to be a complete statement of all potential risks and uncertainties. If the expectations or assumptions underlying the Company's forward-looking statements prove inaccurate or if risks or uncertainties arise, actual results could differ materially from those predicted in any forward-looking statements. The factors identified above are believed to be some, but not all, of the important factors that could cause actual events and results to be significantly different from those that may be expressed or implied in any forward-looking statements. Any forward-looking statements should also be considered in light of the information provided in "Item 1A. Risk Factors" in the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2013 and in Item 1A. Risk Factors in Part II - Other Information of this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q.

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A. General
The operating results of property and casualty insurance companies are subject to significant quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year fluctuations due to the effect of competition on pricing, the frequency and severity of losses, the effect of weather and natural disasters on losses, general economic conditions, the general regulatory environment in states in which an insurer operates, state regulation of insurance including premium rates, changes in fair value of investments, and other factors such as changes in tax laws. The property and casualty insurance industry has been highly cyclical, with periods of high premium rates and shortages of underwriting capacity followed by periods of severe price competition and excess capacity. These cycles can have a large impact on the Company's ability to grow and retain business.
This section discusses some of the relevant factors that management considers in evaluating the Company's performance, prospects, and risks. It is not all-inclusive and is meant to be read in conjunction with the entirety of management's discussion and analysis, the Company's condensed consolidated financial statements and notes thereto, and all other items contained within this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q.

B. Business
The Company is primarily engaged in writing personal automobile insurance through 13 insurance subsidiaries ("Insurance Companies") in 13 states, principally California. The Company also writes homeowners, commercial automobile, commercial property, mechanical breakdown, and umbrella insurance. These policies are mostly sold through independent agents who receive a commission for selling policies. The Company believes that it has thorough underwriting and claims handling processes that, together with its agent relationships, provide the Company with competitive advantages because they allow the Company to charge lower prices while realizing better margins than many competitors.
The direct premiums written during the six months ended June 30, 2014 and 2013 by state and line of business were:

                         Six Months Ended June 30, 2014
                             (Amounts in thousands)

                           Private                        Commercial
                       Passenger Auto      Homeowners        Auto         Other Lines         Total
California            $       927,757     $  144,702     $    32,747     $     40,560     $ 1,145,766         80.3 %
Florida                        66,234              5          12,829            4,103          83,171          5.8 %
Other states (1)              121,926         35,496          20,379           19,586         197,387         13.9 %
Total                 $     1,115,917     $  180,203     $    65,955     $     64,249     $ 1,426,324        100.0 %
                                 78.2 %         12.6 %           4.7 %            4.5 %         100.0 %

                         Six Months Ended June 30, 2013
                             (Amounts in thousands)

                           Private                        Commercial
                       Passenger Auto      Homeowners        Auto         Other Lines         Total
California            $       868,887     $  131,033     $    25,566     $     35,285     $ 1,060,771         78.1 %
Florida                        70,546              0           9,259            3,491          83,296          6.1 %
Other states (1)              143,553         35,104          13,065           22,485         214,207         15.8 %
Total                 $     1,082,986     $  166,137     $    47,890     $     61,261     $ 1,358,274        100.0 %
                                 79.8 %         12.2 %           3.5 %            4.5 %         100.0 %

(1) No individual state accounts for more than 5% of total direct premiums written.

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C. Regulatory and Litigation Matters
The Department of Insurance ("DOI") in each state in which the Company operates
is responsible for conducting periodic financial and market conduct examinations
of the Insurance Companies in their states. Market conduct examinations
typically review compliance with insurance statutes and regulations with respect
to rating, underwriting, claims handling, billing, and other practices. The
following table presents a summary of current financial and market conduct

State     Exam Type      Period Under Review                  Status
 CA       Financial         2011 to 2013       Fieldwork began in April 2014.
 GA       Financial         2011 to 2013       Fieldwork began in April 2014.
 FL       Financial         2010 to 2013       Fieldwork began in April 2014.
 IL       Financial         2010 to 2013       Fieldwork began in April 2014.
 TX       Financial         2010 to 2013       Fieldwork began in April 2014.
 CA     Market Conduct      2013 to 2014       Fieldwork will begin in August 2014.
 TX     Market Conduct      2013 to 2014       Fieldwork will begin in August 2014.

