FORM 10-K FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2011
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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, DC 20549

 

 

FORM 10-K

 

 

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2011

Commission File Number: 001-12251

 

 

AMERISAFE, INC.

(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)

 

 

 

Texas   75-2069407
(State of Incorporation)  

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification Number)

2301 Highway 190 West,

DeRidder, Louisiana

  70634
(Address of Principal Executive Offices)   (Zip Code)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (337) 463-9052

 

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of Class

 

Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered

Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share   Nasdaq Stock Market LLC

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

 

 

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    Yes  ¨    No  x

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.    Yes  ¨    No  x

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    Yes  x    No  ¨

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to submit and post such files).    Yes  x    No  ¨

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of Registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  x

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):

 

Large accelerated filer   ¨    Accelerated filer   x
Non-accelerated filer   ¨  (Do not check if a smaller reporting company)    Smaller reporting company   ¨

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).    Yes  ¨    No  x

The aggregate market value of the voting common stock held by non-affiliates of the Registrant as of June 30, 2011 (the last business day of the Registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter) was approximately $414.2 million, based upon the closing price of the shares on the NASDAQ Global Select Market on that date.

As of March 1, 2012, there were 18,150,262 shares of the Registrant’s common stock, par value $0.01 per share, outstanding.

 

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the Registrant’s Proxy Statement relating to the 2012 Annual Meeting of Shareholders are incorporated by reference in Items 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 of Part III of this report.

 

 

 


Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

          Page
No.
 

PART I

  
   Forward-Looking Statements      1   

Item 1

   Business      2   

Item 1A

   Risk Factors      28   

Item 1B

   Unresolved Staff Comments      37   

Item 2

   Properties      38   

Item 3

   Legal Proceedings      38   

Item 4

   Mine Safety Disclosures      38   

PART II

  

Item 5

   Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters, and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities      39   

Item 6

   Selected Financial Data      41   

Item 7

   Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations      43   

Item 7A

   Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk      60   

Item 8

   Financial Statements and Supplementary Data      62   

Item 9

   Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure      106   

Item 9A

   Controls and Procedures      106   

Item 9B

   Other Information      108   

PART III

  

Item 10

   Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance      108   

Item 11

   Executive Compensation      108   

Item 12

   Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters      108   

Item 13

   Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence      108   

Item 14

   Principal Accountant Fees and Services      109   

PART IV

  

Item 15

   Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules      110   


Table of Contents

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. You should not place undue reliance on these statements. These forward-looking statements include statements that reflect the current views of our senior management with respect to our financial performance and future events with respect to our business and the insurance industry in general. Statements that include the words “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “project,” “forecast,” “estimate,” “may,” “should,” “anticipate” and similar statements of a future or forward-looking nature identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements address matters that involve risks and uncertainties. Accordingly, there are or will be important factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those indicated in these statements. We believe that these factors include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

   

increased competition on the basis of types of insurance offered, premium rates, coverage availability, payment terms, claims management, safety services, policy terms, overall financial strength, financial ratings and reputation;

 

   

the cyclical nature of the workers’ compensation insurance industry;

 

   

greater frequency or severity of claims and loss activity, including as a result of natural or man-made catastrophic events, than our underwriting, reserving or investment practices anticipate based on historical experience or industry data;

 

   

decreased level of business activity of our policyholders caused by decreased business activity generally, and in particular in the industries we target;

 

   

general economic conditions, including recession, inflation, performance of financial markets, interest rates, unemployment rates and fluctuating asset values;

 

   

adverse developments in economic, competitive or regulatory conditions within the workers’ compensation insurance industry;

 

   

decreased demand for our insurance;

 

   

changes in regulations, laws, rates, or rating factors applicable to us, our policyholders or the agencies that sell our insurance;

 

   

loss of the services of any of our senior management or other key employees;

 

   

changes in the availability, cost or quality of reinsurance and the failure of our reinsurers to pay claims in a timely manner or at all;

 

   

changes in rating agency policies or practices;

 

   

developments in capital markets that adversely affect the performance of our investments;

 

   

changes in legal theories of liability under our insurance policies;

 

   

the effects of U.S. involvement in hostilities with other countries and large-scale acts of terrorism, or the threat of hostilities or terrorist acts; and

 

   

other risks and uncertainties described from time to time in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).

The foregoing factors should not be construed as exhaustive and should be read together with the other cautionary statements included in this report, including under the caption “Risk Factors” in Item 1A of this report. If one or more events related to these or other risks or uncertainties materialize, or if our underlying assumptions prove to be incorrect, actual results may differ materially from what we anticipate.

 

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PART I

 

Item 1. Business.

Overview

We are a specialty provider of workers’ compensation insurance focused on small to mid-sized employers engaged in hazardous industries, principally construction, trucking and agriculture. Since commencing operations in 1986, we have gained significant experience underwriting the complex workers’ compensation exposures inherent in these industries. We provide coverage to employers under state and federal workers’ compensation laws. These laws prescribe wage replacement and medical care benefits that employers are obligated to provide to their employees who are injured in the course and scope of their employment. Our workers’ compensation insurance policies provide benefits to injured employees for, among other things, temporary or permanent disability, death and medical and hospital expenses. The benefits payable and the duration of those benefits are set by state or federal law. The benefits vary by jurisdiction, the nature and severity of the injury and the wages of the employee. The employer, who is the policyholder, pays the premiums for coverage.

Hazardous industry employers tend to have less frequent but more severe claims as compared to employers in other industries due to the nature of their businesses. Injuries that occur are often severe in nature including death, dismemberment, paraplegia and quadriplegia. As a result, employers engaged in hazardous industries pay substantially higher than average rates for workers’ compensation insurance compared to employers in other industries, as measured per payroll dollar. The higher premium rates are due to the nature of the work performed and the inherent workplace danger of our target policyholders. For example, our construction employers on average paid premium rates equal to $7.36 per $100 of payroll to obtain workers’ compensation coverage for all of their employees in 2011.

We employ a proactive, disciplined approach to underwriting employers and providing comprehensive services intended to lessen the overall incidence and cost of workplace injuries. We provide safety services at employers’ workplaces as a vital component of our underwriting process and to promote safer workplaces. We utilize intensive claims management practices that we believe permit us to reduce the overall cost of our claims. In addition, our premium audit services ensure that our policyholders pay the appropriate premiums required under the terms of their policies and enable us to monitor payroll patterns that cause underwriting, safety or fraud concerns.

We believe that the higher premiums typically paid by our policyholders, together with our disciplined underwriting and safety, claims and audit services, provide us with the opportunity to earn attractive returns on equity.

AMERISAFE is an insurance holding company and was incorporated in Texas in 1985. We began operations in 1986 by focusing on workers’ compensation insurance for logging contractors in the southeast United States. In 1994, we expanded our focus to include the other hazardous industries we serve today. Two of our three insurance subsidiaries, American Interstate Insurance Company and Silver Oak Casualty, are domiciled in Louisiana. Our other insurance subsidiary, American Interstate Insurance Company of Texas, is domiciled in Texas.

Financial data included in this report for periods prior to 2011 has been adjusted to correct the accounting for our estimate of liability for state guaranty fund assessments.

Competitive Advantages

We believe we have the following competitive advantages:

Focus on Hazardous Industries. We have extensive experience insuring employers engaged in hazardous industries and have a history of profitably underwriting these industries. Our specialized knowledge of these

 

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hazardous industries helps us better serve our policyholders, which leads to greater employer loyalty and policy retention. Our policy renewal rate on voluntary business that we elected to quote for renewal was 92.0% in 2011.

Focus on Small to Mid-Sized Employers. We believe large insurance companies generally do not target small to mid-sized employers in hazardous industries due to their smaller premium sizes, types of operations, mobile workforces and extensive service needs. We provide these employers enhanced services, including premium payment plans to better match premium payments with our policyholders’ payroll costs and cash flow.

Specialized Underwriting Expertise. Based on our 26-year history of insuring employers engaged in hazardous industries, we have developed industry specific risk analysis and rating tools that support our underwriters in risk selection and pricing. We are highly disciplined when quoting and binding new and renewal business. We do not delegate underwriting authority to agencies, marketers or to any other third parties that sell our insurance.

Comprehensive Safety Services. We provide proactive safety reviews of employers’ worksites, which are often located in rural areas. These safety reviews are a vital component of our underwriting process and also assist our policyholders in loss prevention, and encourage safer workplaces by deploying experienced field safety professionals, or FSPs, to our policyholders’ worksites. In 2011, 88.2% of our new voluntary business policyholders were subject to pre-quotation safety inspections. Additionally, we perform periodic on-site safety surveys of all of our voluntary business policyholders.

Proactive Claims Management. Our employees manage substantially all of our open claims in-house, utilizing intensive claims management practices that emphasize a personalized approach, as well as quality, cost-effective medical treatment. As of December 31, 2011, open indemnity claims per field case manager, or FCM, averaged 54 claims, which we believe is significantly less than the industry average. We also believe our claims management practices allow us to achieve a more favorable claim outcome, accelerate an employee’s return to work, lessen the likelihood of litigation and more rapidly close claims, all of which ultimately lead to lower overall claim costs.

Efficient Operating Platform. Through extensive cost management initiatives, we maintain one of the most efficient operations in the workers’ compensation industry. In 2011 our expense ratio was 24.3%. We believe the industry average expense ratio is significantly higher. We also believe that during the current soft market cycle our markedly lower operating expense ratio has enhanced our ability to produce a favorable underwriting margin. While decreasing premiums earned puts pressure on our operational costs we have a competitive advantage over our competition in terms of operational expense.

Strategy

We intend to increase our book value and produce favorable returns on equity using the following strategies:

Focus on Underwriting Profitability. We intend to maintain our underwriting discipline throughout market cycles with the objective of remaining profitable. Our strategy is to focus on underwriting workers’ compensation insurance in hazardous industries and to maintain adequate rate levels commensurate with the risks we underwrite. We will also continue to strive for improved risk selection and pricing, as well as reduced frequency and severity of claims through comprehensive workplace safety reviews, effective medical cost containment measures and rapid closing of claims through personal, direct contact with our policyholders and their employees.

Increase Market Penetration. Based on data received from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the NAIC, we do not have more than 5.0% of the market share in any state we serve. As a result, we believe we have the opportunity to increase market penetration in each of the states in which we currently operate. Competition in our target markets is fragmented by state, employer size and industry. We believe that

 

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our specialized underwriting expertise and safety, claims and audit services position us to profitably increase our market share in our existing principal markets, with minimal increase in field service employees.

Prudent and Opportunistic Geographic Expansion. While we actively market our insurance in 35 states and the District of Columbia, 52.1% of our voluntary in-force premiums were generated in the seven states where we derived 5.0% or more of our gross premiums written in 2011. We are licensed in an additional 12 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our existing licenses and rate filings will expedite our ability to write policies in these markets when we decide it is prudent to do so.

Capitalize on Development of Information Technology System. We believe our new underwriting and agency management system, GEAUX, along with our customized operational system, ICAMS, and the analytical data warehouse that ICAMS feeds, significantly enhance our ability to select risk, write profitable business and cost-effectively administer our billing, claims and audit functions.

Maintain Capital Strength. We plan to manage our capital to achieve our profitability goals while maintaining optimal operating leverage for our insurance company subsidiaries. To accomplish this objective, we intend to maintain underwriting profitability throughout market cycles, optimize our use of reinsurance, deploy appropriate capital management tools and produce an appropriate risk adjusted return on our growing investment portfolio.

Industry

Overview. Workers’ compensation is a statutory system under which an employer is required to pay for its employees’ medical, disability, vocational rehabilitation and death benefit costs for work-related injuries or illnesses. Most employers satisfy this requirement by purchasing workers’ compensation insurance. The principal concept underlying workers’ compensation laws is that employees injured in the course and scope of their employment have only the legal remedies available under workers’ compensation laws and do not have any other recourse against their employer. An employer’s obligation to pay workers’ compensation does not depend on any negligence or wrongdoing on the part of the employer and exists even for injuries that result from the negligence or fault of another person, a co-employee, or, in most instances, the injured employee.

Workers’ compensation insurance policies generally provide that the insurance carrier will pay all benefits that the insured employer may become obligated to pay under applicable workers’ compensation laws. Each state has a regulatory and adjudicatory system that quantifies the level of wage replacement to be paid, determines the level of medical care required to be provided and the cost of temporary or permanent impairment and specifies the options in selecting medical providers available to the injured employee or the employer. These state laws generally require two types of benefits for injured employees: (1) medical benefits, which include expenses related to the diagnosis and treatment of the injury, as well as any required rehabilitation, and (2) indemnity payments, which consist of temporary wage replacement, permanent disability payments and death benefits to surviving family members. To fulfill these mandated financial obligations, virtually all employers are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance or, if permitted by state law or approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, to self-insure. The employers may purchase workers’ compensation insurance from a private insurance carrier, a state-sanctioned assigned risk pool, or a self-insurance fund, which is an entity that allows employers to obtain workers’ compensation coverage on a pooled basis, typically subjecting each employer to joint and several liability for the entire fund.

Workers’ compensation was the fourth-largest property and casualty insurance line in the United States in 2010, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc., the NCCI. Direct premiums written in 2010 for the workers’ compensation insurance industry were $40 billion, and direct premiums written for the property and casualty industry as a whole were $483 billion. According to the most recent market data reported by the NCCI, which is the official rating bureau in the majority of states in which we are licensed, total premiums reported for the specific occupational class codes for which we underwrite business were $12 billion in 2010.