During the course of and at the conclusion of these examinations, the examining DOI generally reports findings to the Company. None of the findings reported to date is expected to be material to the Company's financial position. Effective January 2014, the Company implemented a 6.0% rate increase on its California preferred private passenger automobile line of business, which represents approximately 51% of the total Company net premiums earned. In addition, in January 2014, the Company implemented an 8.26% rate increase on its California homeowners line of business, which represents approximately 10% of the total Company net premiums earned.
In April 2010, the California DOI issued a Notice of Non-Compliance ("2010 NNC") to Mercury Insurance Company ("MIC"), Mercury Casualty Company ("MCC"), and California Automobile Insurance Company ("CAIC") based on a Report of Examination of the Rating and Underwriting Practices of these companies issued by the California DOI in February 2010. The 2010 NNC includes allegations of 35 instances of noncompliance with applicable California insurance law and seeks to require that each of MIC, MCC, and CAIC change its rating and underwriting practices to rectify the alleged noncompliance and may also seek monetary penalties. In April 2010, the Company submitted a Statement of Compliance and Notice of Defense to the 2010 NNC, in which it denied the allegations contained in the 2010 NNC and provided specific defenses to each allegation. The Company also requested a hearing in the event that the Statement of Compliance and Notice of Defense does not establish to the satisfaction of the California DOI that the alleged noncompliance does not exist, and the matters described in the 2010 NNC are not otherwise able to be resolved informally with the California DOI. However, no assurance can be given that efforts to resolve the 2010 NNC informally will be successful.
In March 2006, the California DOI issued an Amended Notice of Non-Compliance to a Notice of Non-Compliance originally issued in February 2004 (as amended, "2004 NNC") alleging that the Company charged rates in violation of the California Insurance Code, willfully permitted its agents to charge broker fees in violation of California law, and willfully misrepresented the actual price insurance consumers could expect to pay for insurance by the amount of a fee charged by the consumer's insurance broker. The California DOI seeks to impose a fine for each policy in which the Company allegedly permitted an agent to charge a broker fee and a penalty for each policy on which the Company allegedly used a misleading advertisement and to suspend certificates of authority for a period of one year. In January 2012, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") bifurcated the 2004 NNC between (a) the California DOI's order to show cause, in which the California DOI asserts the false advertising allegations and accusation, and (b) the California DOI's notice of noncompliance, in which the California DOI asserts the unlawful rate allegations. In February 2012, the ALJ submitted a proposed decision dismissing the California DOI's 2004 NNC. In March 2012, the California Insurance Commissioner rejected the ALJ's proposed decision. The Company challenged the rejection in Los Angeles Superior Court ("Superior Court") in April 2012. Following a hearing, the Superior Court sustained the California Insurance Commissioner's demurrer without leave to amend because it found the Company must first exhaust its administrative remedies. In January 2013, the Superior Court's decision was affirmed on appeal. In January 2013, the ALJ heard various pending motions that had been filed by the Company in June 2011. The ALJ granted certain portions of the California DOI's motion for collateral estoppel to prevent the Company from litigating certain findings of fact reached in a prior litigation action and denied the Company's motion for governmental estoppel and laches, without prejudice, on the ground that a resolution of the motion requires specific factual findings in the context of the evidentiary hearing. The ALJ held an evidentiary hearing on the noncompliance portion of the 2004 NNC in April 2013. A mediation was held in September 2013, but the parties were unable to reach a settlement of the matter. The Company, the California DOI, and a consumer group filed post-hearing briefs following the April 2013 evidentiary hearing and the ALJ closed the evidentiary record on April 30, 2014. The Company is awaiting notice of the ALJ's decision. Following receipt of the ALJ's decision, the California Insurance Commissioner will issue his final order adopting, rejecting or modifying the ALJ's decision.

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The Company denies the allegations in the 2004 and 2010 NNC matters, and believes that no monetary penalties are warranted, and the Company intends to defend itself against the allegations vigorously. The Company has been subject to fines and penalties by the California DOI in the past due to alleged violations of the California Insurance Code. The largest and most recent of these was settled in 2008 for $300,000. However, prior settlement amounts are not necessarily indicative of the potential results in the current notice of non-compliance matters. Based upon its understanding of the facts and the California Insurance Code, the Company does not expect that the ultimate resolution of the 2004 and 2010 NNC matters will be material to the Company's financial position. The Company has accrued a liability for the estimated cost to defend itself in the notice of non-compliance matters.
The Company is, from time to time, named as a defendant in various lawsuits or regulatory actions incidental to its insurance business. The majority of lawsuits brought against the Company relate to insurance claims that arise in the normal course of business and are reserved for through the reserving process. For a discussion of the Company's reserving methods, see the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2013.
The Company also establishes reserves for non-insurance claims related lawsuits, regulatory actions, and other contingencies when the Company believes a loss is probable and is able to estimate its potential exposure. For material loss contingencies believed to be reasonably possible, the Company also discloses the nature of the loss contingency and an estimate of the possible loss, range of loss, or a statement that such an estimate cannot be made. While actual losses may differ from the amounts recorded and the ultimate outcome of the Company's pending actions is generally not yet determinable, the Company does not believe that the ultimate resolution of currently pending legal or regulatory proceedings, either individually or in the aggregate, will have a material adverse effect on its financial condition, results of operations, or cash flows. In all cases, the Company vigorously defends itself unless a reasonable settlement appears appropriate. For a discussion of legal matters, see the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2013. D. Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates Reserves
Preparation of the Company's consolidated financial statements requires management's judgment and estimates. The most significant is the estimate of loss reserves. Estimating loss reserves is a difficult process as many factors can ultimately affect the final settlement of a claim and, therefore, the reserve that is required. Changes in the regulatory and legal environment, results of litigation, medical costs, the cost of repair materials, and labor rates, among other factors, can impact ultimate claim costs. In addition, time can be a critical part of reserving determinations since the longer the span between the incidence of a loss and the payment or settlement of a claim, the more variable the ultimate settlement amount could be. Accordingly, short-tail claims, such as property damage claims, tend to be more reasonably predictable than long-tail liability claims.
The Company also engages an independent actuarial consultant to review the Company's reserves and to provide the annual actuarial opinions required under state statutory accounting requirements. The Company does not rely on the actuarial consultant for GAAP reporting or periodic report disclosure purposes. The Company analyzes loss reserves quarterly primarily using the incurred loss, claim count development, and average severity methods described below. The Company also uses the paid loss development method as part of its reserve analysis. When deciding among methods to use, the Company evaluates the credibility of each method based on the maturity of the data available and the claims settlement practices for each particular line of business or coverage within a line of business. When establishing the reserve, the Company will generally analyze the results from all of the methods used rather than relying on a single method. While these methods are designed to determine the ultimate losses on claims under the Company's policies, there is inherent uncertainty in all actuarial models since they use historical data to project outcomes. The Company believes that the techniques it uses provide a reasonable basis in estimating loss reserves.
The incurred loss development method analyzes historical incurred case loss (case reserves plus paid losses) development to estimate ultimate losses. The Company applies development factors against current case incurred losses by accident period to calculate ultimate expected losses. The Company believes that the incurred loss development method provides a reasonable basis for evaluating ultimate losses, particularly in the Company's larger, more established lines of business which have a long operating history.

The average severity method analyzes historical loss payments and/or incurred losses divided by closed claims and/or total claims to calculate an estimated average cost per claim. From this, the expected ultimate average cost per claim can be estimated. The average severity method coupled with the claim count development method provides meaningful information regarding inflation and frequency trends that the Company believes is useful in establishing reserves. The claim count development method analyzes historical claim count development to estimate future incurred claim count development for current claims. The Company applies these development factors against current claim counts by accident period to calculate ultimate expected claim counts.

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The paid loss development method analyzes historical payment patterns to estimate the amount of losses yet to be paid. The Company uses this method for losses and loss adjustment expenses.