 

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Policyholders

As of December 31, 2011, we had more than 7,900 voluntary business policyholders with an average annual workers’ compensation policy written premium of $30,676. As of December 31, 2011, our ten largest voluntary business policyholders accounted for 3.7% of our in-force premiums. Our policy renewal rate on voluntary business that we elected to quote for renewal was 92.0% in 2011, 92.7% in 2010, and 91.8% in 2009.

In addition to our voluntary workers’ compensation business, we underwrite workers’ compensation policies for employers assigned to us and assume reinsurance premiums from mandatory pooling arrangements, in each case to fulfill our obligations under residual market programs implemented by the states in which we operate. Our assigned risk business fulfills our statutory obligation to participate in residual market plans in four states. See “—Regulation—Residual Market Programs” below. For the year ended December 31, 2011, our assigned risk business accounted for 0.8% of our gross premiums written, and our assumed premiums from mandatory pooling arrangements accounted for 1.0% of our gross premiums written.

Targeted Industries

We provide workers’ compensation insurance primarily to employers in the following targeted hazardous industries:

Construction. Includes a broad range of operations such as highway and bridge construction, building and maintenance of pipeline and powerline networks, excavation, commercial construction, roofing, iron and steel erection, tower erection and numerous other specialized construction operations. In 2011, our average policy premium for voluntary workers’ compensation within the construction industry was $30,865, or $7.36 per $100 of payroll.

Trucking. Includes a broad spectrum of diverse operations including contract haulers, regional and local freight carriers, special equipment transporters and other trucking companies that conduct a variety of short- and long-haul operations. In 2011, our average policy premium for voluntary workers’ compensation within the trucking industry was $34,588, or $8.83 per $100 of payroll.

Agriculture. Includes crop maintenance and harvesting, grain and produce operations, nursery operations, meat processing, and livestock feed and transportation. In 2011, our average policy premium for voluntary workers’ compensation within the agriculture industry was $28,606, or $5.31 per $100 of payroll.

Oil and Gas. Includes various oil and gas activities including gathering, transportation, processing, production, and field service operations. In 2011, our average policy premium for voluntary workers’ compensation within the oil and gas industry was $39,612, or $5.49 per $100 of payroll.

Logging. Includes tree harvesting operations ranging from labor intensive chainsaw felling and trimming to sophisticated mechanized operations using heavy equipment. In 2011, our average policy premium for voluntary workers’ compensation within the logging industry was $19,008, or $14.37 per $100 of payroll.

Maritime. Includes ship building and repair, pier and marine construction, inter-coastal construction, and stevedoring. In 2011, our average policy premium for voluntary workers’ compensation within the maritime industry was $48,879, or $7.36 per $100 of payroll.

Sawmills. Includes sawmills and various other lumber-related operations. In 2011, our average policy premium for the sawmill industry was $22,000, or $9.78 per $100 of payroll.

Our gross premiums are derived from:

 

   

Direct Premiums. Includes premiums from workers’ compensation insurance policies that we issue to:

 

   

employers who seek to purchase insurance directly from us and who we voluntarily agree to insure, which we refer to as our voluntary business; and

 

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employers assigned to us under residual market programs implemented by some of the states in which we operate, which we refer to as our assigned risk business.

 

   

Assumed Premiums. Includes premiums from our participation in mandatory pooling arrangements under residual market programs implemented by some of the states in which we operate.

Gross premiums written during the years ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009, and the allocation of those premiums among the hazardous industries we target are presented in the table below. The classification of premium by industry group has been refined by the Company; therefore, prior year data in the table below has been restated to reflect the refined classifications.

 

     Gross Premiums Written      Percentage of
Gross Premiums Written
 
     2011      2010      2009      2011     2010     2009  
     (In thousands)                     

Voluntary business:

               

Construction

   $ 106,115       $ 93,341       $ 112,197         39.0     40.9     43.7

Trucking

     63,913         52,988         54,303         23.5     23.2     21.2

Agriculture

     16,416         9,277         7,955         6.0     4.1     3.1

Oil and Gas

     11,996         10,885         12,990         4.4     4.8     5.1

Logging

     11,835         10,925         11,711         4.4     4.8     4.6

Maritime

     6,735         5,226         6,123         2.5     2.3     2.4

Sawmills

     2,659         1,821         1,983         1.0     0.8     0.8

Other

     47,349         39,143         43,081         17.4     17.1     16.8
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total voluntary business

     267,018         223,606         250,343         98.2     98.0     97.7
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Assigned risk business

     2,386         2,258         2,266         0.8     0.9     0.8

Assumed premiums

     2,697         2,561         3,845         1.0     1.1     1.5
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total

   $ 272,101       $ 228,425       $ 256,454         100.0     100.0     100.0
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Geographic Distribution

We are licensed to provide workers’ compensation insurance in 47 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We operate on a geographically diverse basis with less than 11.7% of our gross premiums written in 2011 derived from any one state. The table below identifies, for the years ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009, the states in which the percentage of our gross premiums written exceeded 3.0% for any of the three years presented.

 

     Percentage of Gross Premiums Written
Year Ended December 31,
 

State

   2011     2010     2009  

Louisiana

     11.6     11.2     10.7

Georgia

     8.5     8.6     9.3

Pennsylvania

     8.0     7.6     6.8

North Carolina

     6.4     7.3     7.2

Oklahoma

     5.9     6.4     7.7

Virginia

     5.9     6.4     6.0

Illinois

     5.8     6.1     7.0

Texas

     4.2     4.4     4.1

Minnesota

     3.8     3.9     3.7

Kansas

     3.7     3.3     3.5

Wisconsin

     3.5     3.5     3.5

Alaska

     3.4     3.9     3.4

Arkansas

     3.3     3.2     2.8

South Carolina

     2.9     3.5     3.5

Tennessee

     2.7     2.9     3.3

 

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Sales and Marketing

We sell our workers’ compensation insurance through agencies. As of December 31, 2011, our insurance was sold through more than 3,200 independent agencies and our wholly-owned insurance agency subsidiary, Amerisafe General Agency, which is licensed in 28 states. We are selective in establishing and maintaining relationships with independent agencies that provide quality application flow from policyholders in our target industries and classes that are reasonably likely to accept our quotes. We compensate these agencies by paying a commission based on the premium collected from the policyholder. Our average commission rate for our independent agencies was 7.6% for the year ended December 31, 2011. We pay our insurance agency subsidiary a commission rate of 8.0%. Neither our independent agencies nor our insurance agency subsidiary has authority to underwrite or bind coverage. We do not pay contingent commissions.

As of December 31, 2011, independent agencies accounted for 93.8% of our voluntary in-force premiums. No single independent agency accounted for more than 2.2% of our voluntary in-force premiums at that date.

Underwriting

Our underwriting strategy is to focus on employers in certain hazardous industries that operate in those states where our underwriting efforts are the most profitable and efficient. We analyze each prospective policyholder on its own merits relative to known industry trends and statistical data. Our underwriting guidelines specify that we do not write workers’ compensation insurance for certain hazardous activities, including sub-surface mining and manufacturing of ammunition or fireworks.

Underwriting is a multi-step process that begins with the receipt of an application from one of our agencies. We initially review the application to confirm that the prospective policyholder meets certain established criteria, including that it is engaged in one of our targeted hazardous industries and industry classes and operates in the states we target. If the application satisfies these criteria, the application is forwarded to our underwriting department for further review.

Our underwriting department reviews the application to determine if the application meets our underwriting criteria and whether all required information has been provided. If additional information is required, the underwriting department requests additional information from the agency submitting it. This initial review process is generally completed within three days after the application is received by us. Once this initial review process is complete, our underwriting department requests that a pre-quotation safety inspection be performed in most cases. In 2011, 88.2% of our new voluntary business policyholders were inspected prior to our offering a premium quote.

After the pre-quotation safety inspection has been completed, our underwriting professionals review the results of the inspection to determine if a quote should be made and, if so, prepare the quote. The quote must be reviewed and approved by our underwriting department before it is delivered to the agency. All decisions by our underwriting department, including decisions to decline applications, are subject to review and approval by our management-level underwriters.

Our underwriting professionals participate in an incentive compensation program under which bonuses are paid quarterly based upon achieving premium underwriting volume and loss ratio targets. The determination of whether targets have been satisfied is made 30 months after the beginning of the relevant incentive compensation period.

Pricing

In the majority of states, workers’ compensation insurance rates are based upon published “loss costs.” Loss costs are derived from wage and loss data reported by insurers to the state’s statistical agent, which in most states

 

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is the NCCI. The state agent then promulgates loss costs for specific job descriptions or class codes. Insurers file requests for adoption of a loss cost multiplier, or LCM, to be applied to the loss costs to support operating expenses and profit margins. In addition, most states allow pricing flexibility above and below the filed LCM, within certain limits.

We obtain approval of our rates, including our LCMs, from state regulatory authorities. To maintain rates at profitable levels, we regularly monitor and adjust our LCMs. The effective LCM for our voluntary business was 1.50 for policy year 2011, 1.43 for policy year 2010, and 1.45 for policy year 2009. If we are unable to charge rates in a particular state or industry to produce satisfactory results, we seek to control and reduce our premium volume in that state or industry and redeploy our capital in other states or industries that offer greater opportunity to earn an underwriting profit.

Safety

Our safety inspection process begins with a request from our underwriting department to perform a pre-quotation safety inspection. Our safety inspections focus on a prospective policyholder’s operations, loss exposures and existing safety controls to prevent potential losses. The factors considered in our inspection include employee experience, turnover, training, previous loss history and corrective actions, and workplace conditions, including equipment condition and, where appropriate, use of fall protection, respiratory protection or other safety devices. Our FSPs travel to employers’ worksites to perform these safety inspections. These initial inspections allow our underwriting professionals to make decisions on both insurability and pricing. In certain circumstances, we will agree to provide workers’ compensation insurance only if the employer agrees to implement and maintain the safety management practices that we recommend. In 2011, 88.2% of our new voluntary business policyholders were inspected prior to our offering a premium quote. The remaining voluntary business policyholders were not inspected prior to a premium quote for a variety of reasons, including small premium size or the fact that the policyholder was previously a policyholder subject to our safety inspections.

After an employer becomes a policyholder, we continue to emphasize workplace safety through periodic workplace visits, assisting the policyholder in designing and implementing enhanced safety management programs, providing safety-related information and conducting rigorous post-accident management. Generally, we may cancel or decline to renew an insurance policy if the policyholder does not implement or maintain reasonable safety management practices that we recommend.

Our FSPs participate in an incentive compensation program under which bonuses are paid semi-annually based upon an FSP’s production and their policyholders’ aggregate loss ratios. The results are measured 33 months after the inception of the subject policy period.

Claims

We have structured our claims operation to provide immediate, intensive and personal management of claims to guide injured employees through medical treatment, rehabilitation and recovery, with the primary goal of returning the injured employee to work as promptly as practicable. We seek to limit the number of claim disputes with injured employees through early intervention in the claims process.

Our FCMs are located in the geographic areas where our policyholders are based. We believe the presence of our FCMs in the field enhances our ability to guide an injured employee to the appropriate conclusion in a friendly, dignified and supportive manner. Our FCMs have broad authority to manage claims from occurrence of a workplace injury through resolution, including authority to retain many different medical providers at our expense. Such providers comprise not only our recommended medical providers, but also nurse case managers, independent medical examiners, vocational specialists, rehabilitation specialists and other specialty providers of medical services necessary to achieve a quality outcome.

 

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Following notification of a workplace injury, an FCM will contact the policyholder, the injured employee and/or the treating physician to determine the nature and severity of the injury. If a serious injury occurs, the FCM will promptly visit the injured employee or the employee’s family members to discuss the benefits provided. The FCM will also visit the treating physician to discuss the proposed treatment plan. Our FCM assists the injured employee in receiving appropriate medical treatment and encourages the use of our recommended medical providers and facilities. For example, our FCM may suggest that a treating physician refer an injured worker to another physician or treatment facility that we believe has had positive outcomes for other workers with similar injuries. We actively monitor the number of open cases handled by a single FCM in order to maintain focus on each specific injured employee. As of December 31, 2011, we averaged 54 open indemnity claims per FCM, which we believe is significantly less than the industry average.

Locating our FCMs in the field also allows us to build professional relationships with local medical providers. In selecting medical providers, we rely, in part, on the recommendations of our FCMs who have developed professional relationships within their geographic areas. We also seek input from our policyholders and other contacts in the markets that we serve. While cost factors are considered in selecting medical providers, we consider the most important factor in the selection process to be the medical provider’s ability to achieve a quality outcome. We define quality outcome as the injured worker’s rapid, conclusive recovery and return to sustained, full capacity employment.

While we seek to promptly settle valid claims, we also aggressively defend against claims we consider to be non-meritorious. Where possible, we purchase annuities on longer life claims to close such claims, while still providing an appropriate level of benefits to injured employees.

Premium Audits

We conduct premium audits on all of our voluntary business policyholders annually, upon the expiration of each policy, including when the policy is renewed. The purpose of these audits is to verify that policyholders have accurately reported their payroll expenses and employee job classifications, and therefore, have paid us the premium required under the terms of their policies. In addition to annual audits, we selectively perform interim audits on certain classes of business if significant or unusual claims are filed or if the monthly reports submitted by a policyholder reflect a payroll pattern or other aberrations that cause underwriting, safety or fraud concerns. We also mitigate potential losses from under-reporting of premium or delinquent premium payment by collecting a deposit from the policyholder at the inception of the policy, typically representing 15% of the total estimated annual premium, which deposit can be utilized to offset losses from non-payment of premium.

Loss Reserves

We record reserves for estimated losses under insurance policies that we write and for loss adjustment expenses related to the investigation and settlement of policy claims. Our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses represent the estimated cost of all reported and unreported loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred and unpaid as of a given point in time.

In establishing our reserves, we review the results of analyses using actuarial methodologies that utilize historical loss data from our more than 26 years of underwriting workers’ compensation insurance. In evaluating the results of those analyses, our management also uses substantial judgment in considering other factors that are not considered in these actuarial analyses. These actuarial methodologies and subjective factors are described in more detail below. Our process and methodology for estimating reserves applies to both our voluntary and assigned risk business, but does not include our reserves for mandatory pooling arrangements. We record reserves for mandatory pooling arrangements as those reserves are reported to us by the pool administrators. We do not use loss discounting when we determine our reserves, which would involve recognizing the time value of money and offsetting estimates of future payments by future expected investment income.

 

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When a claim is reported, we establish an initial case reserve for the estimated amount of our loss based on our estimate of the most likely outcome of the claim at that time. Generally, that case reserve is established within 14 days after the claim is reported and consists of anticipated medical costs, indemnity costs and specific adjustment expenses, which we refer to as defense and cost containment expenses, or DCC expenses. The most complex claims, involving severe injuries, may take a considerable period of time for us to establish a more precise estimate of the most likely outcome of the claim. At any point in time, the amount paid on a claim, plus the reserve for future amounts to be paid, represents the estimated total cost of the claim, or the case incurred amount. The estimated amount of loss for a reported claim is based upon various factors, including:

 

   

type of loss;

 

   

severity of the injury or damage;

 

   

age and occupation of the injured employee;

 

   

estimated length of temporary disability;

 

   

anticipated permanent disability;

 

   

expected medical procedures, costs and duration;

 

   

our knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the claim;

 

   

insurance policy provisions related to the claim, including coverage;

 

   

jurisdiction of the occurrence; and

 

   

other benefits defined by applicable statute.

The case incurred amount varies over time due to uncertainties with respect to medical treatment and outcome, length and degree of disability, recurrence of injury, employment availability and wage levels and judicial determinations. As changes occur, the case incurred amount is adjusted. The initial estimate of the case incurred amount can vary significantly from the amount ultimately paid, especially in circumstances involving severe injuries with comprehensive medical treatment. Changes in case incurred amounts is an important component of our historical claim data.

In addition to case reserves, we establish reserves on an aggregate basis for loss and DCC expenses that have been incurred but not reported, or IBNR. Our IBNR reserves are also intended to provide for aggregate changes in case incurred amounts as well as the unpaid cost of recently reported claims for which an initial case reserve has not been established.

The third component of our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses is our adjusting and other reserve, or AO reserve. Our AO reserve covers primarily the estimated cost of administering claims and is established for the costs of future unallocated loss adjustment expenses for all reported and unreported claims.

The final component of our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses is the reserve for mandatory pooling arrangements. The mandatory pooling arrangement reserve includes the amount reported to us by the pool administrators.

In establishing reserves, we rely on the analysis of the more than 177,000 claims in our 26-year history. Using statistical analyses and actuarial methods, we estimate reserves based on historical patterns of case development, payment patterns, mix of business, premium rates charged, case reserving adequacy, operational changes, adjustment philosophy and severity and duration trends.

We review our reserves by industry and state on a quarterly basis. Individual open claims are reviewed more frequently and adjustments to case incurred amounts are made based on expected outcomes. The number of claims reported or occurring during a period, combined with a calculation of average case incurred amounts, and

 

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measured over time, provide the foundation for our reserve estimates. In establishing our reserve estimates, we use historical trends in claim reporting timeliness, frequency of claims in relation to earned premium or covered payroll, premium rate levels charged and case development patterns. However, the number of variables and judgments involved in establishing reserve estimates, combined with some random variation in loss development patterns, results in uncertainty regarding projected ultimate losses. As a result, our ultimate liability for loss and loss adjustment expenses may be more or less than our reserve estimate.

Our analysis of our historical data provides the factors we use in our statistical and actuarial analysis in estimating our loss and DCC expense reserve. These factors are primarily measures over time of claims reported, average case incurred amounts, case development, duration, severity and payment patterns. However, these factors cannot be solely used as these factors do not take into consideration changes in business mix, claims management, regulatory issues, medical trends, medical inflation, employment and wage patterns, and other subjective factors. We use this combination of factors and subjective assumptions in the use of six well-accepted actuarial methods, as follows:

 

   

Paid Development Method—uses historical, cumulative paid loss patterns to derive estimated ultimate losses by accident year based upon the assumption that each accident year will develop to estimated ultimate cost in a manner that is analogous to prior years.

 

   

Paid Weighted Severity (“Generalized Cape Cod”) Method—multiplies estimated ultimate claims for each accident year by a weighted average, trended and developed severity. The ultimate claims estimate is based on paid claim count development. The selected severity for a given accident year is derived by giving some weight to all of the accident years in the experience history rather than treating each accident year independently.

 

   

Paid Bornhuetter-Ferguson (B-F) Method—a combination of the Paid Development Method and the Paid Weighted Severity Method, the Paid B-F Method estimates ultimate losses by adding the current actual paid losses to projected unpaid losses.

 

   

Incurred Development Method—uses historical, cumulative incurred loss patterns to derive estimated ultimate losses by accident year based upon the assumption that each accident year will develop to estimated ultimate cost in a manner that is analogous to prior years.

 

   

Incurred Weighted Severity (“Generalized Cape Cod”) Method—multiplies estimated ultimate claims for each accident year by a weighted average, trended and developed severity. The ultimate claims estimate is based on incurred claim count development. The selected severity for a given accident year is derived by giving some weight to all of the accident years in the experience history rather than treating each accident year independently.

 

   

Incurred B-F Method—a combination of the Incurred Development Method and the Incurred Weighted Severity Method, the Incurred B-F Method projects ultimate losses by adding the current actual incurred losses to the projected unreported losses.

These six methods are applied to both gross and net data. Due to the volatility and unpredictability of excess losses, several B-F estimates of excess losses are also used to estimate the ultimate losses gross of reinsurance. We then analyze the results and may emphasize or de-emphasize some or all of the outcomes to reflect our judgment of their reasonableness in relation to supplementary information and operational and industry changes. These outcomes are then aggregated to produce a single weighted average point estimate that is the base estimate for loss and DCC expense reserves.

In determining the level of emphasis that may be placed on some or all of the methods, we review statistical information as to which methods are most appropriate, whether adjustments are appropriate within the particular methods, and if results produced by each method include inherent bias reflecting operational and industry changes. This supplementary information may include:

 

   

open and closed claim counts;

 

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statistics related to open and closed claim count percentages;

 

   

claim closure rates;

 

   

changes in average case reserves and average loss and DCC expenses incurred on open claims;

 

   

reported and ultimate average case incurred changes;

 

   

reported and projected ultimate loss ratios; and

 

   

loss payment patterns.

In establishing our AO reserves, we review our past adjustment expenses in relation to paid claims as well as estimated future costs based on expected claims activity and duration.

The sum of our net loss and DCC expense reserve, our AO reserve and our reserve for mandatory pooling arrangements is our total net reserve for loss and loss adjustment expenses.

As of December 31, 2011, our best estimate of our ultimate liability for loss and loss adjustment expenses, net of amounts recoverable from reinsurers, was $477.3 million, which includes $9.6 million in reserves for mandatory pooling arrangements as reported by the pool administrators. The estimate of our ultimate liability was derived from the process and methodology described above, which relies on substantial judgment. There is inherent uncertainty in estimating our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses. It is possible that our actual loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred may vary significantly from our estimates. We view our estimate of loss and DCC expenses as the most significant component of our reserve for loss and loss adjustment expenses.

Additional information regarding our reserve for unpaid loss and loss adjustment expenses (“LAE”) as of December 31, 2011, 2010, and 2009 is set forth below:

 

     2011     2010     2009  
     (In thousands)  

Gross case loss and DCC reserves

   $ 404,626      $ 412,720      $ 408,075   

AO reserves

     13,402        14,919        14,873   

Gross IBNR reserves

     120,186        104,565        111,707   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Gross unpaid loss, DCC and AO reserves

     538,214        532,204        534,655   

Reinsurance recoverables on unpaid loss and LAE

     (60,937     (65,536     (60,435
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net unpaid loss, DCC and AO reserves

   $ 477,277      $ 466,668      $ 474,220   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

We performed sensitivity analyses to show how our net loss and DCC expense reserve, including IBNR, would be impacted by changes in certain critical assumptions. For our paid and incurred development methods, we varied both the cumulative paid and incurred loss development factors (LDFs) by plus and minus 20%, both individually and in combination with one another. The results of this sensitivity analysis, using December 31, 2011 data, are summarized below.

 

Change in

Paid LDFs

    Change in
Incurred LDFs
    Resultant Change in
Net Loss and DCC Reserve
 
    Amount ($)     Percentage  
            (In thousands)        
  +20     +20     15,801        3.5 %
  +20     0     9,720       2.1 %
  +20     –20     3,531       0.8 %
  0     +20     6,420       1.4 %
  0     –20     (6,619     (1.5 )% 
  –20     +20     (2,954     (0.7 )% 
  –20     0     (9,957     (2.2 )% 
  –20     –20     (16,939     (3.7 )% 

 

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For our paid and incurred weighted severity methods, we varied our year-end selected trend factor (for medical costs, defense costs, wage inflation, etc.) by plus and minus 20%. The results of this sensitivity analysis, using December 31, 2011 data, are summarized below.

 

Change in

Severity Trend

   Resultant Change in
Net Loss and DCC Reserve
 
   Amount ($)     Percentage  
     (In thousands)        

+20%

     4,102        0.9

–20%

     (3,966     (0.9 )% 

The Bornhuetter-Ferguson method estimates ultimate loss by averaging weighted severity paid or incurred losses and expected future paid or incurred development. To measure sensitivity, we changed this average by plus and minus 20%. The results of this sensitivity analysis, using December 31, 2011 data, are summarized below.

 

Change in

Expected Losses

   Resultant Change in
Net Loss and DCC Reserve
 
   Amount ($)     Percentage  
     (In thousands)        

+20%

     9,863        2.2

–20%

     (9,876     (2.2 )% 

Reconciliation of Loss Reserves

The table below shows the reconciliation of loss reserves on a gross and net basis for the years ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009, reflecting changes in losses incurred and paid losses.

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
     2011     2010     2009  
     (In thousands)  

Balance, beginning of period

   $ 532,204     $ 534,655      $ 531,293   

Less amounts recoverable from reinsurers on unpaid loss and loss adjustment expenses

     65,536        60,435        56,596   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net balance, beginning of period

     466,668        474,220        474,697   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Add incurred related to:

      

Current year

     196,269        179,022        185,201   

Prior years

     (6,563     (21,634     (21,885
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total incurred

     189,706        157,388        163,316   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Less paid related to:

      

Current year

     53,213        47,385        42,174   

Prior years

     125,884        117,555        121,619   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total paid

     179,097        164,940        163,793   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net balance, end of period

     477,277        466,668        474,220   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Add amounts recoverable from reinsurers on unpaid loss and loss adjustment expenses

     60,937        65,536        60,435   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance, end of period

   $ 538,214      $ 532,204      $ 534,655   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Our gross reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses of $538.2 million as of December 31, 2011 are expected to cover all unpaid loss and loss adjustment expenses as of that date. As of December 31, 2011, we had

 

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5,184 open claims, with an average of $103,822 in unpaid loss and loss adjustment expenses per open claim. During the year ended December 31, 2011, 5,986 new claims were reported, and 5,931 claims were closed.

In 2011, our gross reserves increased to $538.2 million from $532.2 million at December 31, 2010. The increase in reserves was attributable to both the current accident year and prior accident years. There was also $6.6 million of favorable development for prior accident years. As of December 31, 2010, we had 5,129 open claims, with an average of $103,764 in unpaid loss and loss adjustment expenses per open claim. During the year ended December 31, 2010, 5,800 new claims were reported, and 5,182 claims were closed.

In 2010, our gross reserves decreased to $532.2 million from $534.7 million at December 31, 2009. The decrease in reserves was attributable to both the current accident year and prior accident years. The current accident year incurred losses amounted to less than 2009 but resulted in a higher loss ratio due to decreased earned premium. There was also $21.6 million of favorable development for prior accident years. As of December 31, 2009, we had 4,511 open claims, with an average of $118,523 in unpaid loss and loss adjustment expenses per open claim. During the year ended December 31, 2009, 5,275 new claims were reported, and 5,557 claims were closed.

Loss Development

The table below shows the net loss development for business written each year from 2001 through 2011. The table reflects the changes in our loss and loss adjustment expense reserves in subsequent years from the prior loss estimates based on experience as of the end of each succeeding year on a GAAP basis.