At June 30, 2014 and December 31, 2013, the Company recorded its point estimate of approximately $1.05 billion and $1.04 billion, respectively, in losses and loss adjustment expenses liabilities, which include approximately $426 million and $409 million, respectively, of incurred but not reported loss reserves ("IBNR"). IBNR includes estimates, based upon past experience, of ultimate developed costs, which may differ from case estimates, unreported claims that occurred on or prior to June 30, 2014, and estimated future payments for reopened claims. Management believes that the liability for losses and loss adjustment expenses is adequate to cover the ultimate net cost of losses and loss adjustment expenses incurred to date; however, since the provisions are necessarily based upon estimates, the ultimate liability may be more or less than such provisions.
The Company evaluates its reserves quarterly. When management determines that the estimated ultimate claim cost requires a decrease for previously reported accident years, favorable development occurs and a reduction in losses and loss adjustment expenses is reported in the current period. If the estimated ultimate claim cost requires an increase for previously reported accident years, unfavorable development occurs and an increase in losses and loss adjustment expenses is reported in the current period. For the six months ended June 30, 2014, the Company reported favorable development of approximately $8 million on the 2013 and prior accident years' losses and loss adjustment expenses reserves, which at December 31, 2013 totaled approximately $1.04 billion. The favorable development in 2014 came primarily from California lines of business. For the six months ended June 30, 2014, the Company recorded catastrophe losses of approximately $6 million which were primarily related to winter freeze events on the East Coast.
For a further discussion of the Company's reserving methods, see the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2013. Investments
The Company's fixed maturity and equity investments are classified as "trading" and carried at fair value as required when applying the fair value option, with changes in fair value reflected in net realized investment gains or losses in the consolidated statements of operations. The majority of equity holdings, including non-redeemable fund preferred stocks, is actively traded on national exchanges or trading markets, and is valued at the last transaction price on the balance sheet dates.
Fair Value of Financial Instruments
Financial instruments recorded in the consolidated balance sheets include investments, receivables, total return swaps, accounts payable, equity contracts, and secured and unsecured notes payable. The fair value of a financial instrument is the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date. Due to their short-term maturity, the carrying values of receivables and accounts payable approximate their fair market values. All investments are carried on the consolidated balance sheets at fair value, as described in Note 3 of Condensed Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.
The Company's financial instruments include securities issued by the U.S. government and its agencies, securities issued by states and municipal governments and agencies, certain corporate and other debt securities, equity securities, and exchange traded funds. 99.5% of the fair value of financial instruments held at June 30, 2014 is based on observable market prices, observable market parameters, or is derived from such prices or parameters. The availability of observable market prices and pricing parameters can vary by financial instrument. Observable market prices and pricing parameters of a financial instrument, or a related financial instrument, are used to derive a price without requiring significant judgment.
The Company may hold or acquire financial instruments that lack observable market prices or market parameters because they are less actively traded currently or in future periods. The fair value of such instruments is determined using techniques appropriate for each particular financial instrument. These techniques may involve some degree of judgment. The price transparency of the particular financial instrument will determine the degree of judgment involved in determining the fair value of the Company's financial instruments. Price transparency is affected by a wide variety of factors, including, for example, the type of financial instrument, whether it is a new financial instrument and not yet established in the marketplace, and the characteristics particular to the transaction. Financial instruments for which actively quoted prices or pricing parameters are available or for which fair value is derived from actively quoted prices or pricing parameters will generally have a higher degree of price transparency. By contrast, financial instruments that are thinly traded or not quoted will generally have diminished price transparency. Even in normally active markets, the price transparency for actively quoted instruments may be reduced during periods of market dislocation. Alternatively, in thinly quoted markets, the participation of market makers willing to purchase and sell a financial instrument provides a source of transparency for products that otherwise are not actively quoted.

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Income Taxes
At June 30, 2014, the Company's deferred income taxes were in a net liability position materially due to deferred tax liabilities generated by deferred acquisition costs and unrealized gains on securities held. These deferred tax liabilities were substantially offset by deferred tax assets resulting from unearned premiums, expense accruals, loss reserve discounting, and alternative minimum tax and other tax credit carryforwards. The Company assesses the likelihood that its deferred tax assets will be realized and, to the extent management does not believe these assets are more likely than not to be realized, a valuation allowance is established. Management's recoverability assessment of the Company's deferred tax assets which are ordinary in character takes into consideration the Company's strong history of generating ordinary taxable income and a reasonable expectation that it will continue to generate ordinary taxable income in the future. Further, the Company has the capacity to recoup its ordinary deferred tax assets through tax loss carryback claims for taxes paid in prior years. Finally, the Company has various deferred tax . . .

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