The first line of the table shows, for the years indicated, our liability including the incurred but not reported loss and loss adjustment expenses as originally estimated, net of amounts recoverable from reinsurers. For example, as of December 31, 2001, it was estimated that $119.0 million would be sufficient to settle all claims not already settled that had occurred on or prior to December 31, 2001, whether reported or unreported. The next section of the table sets forth the re-estimates in later years of incurred losses, including payments, for the years indicated. The next section of the table shows, by year, the cumulative amounts of loss and loss adjustment expense payments, net of amounts recoverable from reinsurers, as of the end of each succeeding year. For example, with respect to the net loss reserves of $119.0 million as of December 31, 2001, by December 31, 2011 (ten years later) $98.1 million had actually been paid in settlement of the claims that relate to liabilities as of December 31, 2001.

The “cumulative redundancy/(deficiency)” represents, as of December 31, 2011, the difference between the latest re-estimated liability and the amounts as originally estimated. A redundancy means that the original estimate was higher than the current estimate. A deficiency means that the current estimate is higher than the original estimate.

 

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Analysis of Loss and Loss Adjustment Expense Reserve Development

 

    Year Ended December 31,  
    2001     2002     2003     2004     2005     2006     2007     2008     2009     2010     2011  
    (In thousands)  

Reserve for loss and loss adjustment expenses, net of reinsurance recoverables

  $ 119,020      $ 152,908      $ 183,001      $ 243,256      $ 364,253      $ 412,366      $ 462,478      $ 474,697      $ 474,220      $ 466,668      $ 477,277   

Net reserve estimated as of:

                     

One year later

    123,413        155,683        196,955        265,138        362,026        402,876        442,091        452,812        452,587        460,105     

Two years later

    116,291        168,410        217,836        262,601        361,181        372,520        416,758        427,794        422,697       

Three years later

    119,814        187,225        218,217        262,427        346,914        359,590        396,492        398,187         

Four years later

    132,332        189,098        219,114        256,790        339,849        348,596        371,599           

Five years later

    134,836        190,161        214,304        250,586        335,158        335,252             

Six years later

    136,277        186,829        209,819        247,798        325,714               

Seven years later

    133,588        184,455        208,549        239,886                 

Eight years later

    130,599        184,641        200,717                   

Nine years later

    130,331        178,414                     

Ten years later

    125,250                       

Net cumulative redundancy (deficiency)

  $ (6,230   $ (25,506   $ (17,716   $ 3,370      $ 38,539      $ 77,114      $ 90,879      $ 76,510      $ 51,523      $ 6,563     

Cumulative amount of reserve paid, net of reserve recoveries, through:

                     

One year later

    51,114        66,545        73,783        40,514        110,369        105,408        116,631        121,619        117,555        125,884     

117,555

    71,852        101,907        65,752        97,091        164,354        167,852        182,879        185,334        182,242       

Three years later

    84,341        73,391        99,829        124,785        201,393        203,502        217,137        222,249         

Four years later

    42,919        96,884        114,594        154,799        222,867        224,419        239,189           

Five years later

    59,194        110,475        136,497        167,092        237,699        235,931             

Six years later

    76,547        128,629        143,642        175,639        245,466               

Seven years later

    90,575        132,656        149,349        180,743                 

Eight years later

    92,906        137,093        152,523                   

Nine years later

    95,946        139,661                     

Ten years later

    98,075                       

Net reserve— December 31

  $ 119,020      $ 152,908      $ 183,001      $ 243,256      $ 364,253      $ 412,366      $ 462,478      $ 474,697      $ 474,220      $ 466,668      $ 477,277   

Reinsurance recoverables

    264,013        193,634        194,558        189,624        120,232        106,810        74,925        56,596        60,435        65,536        60,937   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Gross reserve—December 31

  $ 383,033      $ 346,542      $ 377,559      $ 432,880      $ 484,485      $ 519,176      $ 537,403      $ 531,293      $ 534,655      $ 532,204      $ 538,214   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net re-estimated reserve

  $ 125,250      $ 178,414      $ 200,717      $ 239,886      $ 325,714      $ 335,252      $ 371,599      $ 398,187      $ 422,697      $ 460,105     

Re-estimated reinsurance recoverables

    361,611        287,681        232,634        193,242        128,120        121,583        91,884        76,999        62,464        62,134     
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Gross re-estimated reserve

  $ 486,861      $ 466,095      $ 433,351      $ 433,128      $ 453,834      $ 456,835      $ 463,483      $ 475,186      $ 485,161      $ 522,239     
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Gross cumulative redundancy (deficiency)

  $ (103,828   $ (119,553   $ (55,792   $ (248   $ 30,651      $ 62,341      $ 73,920      $ 56,107      $ 49,494      $ 9,965     
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Our net cumulative redundancy (deficiency) set forth in the table above is net of amounts recoverable from our reinsurers, including Reliance Insurance Company, one of our former reinsurers. In 2001, Reliance was placed under regulatory supervision by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department and was subsequently placed into liquidation. As a result, we recognized losses related to uncollectible amounts from Reliance of $0.5 million in

 

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2007, $0.8 million in 2005, $0.3 million in 2004, $1.3 million in 2003, $2.0 million in 2002 and $17.0 million in 2001. No losses were recognized in 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2006.

Investments

We derive net investment income from our invested assets. As of December 31, 2011, the carrying value of our investment portfolio, including cash and cash equivalents, was $851.5 million and the fair value of the portfolio was $890.7 million.

Our board of directors has established an investment policy governing our investments, which is reviewed at least annually. The principal objectives of our investment portfolio are to preserve capital and surplus and to maintain appropriate liquidity for corporate requirements. Additional objectives are to support our A.M. Best rating and to maximize after-tax income and total return. Our investment policy establishes limitations and guidelines relating to, for example, asset allocation, diversification, credit ratings and duration. We review our investment portfolio with the risk committee of our board of directors periodically for compliance with the policy. Our investment portfolio is managed internally.

We classify the majority of our fixed maturity securities as “held-to-maturity”. We do not reflect any changes in fair value for these securities in our financial statements, unless such changes are deemed to be “other than temporary impairments,” in which case such impairments flow through our income statement within the category, “Net realized gains (losses) on investments.” The remainder of our fixed maturity securities and all of our equity securities are classified as “available-for-sale.” These investments are valued at fair market value each period, with changes in fair value flowing through other comprehensive income. We generally seek to limit our holdings in equity securities to the lesser of 10% of the investment portfolio or 30% of shareholders’ equity, on a fair value basis.

See Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Investments” for further information on the composition and results of our investment portfolio.

The table below shows the carrying values of various categories of securities held in our investment portfolio, the percentage of the total carrying value of our investment portfolio represented by each category and the effective interest rate for the year ended December 31, 2011 based on the carrying value of each category as of December 31, 2011:

 

    Carrying Value     Percentage
of Portfolio
    Effective Interest
Rate
 
    (In thousands)              

Fixed maturity securities—held-to-maturity:

     

State and political subdivisions

  $ 441,273        51.8     3.6

Corporate bonds

    92,682        10.9     2.7

Commercial mortgage-backed securities

    51,550        6.1     5.5

U.S. agency-based mortgage-backed securities

    46,096        5.4     5.2

U.S. Treasury securities and obligations of U.S. Government agencies

    9,141        1.1     4.2

Asset-backed securities

    5,306        0.6     3.2
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

Total fixed maturity securities—held-to-maturity

    646,048        75.9     3.7
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

Fixed maturity securities—available-for-sale:

     

State and political subdivisions

    57,762        6.8     4.1

Corporate bonds

    42,980        5.0     2.8
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

Total fixed maturity securities—available-for-sale

    100,742        11.8     3.5
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

Equity securities

    12,240        1.4     5.2

Cash and cash equivalents

    45,536        5.4     0.3

Short-term investments

    46,944        5.5     1.1
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

Total investments, including cash and cash equivalents

  $ 851,510        100     3.4
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

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As of December 31, 2011, our fixed maturity securities had a carrying value of $746.8 million, which represented 87.7% of the carrying value of our investments, including cash and cash equivalents. For the twelve months ended December 31, 2011, the pre-tax accounting investment yield of our investment portfolio was 3.1% per annum.

The gross unrealized gains and losses on, and the cost and fair value of, our investment portfolio as of December 31, 2011 are summarized as follows:

 

     Cost or
Amortized
Cost
     Gross
Unrealized
Gains
     Gross
Unrealized
Losses
    Fair Value  
     (In thousands)  

Fixed maturity securities, held-to-maturity

   $ 646,048       $ 40,573      $ (1,379   $ 685,242  

Fixed maturity securities, available-for-sale

     98,077         2,899         (234     100,742   

Equity securities, available-for-sale

     11,776         661         (197     12,240   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

 

Totals

   $ 755,901       $ 44,133       $ (1,810   $ 798,224   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

 

As of December 31, 2011, the municipal bond component was 58.6% of the investment portfolio, including cash and short-term investments. The table below summarizes the top five geographic exposures as of December 31, 2011.

 

     Carrying Value      Percentage
of Municipal
Portfolio
    Percentage
of Total
Portfolio
 
     (In thousands)               

Louisiana

   $ 122,922         24.6     14.4

Texas

     73,465         14.7     8.6

Florida

     48,484         9.7     5.7

Washington

     19,770         4.0     2.3

Indiana

     17,619         3.5     2.1

Other

     217,027         43.5     25.5
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

 
   $ 499,287        100.0     58.6

Our largest insurance subsidiary is domiciled in Louisiana and companies are allowed an investment credit against premium taxes for varying levels of Louisiana assets.

The table below summarizes the credit quality of our investment portfolio, excluding our equity holdings, as of December 31, 2011, as determined by the middle rating of Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Fitch.

 

Credit Rating

   Percentage
of Total
Carrying Value
 

“AAA”

     29.2

“AA”

     39.1

“A”

     14.6

“BBB”

     15.5

“BB and below”

     1.3

“Unrated Securities”

     0.3
  

 

 

 

Total

     100.0
  

 

 

 

As of December 31, 2011, the average composite rating of our investment portfolio, excluding our equity holdings, was “AA-.”

 

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The table below shows the composition of our fixed maturity securities by remaining time to maturity as of December 31, 2011.

 

Remaining Time to Maturity

   As of December 31, 2011  
   Carrying Value      Percentage  
     (In thousands)         

Less than one year

   $ 115,641         15.4

One to five years

     203,220         27.2

Five to ten years

     146,750         19.7

More than ten years

     178,227         23.9

U.S. agency-based mortgage-backed securities

     46,096         6.2

Commercial mortgage-backed securities

     51,550         6.9

Asset-backed securities

     5,306         0.7
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

   $ 746,790         100.0
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Reinsurance

We purchase reinsurance to reduce our net liability on individual risks and claims and to protect against catastrophic losses. Reinsurance involves an insurance company transferring to, or ceding, a portion of the exposure on a risk to a reinsurer. The reinsurer assumes the exposure in return for a portion of our premium. The cost and limits of reinsurance we purchase can vary from year to year based upon the availability of quality reinsurance at an acceptable price and our desired level of retention. Retention refers to the amount of risk that we retain for our own account. Under excess of loss reinsurance, covered losses in excess of the retention level up to the limit of the program are paid by the reinsurer. Our excess of loss reinsurance is written in layers, in which our reinsurers accept a band of coverage up to a specified amount. Any liability exceeding the limit of the program reverts to us as the ceding company. Reinsurance does not legally discharge us from primary liability for the full amount due under our policies. However, our reinsurers are obligated to indemnify us to the extent of the coverage provided in our reinsurance agreements.

We believe reinsurance is critical to our business. Our reinsurance purchasing strategy is to protect against unforeseen and/or catastrophic loss activity that would adversely impact our income and capital base. We generally select financially strong reinsurers with an A.M. Best rating of “A–” (Excellent) or better at the time we enter into a reinsurance contract. In addition, to minimize our exposure to significant losses from reinsurer insolvencies, we evaluate the financial condition of our reinsurers and monitor concentrations of credit risk on a continual basis.

2012 Excess of Loss Reinsurance Treaty Program

Our 2012 reinsurance program is substantially similar to our 2011 program. Effective January 1, 2012, we entered into a new excess of loss reinsurance treaty program related to our voluntary and assigned risk business that applies to losses incurred between January 1, 2012 and the date on which our reinsurance agreements are terminated. Our reinsurance treaty program provides us with reinsurance coverage for each loss occurrence up to $50.0 million, subject to applicable deductibles, retentions and aggregate limits. However, for any loss occurrence involving only one claimant, our reinsurance coverage is limited to a maximum of $10.0 million for that claimant, subject to applicable deductibles, retentions and aggregate limits. We have 14 reinsurers participating in our 2012 reinsurance treaty program. Under certain circumstances, including a downgrade of a reinsurer’s A.M. Best rating to “B++” (Very Good) or below, such reinsurer may be required to provide us with security for amounts due under the terms of our reinsurance program. This security may take the form of, among other things, cash advances or letters of credit. If security is required because of a ratings downgrade, the form of security must be mutually agreed to between the reinsurer and us.

 

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Our 2012 reinsurance treaty program provides coverage in the following three layers:

 

   

First Layer. This layer is part of our 2012 reinsurance treaty program, and is a three-year structured product. It covers losses incurred between January 1, 2011 and January 1, 2014. The treaty affords coverage in two parts up to $4.0 million for each loss occurrence in excess of $1.0 million. Before our reinsurers are obligated to reimburse us under this layer, we are subject to an annual aggregate deductible of 6.5% of subject earned premium under the first part of this coverage and 13.1% of subject earned premium under the second part of this coverage. The limit under the first part of this coverage for all claims, including certain terrorism claims, is 6.6% of subject earned premium in any one year and 13.2% of subject earned premium in the aggregate for all three years covered by this layer. The limit under the second part of this coverage for all claims, including certain terrorism claims, is 6.6% of subject earned premium in the aggregate for all three years covered by this layer.

 

   

Second Layer. This is a three-year treaty covering losses incurred between January 1, 2012 and January 1, 2015. The treaty affords coverage up to $5.0 million for each loss occurrence in excess of $5.0 million. The aggregate limit for all claims, including terrorism, under this layer is $10.0 million in any one year and $20.0 million in the aggregate for all three years covered by this layer. Our 2011 program included a similar layer effective between January 1, 2009 and January 1, 2012.

 

   

Third Layer. Affords coverage up to $40.0 million for each loss occurrence in excess of $10.0 million. The aggregate limit for all claims, including terrorism, under this layer is $80.0 million.

The agreement for both parts of the first layer will terminate on January 1, 2014, the agreement for the second layer will terminate on January 1, 2015 and the third layer of coverage will terminate on January 1, 2013. In addition, we may terminate the participation of one or more of our reinsurers under certain circumstances as permitted by the terms of our reinsurance agreements.

At our option, we have the right to commute the reinsurers’ obligations under the agreement for the first and second layers of coverage at any time after the end of the applicable terms of the agreements. If we commute the reinsurers’ obligations, we are entitled to receive a portion of the premiums that were paid to the reinsurers prior to the effective dates of the applicable commutations, subject to certain adjustments provided in the agreement.

The table below sets forth the reinsurers participating in our 2012 reinsurance program:

 

Reinsurer

   A.M. Best
Rating
 

Hannover Reinsurance (Ireland) Limited

     A   

Tokio Millennium Re Ltd.

     A++   

Munich Reinsurance America, Inc.

     A+   

Arch Reinsurance Company

     A+   

Alterra Bermuda Limited

     A   

Aspen Insurance UK Limited

     A   

Hannover Ruckversicherung AG

     A   

Lloyd’s Syndicate 0435 FDY

     A   

Lloyd’s Syndicate 1400 DRE

     A   

Lloyd’s Syndicate 1955 BAR

     A   

Lloyd’s Syndicate 2003 SJC

     A   

Lloyd’s Syndicate 4472 LIB

     A   

Lloyd’s Syndicate 5151 MRE

     A   

Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Reinsurance Association

     NR   

 

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Due to the nature of reinsurance, we have receivables from reinsurers that apply to accident years prior to 2011. The table below summarizes our amounts recoverable from reinsurers as of December 31, 2011.

 

Reinsurer

   A.M. Best
Rating
     Amounts Recoverable as
of December 31, 2011
 
            (In thousands)  

Hannover Reinsurance (Ireland) Limited (1)

     A       $ 23,387   

Aspen Insurance Limited

     A         14,191   

Odyssey Reinsurance Company

     A         13,889   

Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Reinsurance Association (1)

     NR         7,830   

Clearwater Insurance Company

     B++         6,433   

St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company

     A+         6,147   

Finial Reinsurance Company

     A-         5,606   

SCOR Reinsurance Company

     A         5,137   

Clearwater Select Insurance Company

     A         1,382   

American National Insurance Company

     A         1,334   

Tokio Millennium Re Ltd (1)

     A++         1,330   

Harrington Syndicate 2000

     A         1,018   

Other (32 reinsurers)

     —           8,528   
     

 

 

 

Total

      $ 96,212  
     

 

 

 

 

(1) Current participant in our 2012 reinsurance program.

Terrorism Reinsurance

The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (the “2002 Act”) was enacted in response to the events of September 11, 2001 and was extended by the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act of 2005 (the “2005 Act”) and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (the “2007” Act). The 2002 Act, the 2005 Act and the 2007 Act were designed to ensure the availability of insurance coverage for losses resulting from certain acts of terrorism in the United States. The 2007 Act reauthorizes a federal program, established under the 2002 Act, extended by the 2005 Act, and further extended it through the end of 2014. This program provides federal reimbursement to insurance companies for a portion of their losses arising from certain acts of terrorism and requires insurance companies to offer coverage for these acts. The program applies to insured losses arising out of acts that are certified as “acts of terrorism” by the Secretary of the Treasury in concurrence with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General of the United States. In addition, the program does not provide any reimbursement for any portion of aggregate industry-wide insured losses from certified acts of terrorism that exceed $100.0 billion in any one year and is subject to certain other limitations and restrictions.

For insured losses in 2011, each insurance group is responsible for a statutory deductible under the 2007 Act that is equal to 20% of its direct earned property and casualty insurance premiums. For losses occurring in 2012, the U.S. Federal Government will reimburse 85% of an insurance group’s covered losses over the statutory deductible. In addition, no federal reimbursement is available unless the aggregate insurance industry-wide losses from a certified act of terrorism exceed $100.0 million for any act of terrorism occurring in 2012. However, there is no relief from the requirement under the 2007 Act that insurance companies offer coverage for certified acts of terrorism if those acts do not cause losses exceeding these threshold amounts and thus do not result in any federal reimbursement payments.

Under the 2007 Act, insurance companies must offer coverage for losses due to certified acts of terrorism in their workers’ compensation policies. Moreover, the workers’ compensation laws of the various states generally

 

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do not permit the exclusion of coverage for losses arising from acts of terrorism, including terrorism that involves the use of nuclear, biological, radioactive or chemical agents. In addition, state law prohibits us from limiting our workers’ compensation insurance losses arising from any one catastrophe or any one claimant. We have reinsurance protection in our 2012 reinsurance treaty program that affords coverage for up to $50 million for losses arising from terrorism but excluding nuclear, biological, radiological and chemical attacks, subject to the deductibles, retentions, definitions and aggregate limits.

Technology

We view our internally developed and purchased management information systems as an integral part of our operations and make a substantial ongoing investment in improving our systems. We provide our field premium auditors, field safety professionals and field case managers with computer and communication equipment to more timely and efficiently complete services. This technology also helps to facilitate communication and to report and monitor claims. All of our systems development and infrastructure operation and maintenance are performed by our information technology professionals, with limited assistance from outside vendors.

Competition

The insurance industry, in general, is highly competitive and there is significant competition in the workers’ compensation segment of the industry. Competition in the insurance business is based on many factors, including premium rates, policy terms, coverage availability, claims management, safety services, payment terms, types of insurance offered, overall financial strength and financial ratings assigned by independent rating organizations, such as A.M. Best. Some of the insurers with which we compete have significantly greater financial, marketing and management resources than we do. We may also compete with new market entrants in the future.

We believe the workers’ compensation market for the hazardous industries we target is more fragmented and to some degree less competitive than other segments of the workers’ compensation market. Our competitors include other insurance companies, individual self-insured companies, state insurance pools and self-insurance funds. We estimate that more than 300 insurance companies participate in the workers’ compensation market. The insurance companies with which we compete vary by state and by the industries we target. These market conditions are also impacted by lower estimated loss costs adopted by a number of states in which we do business.

Our competitive advantages include our safety service and claims management practices, our A.M. Best rating and our ability to reduce claims through implementation of our work safety programs. In addition, we believe that our insurance is competitively priced and our premium rates are typically lower than those for policyholders assigned to the state insurance pools, allowing us to provide a viable alternative for policyholders in those pools.

Employees

As of December 31, 2011, we had 427 full-time employees and one part-time employee. None of our employees are subject to collective bargaining agreements. We believe that our employee relations are good.

Regulation

Holding Company Regulation

Nearly all states have enacted legislation that regulates insurance holding company systems. Each insurance company in a holding company system is required to register with the insurance supervisory agency of its state of domicile and furnish information concerning the operations of companies within the holding company system that may materially affect the operations, management or financial condition of the insurers within the system.

 

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Under these laws, the respective state insurance departments may examine us at any time, require disclosure of material transactions and require prior notice of or approval for certain transactions. All transactions within a holding company system affecting an insurer must have fair and reasonable terms and are subject to other standards and requirements established by law and regulation.

Change of Control

The insurance holding company laws of nearly all states require advance approval by the respective state insurance departments of any change of control of an insurer. “Control” is generally presumed to exist through the direct or indirect ownership of 10% or more of the voting securities of a domestic insurance company or any entity that controls a domestic insurance company. In addition, insurance laws in many states contain provisions that require pre-notification to the insurance commissioners of a change of control of a non-domestic insurance company licensed in those states. Any future transactions that would constitute a change of control of American Interstate, Silver Oak Casualty or American Interstate of Texas, including a change of control of AMERISAFE, would generally require the party acquiring control to obtain the prior approval of the department of insurance in the state in which the insurance company being acquired is incorporated and may require pre-notification in the states where pre-notification provisions have been adopted. Obtaining these approvals may result in the material delay of, or deter, any such transaction.

These laws may discourage potential acquisition proposals and may delay, deter or prevent a change of control of AMERISAFE, including through transactions, and in particular unsolicited transactions, that some or all of the shareholders of AMERISAFE might consider to be desirable.

State Insurance Regulation

Insurance companies are subject to regulation and supervision by the department of insurance in the state in which they are domiciled and, to a lesser extent, other states in which they conduct business. American Interstate and Silver Oak Casualty are primarily subject to regulation and supervision by the Louisiana Department of Insurance and Workers’ Compensation Commission. American Interstate of Texas is primarily subject to regulation and supervision by the Texas Department of Insurance and Workers’ Compensation Commission. These state agencies have broad regulatory, supervisory and administrative powers, including among other things, the power to grant and revoke licenses to transact business, license agencies, set the standards of solvency to be met and maintained, determine the nature of, and limitations on, investments and dividends, approve policy forms and rates in some states, periodically examine financial statements, determine the form and content of required financial statements and periodically examine market conduct.

Detailed annual and quarterly financial statements and other reports are required to be filed with the state insurance departments in all states in which we are licensed to transact business. The financial statements of American Interstate, Silver Oak Casualty and American Interstate of Texas are subject to periodic examination by the department of insurance in each state in which they are licensed to do business.

In addition, many states have laws and regulations that limit an insurer’s ability to withdraw from a particular market. For example, states may limit an insurer’s ability to cancel or not renew policies. Furthermore, certain states prohibit an insurer from withdrawing one or more lines of business from the state, except pursuant to a plan that is approved by the state insurance department. The state insurance department may disapprove a plan that may lead to market disruption. Laws and regulations that limit cancellation and non-renewal and that subject program withdrawals to prior approval requirements may restrict our ability to exit unprofitable markets.

Insurance agencies are also subject to regulation and supervision by the state insurance departments in the states in which they are licensed. Our wholly owned subsidiary, Amerisafe General Agency, Inc., is licensed as an insurance agent in 28 states and as a managing general insurance agency in 15 states. Amerisafe General Agency is domiciled in Louisiana and is primarily subject to regulation and supervision by the Louisiana

 

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Department of Insurance, which regulates the solicitation of insurance and the qualification and licensing of agents and agencies that may desire to conduct business in Louisiana.

State Insurance Department Examinations

We are subject to periodic examinations by state insurance departments in the states in which we operate. Both Louisiana and Texas insurance departments generally examine its domiciliary insurance companies on a triennial basis. American Interstate Insurance Company and Silver Oak Casualty, Inc. underwent an examination in 2009 that covered calendar years 2006 through 2008. American Interstate of Texas underwent an examination in 2010 that covered calendar year 2009.

Guaranty Fund Assessments

In most of the states where we are licensed to transact business, there is a requirement that property and casualty insurers doing business in that state participate in a guaranty association, which is organized to pay contractual benefits owed under insurance policies issued by impaired, insolvent or failed insurers. These associations levy assessments, up to prescribed limits, on all member insurers in a particular state on the basis of the proportionate share of the premium written by member insurers in the lines of business in which the impaired, insolvent or failed insurer is engaged. Some states permit member insurers to recover assessments paid through full or partial premium tax offsets.

Property and casualty insurance company insolvencies or failures may result in additional security fund assessments to us at some future date. At this time, we are unable to determine the impact, if any, such assessments may have on our financial position or results of operations. We have established liabilities for guaranty fund assessments with respect to insurers that are currently subject to insolvency proceedings.

Residual Market Programs

Many of the states in which we conduct business or intend to conduct business, require that all licensed insurers participate in a program to provide workers’ compensation insurance to those employers who have not or cannot obtain coverage from a carrier on a negotiated basis. The level of required participation in such programs is generally determined by calculating the volume of our voluntary business in that state as a percentage of all voluntary business in that state by all insurers. The resulting factor is the proportion of premium we must accept as a percentage of all of premiums in policies included in that state’s residual market program.

Companies generally can fulfill their residual market obligations by either issuing insurance policies to employers assigned to them, or participating in a reinsurance pool where the results of all policies provided through the pool are shared by the participating companies. We utilize both methods, depending on management’s evaluation of the most cost-efficient method to adopt in each state that allows a choice of assigned risk or participation in a pooling arrangement. In 2011, we had assigned risks in four states: Alabama, Alaska, North Carolina and Virginia.

Second Injury Funds

A number of states operate trust funds that reimburse insurers and employers for claims paid to injured employees for aggravation of prior conditions or injuries. The state-managed trust funds are funded through assessments against insurers and self-insurers providing workers’ compensation coverage in the applicable state. Our recoveries from state-managed trust funds for the years ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009 were $7.0 million, $4.7 million and $7.2 million, respectively. Our cash paid for assessments to state-managed trust funds for the years ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009 was $2.2 million, $2.5 million and $3.7 million, respectively.

 

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Dividend Limitations

Under Louisiana law, American Interstate and Silver Oak Casualty cannot pay dividends to their shareholders in excess of the lesser of 10% of statutory surplus, or statutory net income, excluding realized investment gains, for the preceding 12-month period without the prior approval of the Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance. However, net income from the previous two calendar years may be carried forward to the extent that it has not already been paid out as dividends. Further, under Texas law, American Interstate of Texas cannot pay dividends to its shareholder in excess of the greater of 10% of statutory surplus, or statutory net income, for the preceding 12-month period without the prior approval of the Texas Commissioner of Insurance.

Federal Law and Regulations

For the year ended December 31, 2011, we derived 2.9% of our voluntary in-force premiums from employers engaged in the maritime industry. As a provider of workers’ compensation insurance for employers engaged in the maritime industry, we are subject to the United States Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, or the USL&H Act, and the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, or Jones Act. We are also subject to regulations related to the USL&H Act and the Jones Act.

The USL&H Act, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, generally covers exposures on the navigable waters of the United States and in adjoining waterfront areas, including exposures resulting from stevedoring. The USL&H Act requires employers to provide medical benefits, compensation for lost wages, and rehabilitation services to longshoremen, harbor workers and other maritime workers who may suffer injury, disability or death during the course and scope of their employment. The Department of Labor has the authority to require us to make deposits to serve as collateral for losses incurred under the USL&H Act.

The Jones Act is a federal law, the maritime employer provisions of which provide injured offshore workers, or seamen, with a remedy against their employers for injuries arising from negligent acts of the employer or co-workers during the course of employment on a ship or vessel.

Privacy Regulations

In 1999, Congress enacted the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which, among other things, protects consumers from the unauthorized dissemination of certain personal information. Subsequently, a majority of states have implemented additional regulations to address privacy issues. These laws and regulations apply to all financial institutions, including insurance companies, and require us to maintain appropriate policies and procedures for managing and protecting certain personal information of our policyholders and to fully disclose our privacy practices to our policyholders. We may also be exposed to future privacy laws and regulations, which could impose additional costs and impact our results of operations or financial condition. In 2000, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or the NAIC, adopted the Privacy of Consumer Financial and Health Information Model Regulation, which assisted states in promulgating regulations to comply with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. In 2002, to further facilitate the implementation of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the NAIC adopted the Standards for Safeguarding Customer Information Model Regulation. Several states have now adopted similar provisions regarding the safeguarding of policyholder information. We have established policies and procedures intended to ensure that we are in compliance with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley related privacy requirements.

Federal and State Legislative and Regulatory Changes

From time to time, various regulatory and legislative changes have been proposed in the insurance industry. Among the proposals that have in the past been or are at present being considered are the possible introduction of federal regulation in addition to, or in lieu of, the current system of state regulation of insurers and proposals in various state legislatures (some of which proposals have been enacted) to conform portions of their insurance

 

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laws and regulations to various model acts adopted by the NAIC. We are unable to predict whether any of these laws and regulations will be adopted, the form in which any such laws and regulations would be adopted or the effect, if any, these developments would have on our operations and financial condition.

For information on the Terrorism Risk Act, see “—Reinsurance—Terrorism Reinsurance.”

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners

The NAIC is a group formed by state insurance commissioners to discuss issues and formulate policy with respect to regulation, reporting and accounting of insurance companies. Although the NAIC has no legislative authority and insurance companies are at all times subject to the laws of their respective domiciliary states and, to a lesser extent, other states in which they conduct business, the NAIC is influential in determining the form in which such laws are enacted. Model Insurance Laws, Regulations and Guidelines, which we refer to as the Model Laws, have been promulgated by the NAIC as a minimum standard by which state regulatory systems and regulations are measured. Adoption of state laws that provide for substantially similar regulations to those described in the Model Laws is a requirement for accreditation by the NAIC. The NAIC provides authoritative guidance to insurance regulators on statutory accounting issues by promulgating and updating a codified set of statutory accounting practices in its Accounting Practices and Procedures manual. The Louisiana and Texas legislatures have adopted these codified statutory accounting practices.

Under Louisiana law, American Interstate and Silver Oak Casualty are each required to maintain minimum capital and surplus of $3.0 million. Under Texas law, American Interstate of Texas is required to maintain minimum capital and surplus of $5.0 million. Property and casualty insurance companies are also subject to certain risk-based capital requirements by the NAIC. Under those requirements, the amount of capital and surplus maintained by a property and casualty insurance company is determined based on the various risk factors related to it. As of December 31, 2011, American Interstate, Silver Oak Casualty, and American Interstate of Texas exceeded the minimum risk-based capital requirements.

The key financial ratios of the NAIC’s Insurance Regulatory Information System, or IRIS, which ratios were developed to assist insurance departments in overseeing the financial condition of insurance companies, are reviewed by experienced financial examiners of the NAIC and state insurance departments to select those companies that merit highest priority in the allocation of the regulators’ resources. IRIS identifies 13 industry ratios and specifies “usual values” for each ratio. Departure from the usual values on four or more of the ratios can lead to inquiries from individual state insurance commissioners as to certain aspects of an insurer’s business.

The 2011 IRIS results for Silver Oak Casualty and American Interstate Insurance Company of Texas were within expected values. Of the 13 ratios, the investment yield ratio for American Interstate Insurance Company was outside the expected range by one tenth of a percent. This occurred because current low interest rates affected the reinvestment rate for the portfolio.

Statutory Accounting Principles

Statutory accounting principles, or SAP, are a basis of accounting developed to assist insurance regulators in monitoring and regulating the solvency of insurance companies. SAP is primarily concerned with measuring an insurer’s surplus as regards to policyholders. Accordingly, statutory accounting focuses on valuing assets and liabilities of insurers at financial reporting dates in accordance with appropriate insurance law and regulatory provisions applicable in each insurer’s domiciliary state.

Generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, are concerned with a company’s solvency, but are also concerned with other financial measurements, principally income and cash flows. Accordingly, GAAP gives more consideration to appropriate matching of revenue and expenses and accounting for management’s stewardship of assets than does SAP. As a direct result, different assets and liabilities and different amounts of assets and liabilities will be reflected in financial statements prepared in accordance with GAAP as compared to SAP.

 

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Statutory accounting principles established by the NAIC and adopted in part by Louisiana and Texas insurance regulators, determine, among other things, the amount of statutory surplus and statutory net income of American Interstate, Silver Oak Casualty and American Interstate of Texas and thus determine, in part, the amount of funds that are available to pay dividends to AMERISAFE.

Website Information

Our corporate website is located at www.amerisafe.com. Our Annual Report on Form 10-K, annual proxy statement and related proxy card will be made available on our website at the same time they are mailed to shareholders. Our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, periodic reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports that we file or furnish pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 are available through our website, free of charge, as soon as reasonably practicable after they have been electronically filed or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC. Our website also provides access to reports filed by our directors, executive officers and certain significant shareholders pursuant to Section 16 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. In addition, our Corporate Governance Guidelines, Code of Business Conduct and Ethics and charters for the standing committees of our board of directors are available on our website. The information on our website is not incorporated by reference into this report. In addition, the SEC maintains a website, www.sec.gov, which contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information that we file electronically with the SEC.

Executive Officers of the Registrant

The table below sets forth information about our executive officers and key employees as of March 1, 2012.

 

Name

   Age     

Position

Executive Officers

     

C. Allen Bradley, Jr.

     60       Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Geoffrey R. Banta

     62       President and Chief Operating Officer

G. Janelle Frost

     41       Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Brendan D. Gau

     37       Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer

Craig P. Leach

     62       Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing

Key Employees

     

Allan E. Farr

     53       Senior Vice President, Enterprise Risk Management

Vincent J. Gagliano

     39       Senior Vice President, Information Technology

Kelly R. Goins

     46       Senior Vice President, Underwriting Operations

Cynthia P. Harris

     58       Senior Vice President, Human Resources/Client Services

Leon J. Lagneaux

     60       Senior Vice President, Safety Operations

Henry O. Lestage, IV

     51       Senior Vice President, Claims Operations

 

C. Allen Bradley, Jr. has served as Chairman of our board of directors since October 2005, our Chief Executive Officer since December 2003 and as a Director since June 2003. From November 2002 to August 2010 he served as President and from November 2002 until December 2003 he served as our Chief Operating Officer. Since joining our company in 1994, Mr. Bradley has had principal responsibility for the management of our underwriting operations (December 2000 through June 2005) and safety services (September 2000 through November 2002) and has served as our General Counsel (September 1997 through December 2003) and Secretary (September 1997 through November 2002). Prior to joining our company, he was engaged in the private practice of law.

Geoffrey R. Banta has served as our President since August 2010 and Chief Operating Officer since November 2008. From December 2003 to October 2008, he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Prior to joining our company in 2003, he held the positions of President and Chief Executive

 

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Officer from 2001 until November 2003, and Chief Operating Officer from 1996 until 2001, at Scruggs Consulting, an actuarial and management consulting firm. From 1994 to 1996, Mr. Banta was Chief Financial Officer of the Atlanta Casualty Companies, an issuer of non-standard auto insurance.

G. Janelle Frost has served as our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer since November 2008. Prior to becoming Chief Financial Officer, Ms. Frost served as Controller from May 2004 to November 2008 and Vice President from May 2006 to November 2008. She has been employed with our company since 1992 and served as Assistant Vice President from May 2004 to May 2006 and Deputy Controller from 1998 to April 2004.

Brendan D. Gau has served as our Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer since June 2009. Prior to joining our company, Mr. Gau was employed by AIM Capital Management, where he held the positions of Financial Analyst, Portfolio Analyst and Senior Portfolio Manager from 1996 until 2009.

Craig P. Leach has served as our Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing since November 2002. He has served in a variety of sales and key marketing positions within our company since beginning his insurance career with a predecessor to our company in 1980, including Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing from 1997 until November 2002.

Allan E. Farr has served as our Senior Vice President, Enterprise Risk Management since April 2004. He has been employed with our company since 1998 and served as Vice President, Underwriting Services from 1999 until 2004.

Vincent J. Gagliano has served as our Senior Vice President, Information Technology, since September 2009. He has been employed with our company since 2001 and during this time, he has served as Senior Business Analyst, Director of Business Intelligence, Assistant Vice President of Business Intelligence, and Vice President, Operations Analysis.

Kelly R. Goins has served as our Senior Vice President, Underwriting Operations since March 2005. She has been employed with our company since 1986 and served as Vice President, Underwriting Operations from 2000 until March 2005.

Cynthia P. Harris has served as our Senior Vice President, Human Resources/Client Services since January 2003. She has been employed with our company since 1977 and served as Vice President, Policyholder Services and Administration from 1992 until December 2002.

Leon J. Lagneaux has served as our Senior Vice President, Safety Operations since March 2005. He has been employed with our company since 1994 and served as Vice President, Safety Operations from 1999 until March 2005.

Henry O. Lestage, IV has served as our Senior Vice President, Claims Operations since September 2000. He has been employed with our company since 1987 and served as Vice President, Claims Operations from 1998 until 2000.

 

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Item 1A. Risk Factors.

In evaluating our company, the factors described below should be considered carefully. The occurrence of one or more of these events could significantly and adversely affect our business, prospects, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

Risks Related to Our Business

If we do not appropriately establish our premium rates, our results of operations will be adversely affected.

In general, the premium rates for our insurance policies are established when coverage is initiated and, therefore, before all of the underlying costs are known. Like other workers’ compensation insurance companies, we rely on estimates and assumptions in setting our premium rates. Establishing adequate rates is necessary to generate sufficient revenue to offset losses, loss adjustment expenses and other underwriting expenses, and to earn an underwriting profit. If we fail to accurately assess the risks that we assume, we may fail to charge adequate premium rates to cover our losses and expenses, which could reduce our net income and cause us to become unprofitable. For example, when initiating coverage on a policyholder, we estimate future claims expense based, in part, on prior claims information provided by the policyholder’s previous insurance carriers. If this prior claims information is not accurate, we may underprice our policy by using claims estimates that are too low. As a result, our actual costs for providing insurance coverage to our policyholders may be significantly higher than our premiums. In order to set premium rates appropriately, we must:

 

   

collect and properly analyze a substantial volume of data;

 

   

develop, test and apply appropriate rating formulae;

 

   

closely monitor and timely recognize changes in trends; and

 

   

project both frequency and severity of losses with reasonable accuracy.

We must also implement our pricing accurately in accordance with our assumptions. Our ability to undertake these efforts successfully, and as a result set premium rates accurately, is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, principally:

 

   

insufficient reliable data;

 

   

incorrect or incomplete analysis of available data;

 

   

uncertainties generally inherent in estimates and assumptions;

 

   

the complexity inherent in implementing appropriate rating formulae or other pricing methodologies;

 

   

costs of ongoing medical treatment;

 

   

uncertainties inherent in accurately estimating retention, investment yields, and the duration of our liability for loss and loss adjustment expenses; and

 

   

unanticipated court decisions, legislation or regulatory action.

Consequently, we could set our premium rates too low, which would negatively affect our results of operations and our profitability, or we could set our premium rates too high, which could reduce our competitiveness and lead to lower revenues.

The effects of emerging claims and coverage issues on our business are uncertain.

As industry practices and legal, judicial, social and other environmental conditions change, unexpected and unintended issues related to claims and coverage may emerge. These issues may adversely affect our business by

 

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either extending coverage beyond our underwriting intent or by increasing the number or size of claims. In some instances, these changes may not become apparent until after we have issued insurance policies that are affected by the changes. As a result, the full extent of our liability under an insurance policy may not be known until many years after the policy is issued. For example, medical costs associated with permanent and partial disabilities may increase more rapidly or be higher than we currently expect. Changes of this nature may expose us to higher claims than we anticipated when we wrote the underlying policy.

The workers’ compensation insurance industry is cyclical in nature, which may affect our overall financial performance.

The financial performance of the workers’ compensation insurance industry has historically fluctuated with periods of lower premium rates and excess underwriting capacity resulting from increased competition followed by periods of higher premium rates and reduced underwriting capacity resulting from decreased competition. Although the financial performance of an individual insurance company is dependent on its own specific business characteristics, the profitability of most workers’ compensation insurance companies generally tends to follow this cyclical market pattern. In 2008 and 2009, the workers’ compensation industry experienced both decreasing loss costs in most of the states in which we write business and intense price competition. Because this market cyclicality is due in large part to the actions of our competitors and general economic factors, we cannot predict the timing or duration of changes in the market cycle. We expect these cyclical patterns will cause our revenues and net income to fluctuate, which may cause the price of our common stock to be more volatile.

A decline in the level of business activity of our policyholders, particularly those engaged in the construction, trucking and agricultural industries, could negatively affect our earnings and profitability.

In 2011, 68.5% of our gross premiums written were derived from policyholders in the construction, trucking and agriculture industries. Because premium rates are calculated, in general, as a percentage of a policyholder’s payroll expense, premiums fluctuate depending upon the level of business activity and number of employees of our policyholders. As a result, our gross premiums written are primarily dependent upon economic conditions in the construction, trucking and agricultural industries and upon economic conditions generally.

We operate in a highly competitive industry and may lack the financial resources to compete effectively.

There is significant competition in the workers’ compensation insurance industry. We believe that our competition in the hazardous industries we target is fragmented and not dominated by one or more competitors. We compete with other insurance companies, state insurance pools and self-insurance funds. Many of our existing and potential competitors are significantly larger and possess greater financial, marketing and management resources than we do. Moreover, a number of these competitors offer other types of insurance in addition to workers’ compensation and can provide insurance nationwide.

We principally offer workers’ compensation insurance. We have no current plans to focus our efforts on offering other types of insurance. As a result, negative developments in the economic, competitive or regulatory conditions affecting the workers’ compensation insurance industry could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. Negative developments in the workers’ compensation insurance industry could have a greater effect on insurance companies that do not sell multiple types of insurance.

We compete on the basis of many factors, including coverage availability, claims management, safety services, payment terms, premium rates, policy terms, types of insurance offered, overall financial strength, financial ratings and reputation. If any of our competitors offer premium rates, policy terms or types of insurance that are more competitive than ours, we could lose market share. No assurance can be given that we will maintain our current competitive position in the markets in which we currently operate or that we will establish a competitive position in new markets into which we may expand.

 

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Our loss reserves are based on estimates and may be inadequate to cover our actual losses.

We record reserves for estimated losses under insurance policies we write and for loss adjustment expenses related to the investigation and settlement of claims. Our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses represent the estimated cost of all reported and unreported loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred and unpaid at any given point in time based on known facts and circumstances. Reserves are based on estimates of the most likely ultimate cost of individual claims. These estimates are inherently uncertain.

Our pre-tax income for any period is impacted by establishing reserves for new claims as well as changes in estimates for previously reported losses. Our focus on writing workers’ compensation insurance for employers engaged in hazardous industries results in our experiencing fewer, but more severe, claims. The ultimate cost of resolving severe claims is difficult to predict, particularly in the period shortly after the injury occurs. Substantial judgment is required to determine the relevance of our historical experience and industry information under current facts and circumstances. The interpretation of this historical data can be impacted by external forces, principally frequency and severity of unreported claims, length of time to achieve ultimate settlement of claims, inflation in medical costs and wages, insurance policy coverage interpretations, jury determinations, and legislative changes. Accordingly, our reserves may prove to be inadequate to cover our actual losses. If there are unfavorable changes affecting our assumptions, our reserves may need to be increased. When a reserve estimate is increased, the change decreases pre-tax income by a corresponding amount.

If we are unable to realize our investment objectives, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.

Investment income is an important component of our net income. As of December 31, 2011, our investment portfolio, including cash and cash equivalents, had a carrying value of $851.5 million. For the year ended December 31, 2011 we had $26.3 million of net investment income. Our investment portfolio is managed under investment guidelines approved by our board of directors, and is made up predominately of fixed maturity securities and cash and cash equivalents. Although our investment guidelines emphasize capital preservation and liquidity, our investments are subject to a variety of risks, including risks related to general economic conditions, interest rate fluctuations, market illiquidity and market volatility. General economic conditions may be adversely affected by U.S. involvement in hostilities with other countries and large-scale acts of terrorism, or the threat of hostilities or terrorist acts.

Interest rates are highly sensitive to many factors, including governmental monetary policies and domestic and international economic and political conditions. Changes in interest rates could have an adverse effect on the value of our investment portfolio and future investment income. Unprecedented low interest rates experienced in 2011, 2010 and 2009 have had, and will continue to have, an adverse effect on our investment income. Additionally, changes in interest rates can expose us to prepayment risks on mortgage-backed securities included in our investment portfolio.

Similarly, during periods of market disruption such as we have experienced since late 2008, including periods of rapidly widening credit spreads or illiquidity, the fair values of certain of our fixed maturity securities, such as asset-backed and commercial mortgage-backed securities, could be deemed to be other-than-temporarily impaired, even though we have the intent not to sell these securities and it is not more likely than not that we will be required to sell these securities. Further, rapidly changing and unprecedented equity market conditions could materially impact the valuation of the equity securities as reported within our consolidated financial statements and the period-to-period changes in value could vary significantly.

During 2011, we recorded an impairment charge for one asset-backed security in our held-to-maturity investment portfolio. We impaired this security because, among other things, a loss of principal was anticipated based upon estimated future cash flows. This charge is included in “Net realized gains (losses) on investments’ on our consolidated statement of income and totaled $0.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2011. We cannot assure you that our investment portfolio will not suffer additional other-than-temporary investment losses.

 

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These and other factors affect the capital markets and, consequently, the value of our investment portfolio and our future investment income. Any significant decline in our investment income would adversely affect our revenues and net income.

Current economic conditions could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

The economic downturn experienced throughout the United States is expected to continue in 2012. Negative trends in business investment, consumer confidence and spending, the significant declines and volatility of the capital markets, the availability of credit and the rate of unemployment can adversely affect our business. A continuation of the economic downturn could further adversely impact our growth and profitability. Although we continue to closely monitor market conditions, we cannot predict future conditions or their impact on our premium volume, the value of our investment portfolio and our financial performance. As a result of these existing economic conditions, we could experience future decreases in business activity and incur additional realized and unrealized losses in our investment portfolio, both of which could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

In addition, certain actions taken by the U.S. government to stimulate the economy and stabilize the financial markets have directly impacted the property and casualty insurance industry and our competitors. Additional measures in this regard could negatively impact our financial condition and the competitive landscape.

Because we are subject to extensive state and federal regulation, legislative changes may negatively impact our business.

We are subject to extensive regulation by the Louisiana Department of Insurance and the insurance regulatory agencies of other states in which we are licensed and, to a lesser extent, federal regulation. State agencies have broad regulatory powers designed primarily to protect policyholders and their employees, and not our shareholders. Regulations vary from state to state, but typically address:

 

   

standards of solvency, including risk-based capital measurements;

 

   

restrictions on the nature, quality and concentration of our investments;

 

   

restrictions on the terms of the insurance policies we offer;

 

   

restrictions on the way our premium rates are established and the premium rates we may charge;

 

   

required reserves for unearned premiums and loss and loss adjustment expenses;

 

   

standards for appointing general agencies;

 

   

limitations on transactions with affiliates;

 

   

restrictions on mergers and acquisitions;

 

   

restrictions on the ability of our insurance company subsidiaries to pay dividends to AMERISAFE;

 

   

certain required methods of accounting; and

 

   

potential assessments for state guaranty funds, second injury funds and other mandatory pooling arrangements.

We may be unable to comply fully with the wide variety of applicable laws and regulations that are continually undergoing revision. In addition, we follow practices based on our interpretations of laws and regulations that we believe are generally followed by our industry. These practices may be different from interpretations of insurance regulatory agencies. As a result, insurance regulatory agencies could preclude us from conducting some or all of our activities or otherwise penalize us. For example, in order to enforce

 

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applicable laws and regulations or to protect policyholders, insurance regulatory agencies have relatively broad discretion to impose a variety of sanctions, including examinations, corrective orders, suspension, revocation or denial of licenses, and the takeover of one or more of our insurance subsidiaries. The extensive regulation of our business may increase the cost of our insurance and may limit our ability to obtain premium rate increases or to take other actions to increase our profitability.

We may not be able to recover amounts due from our reinsurers, which would adversely affect our financial condition.

Reinsurance does not discharge our obligations under the insurance policies we write. We remain liable to our policyholders even if we are unable to make recoveries that we are entitled to receive under our reinsurance contracts. As a result, we are subject to credit risk with respect to our reinsurers. Losses are recovered from our reinsurers as claims are paid. In long-term workers’ compensation claims, the creditworthiness of our reinsurers may change before we recover amounts to which we are entitled. Therefore, if a reinsurer is unable to meet any of its obligations to us, we would be responsible for all claims and claim settlement expenses for which we would have otherwise received payment from the reinsurer.

As of December 31, 2011, we had $96.2 million of recoverables from reinsurers. Of this amount, $48.9 million was unsecured. As of December 31, 2011, our largest recoverables from reinsurers included $23.4 million from Hannover Reinsurance (Ireland) Limited, $14.2 million from Aspen Insurance Limited and $13.9 million from Odyssey America Reinsurance Company. If we are unable to collect amounts recoverable from our reinsurers, our financial condition would be adversely impacted.

In the past, we have been unable to recover amounts from our reinsurers. In 2001, Reliance Insurance Company, one of our former reinsurers, was placed under regulatory supervision by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department and was subsequently placed into liquidation. As a result, between 2001 and December 31, 2011, we recognized losses related to uncollectible amounts due from Reliance aggregating $21.8 million.

Our business is dependent on the efforts of our executive officers because of their industry expertise, knowledge of our markets and relationships with the independent agencies that sell our insurance.

Our success is dependent on the efforts of our executive officers because of their industry expertise, knowledge of our markets and relationships with our independent agencies. We have entered into employment agreements with each of our executive officers. Those agreements expire in March 2012 except for Mr. Gau’s agreement which expires June 2012, in each case, unless extended. Should any of our executive officers cease working for us, we may be unable to find acceptable replacements with comparable skills and experience in the workers’ compensation insurance industry and the hazardous industries that we target. As a result, our operations may be disrupted and our business may be adversely affected. We do not currently maintain life insurance policies with respect to our executive officers.

If we cannot sustain our relationships with independent agencies, we may be unable to operate profitably.

We market a substantial portion of our workers’ compensation insurance through independent agencies. As of December 31, 2011, independent agencies produced 93.8% of our voluntary in-force premiums. No independent agency accounted for more than 2.2% of our voluntary in-force premiums at that date. Independent agencies are not obligated to promote our insurance and may sell insurance offered by our competitors. As a result, our continued profitability depends, in part, on the marketing efforts of our independent agencies and on our ability to offer workers’ compensation insurance and maintain financial strength ratings that meet the requirements of our independent agencies and their policyholders.

 

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An inability to effectively manage of our operations could make it difficult for us to compete and could affect our ability to operate profitably.

Our continuing strategy includes expanding in our existing markets, entering new geographic markets and further developing our agency relationships. Our strategy is subject to various risks, including risks associated with our ability to:

 

   

profitably increase our business in existing markets;

 

   

identify profitable new geographic markets for entry;

 

   

attract and retain qualified personnel for expanded operations;

 

   

identify, recruit and integrate new independent agencies; and

 

   

augment our internal operations and systems as we expand our business.

If we are unable to obtain reinsurance on favorable terms, our ability to write policies could be adversely affected.

We purchase reinsurance to protect us from the impact of large losses. Reinsurance is an arrangement in which an insurance company, called the ceding company, transfers insurance risk by sharing premiums with another insurance company, called the reinsurer. Conversely, the reinsurer receives or assumes reinsurance from the ceding company. Our 2012 reinsurance program provides us with reinsurance coverage for each loss occurrence up to $50.0 million, subject to applicable deductibles, retentions and aggregate limits. However, for any loss occurrence involving only one claimant, our reinsurance coverage is limited to $10.0 million for any single claimant, subject to applicable deductibles, retentions and aggregate limits. Our 2012 program calls for us to retain the first $1.0 million of each loss. For losses between $1.0 million and $5.0 million, we are subject to an annual aggregate deductible of 6.5% of subject earned premium before our reinsurers are obligated to reimburse us. The three year aggregate limit for all claims for losses between $1.0 million and $5.0 million is 13.2% of subject earned premium for Part A and 6.6% of subject earned premium for Part B. For losses between $5.0 million and $10.0 million, the three year aggregate limit for all claims for losses between $5.0 million and $10.0 million is $20.0 million. See “Business—Reinsurance.”

The availability, amount, and cost of reinsurance are subject to market conditions and our experience with insured losses. As a result, any material changes in market conditions or our loss experience could adversely affect our financial performance.

If any of our current reinsurers were to terminate participation in our reinsurance treaty program, we could be exposed to an increased risk of loss.

The 2012 reinsurance treaty program’s first casualty excess of loss layers will terminate on January 1, 2014. The second casualty excess of loss and casualty catastrophe layers will terminate on January 1, 2015. When our reinsurance treaty program is terminated and we enter into a new program, any decrease in the amount of reinsurance at the time we enter into a new program, whether caused by the existence of more restrictive terms and conditions or decreased availability, will also increase our risk of loss and, as a result, could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. We currently have 14 reinsurers participating in our reinsurance treaty program, and we believe that this is a sufficient number of reinsurers to provide us with the reinsurance coverage we require. However, it is possible that one or more of our current reinsurers could terminate participation in our program. Regarding the first casualty excess of loss treaty, it is possible that one or more of our current reinsurers could terminate continued participation in this loss layer. In addition, we may terminate the participation of one or more of our reinsurers under certain circumstances as permitted by the terms of our reinsurance agreements. In any of these events, if our reinsurance broker is unable to reallocate the terminated reinsurance among the remaining reinsurers in the program, it could take a significant period of time to identify and negotiate agreements with one or more replacement reinsurers. During this period, we would be exposed to an increased risk of loss, the extent of which would depend on the coverage previously provided by the terminated reinsurance.

 

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A downgrade in our A.M. Best rating would likely reduce the amount of business we are able to write.

Rating agencies evaluate insurance companies based on their ability to pay claims. We are currently assigned a group letter rating of “A” (Excellent) from A.M. Best, which is the rating agency that we believe has the most influence on our business. This rating is assigned to companies that, in the opinion of A.M. Best, have demonstrated an excellent overall performance when compared to industry standards. A.M. Best considers “A” rated companies to have an excellent ability to meet their ongoing obligations to policyholders. The ratings of A.M. Best are subject to periodic review using, among other things, proprietary capital adequacy models, and are subject to revision or withdrawal at any time. A.M. Best ratings are directed toward the concerns of policyholders and insurance agencies and are not intended for the protection of investors or as a recommendation to buy, hold or sell securities. Our competitive position relative to other companies is determined in part by our A.M. Best rating. Any downgrade in our rating would likely adversely affect our business through the loss of certain existing and potential policyholders and the loss of relationships with certain independent agencies.

A downgrade in the A.M. Best rating of one or more of our significant reinsurers could adversely affect our financial condition.

Our financial condition could be adversely affected if the A.M. Best rating of one or more of our significant reinsurers is downgraded. For example, our A.M. Best rating may be downgraded if our amounts recoverable from a reinsurer are significant and the A.M. Best rating of that reinsurer is downgraded. If one of our reinsurers suffers a rating downgrade, we may consider various options to lessen the impact on our financial condition, including commutation, novation and the use of letters of credit to secure amounts recoverable from reinsurers. However, these options may result in losses to our company, and there can be no assurance that we could implement any of these options.

We may require additional capital in the future, which may not be available to us or may be available only on unfavorable terms.

Our future capital requirements will depend on many factors, including state regulatory requirements, the financial stability of our reinsurers and our ability to write new business and establish premium rates sufficient to cover our estimated claims. We may need to raise additional capital or curtail our growth if the capital of our insurance subsidiaries is insufficient to support future operating requirements and/or cover claims. If we had to raise additional capital, equity or debt financing might not be available to us or might be available only on terms that are not favorable. Future equity offerings could be dilutive to our shareholders and the equity securities issued in any offering may have rights, preferences and privileges senior to our common stock.

If we cannot obtain adequate capital on favorable terms or at all, we may be unable to support future growth or operating requirements and, as a result, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be adversely affected.

As an insurance holding company, AMERISAFE is dependent on the results of operations of its insurance subsidiaries, and our Company’s ability to pay dividends depends on the regulatory and financial capacity of its subsidiaries to pay dividends to AMERISAFE.

AMERISAFE is a holding company that transacts business through its operating subsidiaries, including American Interstate Insurance Company. AMERISAFE’s primary assets are the capital stock of these operating subsidiaries. The ability of AMERISAFE to pay dividends to our shareholders depends upon the surplus and earnings of our subsidiaries and their ability to pay dividends to AMERISAFE. Payment of dividends by our insurance subsidiaries is restricted by state insurance laws, including laws establishing minimum solvency and liquidity thresholds, and could be subject to contractual restrictions in the future, including those imposed by indebtedness we may incur in the future. As a result, AMERISAFE may not be able to receive dividends from its insurance subsidiaries and may not receive dividends in amounts necessary to pay dividends on our capital stock.

 

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Assessments and premium surcharges for state guaranty funds, second injury funds and other mandatory pooling arrangements may reduce our profitability.

Most states require insurance companies licensed to do business in their state to participate in guaranty funds, which require the insurance companies to bear a portion of the unfunded obligations of impaired, insolvent or failed insurance companies. These obligations are funded by assessments, most of which are expected to continue in the future. State guaranty associations levy assessments, up to prescribed limits, on all member insurance companies in the state based on their proportionate share of premiums written in the lines of business in which the impaired, insolvent or failed insurance companies are engaged. See “Business—Regulation” in Item 1 of this report. Accordingly, the assessments levied on us may increase as we increase our written premium. Some states also have laws that establish second injury funds to reimburse insurers and employers for claims paid to injured employees for aggravation of prior conditions or injuries. These funds are supported by either assessments or premium surcharges based on case incurred losses.

In addition, as a condition to conducting business in some states, insurance companies are required to participate in residual market programs to provide insurance to those employers who cannot procure coverage from an insurance carrier on a negotiated basis. Insurance companies generally can fulfill their residual market obligations by, among other things, participating in a reinsurance pool where the results of all policies provided through the pool are shared by the participating insurance companies. Although we price our insurance to account for obligations we may have under these pooling arrangements, we may not be successful in estimating our liability for these obligations. Accordingly, mandatory pooling arrangements may cause a decrease in our profits.

At December 31, 2011, we participated in mandatory pooling arrangements in 20 states and the District of Columbia. As we write policies in new states that have mandatory pooling arrangements, we will be required to participate in additional pooling arrangements. Further, the impairment, insolvency or failure of other insurance companies in these pooling arrangements would likely increase the liability for other members in the pool. The effect of assessments and premium surcharges or changes in them could reduce our profitability in any given period or limit our ability to grow our business.

We may have exposure to losses from terrorism for which we are required by law to provide coverage.

When writing workers’ compensation insurance policies, we are required by law to provide workers’ compensation benefits for losses arising from acts of terrorism. The impact of any terrorist act is unpredictable, and the ultimate impact on us would depend upon the nature, extent, location and timing of such an act. Our 2012 reinsurance treaty program affords limited coverage for up to $50.0 million for losses arising from terrorism, subject to applicable deductibles, retentions and aggregate limits.

Notwithstanding the protection provided by reinsurance and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act of 2007, the risk of severe losses to us from acts of terrorism has not been eliminated because our reinsurance treaty program includes various sub-limits and exclusions limiting our reinsurers’ obligation to cover losses caused by acts of terrorism. Accordingly, events constituting acts of terrorism may not be covered by, or may exceed the capacity of, our reinsurance and could adversely affect our business and financial condition. In addition, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act of 2007 is set to expire on December 31, 2014. If this law is not extended or replaced by legislation affording a similar level of protection to the insurance industry against insured losses arising out of acts of terrorism, reinsurance for losses arising from terrorism may be unavailable or prohibitively expensive, and we may be further exposed to losses arising from acts of terrorism.

 

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Risks Related to Our Common Stock

Our revenues and results of operations may fluctuate as a result of factors beyond our control, which fluctuation may cause the price of our common stock to be volatile.

The revenues and results of operations of our insurance subsidiaries historically have been subject to significant fluctuations and uncertainties. Our profitability can be affected significantly by:

 

   

rising levels of claims costs, including medical and prescription drug costs, that we cannot anticipate at the time we establish our premium rates;

 

   

fluctuations in interest rates, inflationary or deflationary pressures and other changes in the investment environment that affect returns on our invested assets;

 

   

changes in the frequency or severity of claims;

 

   

the financial stability of our reinsurers and changes in the level of reinsurance capacity and our capital capacity;

 

   

new types of claims and new or changing judicial interpretations relating to the scope of liabilities of insurance companies;

 

   

volatile and unpredictable developments, including man-made, weather-related and other natural catastrophes or terrorist attacks; and

 

   

price competition.

If our revenues and results of operations fluctuate as a result of one or more of these factors, the price of our common stock may become more volatile.

The trading price of our common stock may decline.

The trading price of our common stock may decline for many reasons, some of which are beyond our control, including, among others:

 

   

our results of operations;

 

   

changes in expectations as to our future results of operations, including financial estimates and projections by securities analysts and investors;

 

   

results of operations that vary from those expected by securities analysts and investors;

 

   

developments in the healthcare or insurance industries;

 

   

current and expected economic conditions;

 

   

changes in laws and regulations;

 

   

announcements of claims against us by third parties; and

 

   

future issuances or sales of our common stock.

In addition, the stock market experiences significant volatility from time to time that is often unrelated to the operating performance of companies whose shares are traded. These market fluctuations could adversely affect the trading price of our common stock, regardless of our actual operating performance.

Securities analysts may discontinue coverage of our common stock or may issue negative reports, which may adversely affect the trading price of our common stock.

There is no assurance that securities analysts will continue to cover our company. If securities analysts do not cover our company, this lack of coverage may adversely affect the trading price of our common stock. The

 

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trading market for our common stock relies in part on the research and reports that securities analysts publish about us or our business. If one or more of the analysts who cover our company downgrades our common stock, the trading price of our common stock may decline rapidly. If one or more of these analysts ceases to cover our company, we could lose visibility in the market, which, in turn, could also cause the trading price of our common stock to decline.

Future sales of our common stock may affect the trading price of our common stock and the future exercise of options may lower our stock price.

We cannot predict what effect, if any, future sales of our common stock, or the availability of shares for future sale, will have on the trading price of our common stock. Sales of a substantial number of shares of our common stock in the public market, or the perception that such sales could occur, may adversely affect the trading price of our common stock and may make it more difficult for you to sell your shares at a time and price that you determine appropriate. As of March 1, 2012, there were 18,150,262 shares of our common stock outstanding. As of that date, there were also outstanding options exercisable to purchase 919,348 shares of our common stock.

Provisions of our articles of incorporation and bylaws and the laws of the states of Texas and Louisiana could impede an attempt to replace or remove our directors or otherwise effect a change of control of our company, which could diminish the value of our common stock.

Our articles of incorporation and bylaws contain provisions that may make it more difficult for shareholders to replace or remove directors even if the shareholders consider it beneficial to do so. In addition, these provisions could delay or prevent a change of control of our company that shareholders might consider favorable. Our articles of incorporation and bylaws contain the following provisions that could have an anti-takeover effect:

 

   

election of our directors is classified, meaning that the members of only one of three classes of our directors are elected each year;

 

   

shareholders have limited ability to call shareholder meetings and to bring business before a meeting of shareholders;

 

   

shareholders may not act by written consent, unless the consent is unanimous; and

 

   

our board of directors may authorize the issuance of preferred stock with such rights, preferences and privileges as the board deems appropriate.

These provisions may make it difficult for shareholders to replace management and could have the effect of discouraging a future takeover attempt that is not approved by our board of directors, but which individual shareholders might consider favorable.

We are incorporated in Texas. Under the Texas Business Organizations Code, our ability to enter into a business combination with an affiliated shareholder is limited.

In addition, two of our three insurance company subsidiaries, American Interstate and Silver Oak Casualty, are incorporated in Louisiana and the other, American Interstate of Texas, is incorporated in Texas. Under Louisiana and Texas insurance law, advance approval by the state insurance department is required for any change of control of an insurer. “Control” is presumed to exist through the direct or indirect ownership of 10% or more of the voting securities of a domestic insurance company or any entity that controls a domestic insurance company. Obtaining these approvals may result in the material delay of, or deter, any transaction that would result in a change of control.

 

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.

None.

 

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Item 2. Properties.

We own our approximately 60,000 square foot executive offices and 3,200 of warehouse space located in DeRidder, Louisiana. We also lease space at other locations for certain of our service and claims representatives.

 

Item 3. Legal Proceedings.

In the ordinary course of our business, we are involved in the adjudication of claims resulting from workplace injuries. We are not involved presently in any legal or administrative proceedings that we believe are likely to have a materially adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures

None.

 

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PART II

 

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters, and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

Market Information and Holders

Our common stock is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “AMSF.” As of March 1, 2012, there were 22 holders of record of our common stock.

The table below sets forth the reported high and low sales prices of our common stock as quoted on the NASDAQ during each quarter for the last two fiscal years.

 

     High      Low  

2010

     

First Quarter

   $ 18.31       $ 15.92   

Second Quarter

   $ 18.87       $ 15.50   

Third Quarter

   $ 18.98       $ 16.80   

Fourth Quarter

   $ 19.96       $ 17.50   

2011

     

First Quarter

   $ 23.72       $ 17.38   

Second Quarter

   $ 23.37       $ 21.19   

Third Quarter

   $ 27.75       $ 15.58   

Fourth Quarter

   $ 24.81       $ 18.10   

Dividend Policy

We have not paid cash dividends on our common stock in the prior two years. We currently intend to retain any future earnings to finance our operations, and fund our share repurchase program. As a result, we do not expect to pay any cash dividends on our common stock for the foreseeable future. Any future determination to pay cash dividends on our common stock will be at the discretion of our board of directors and will be dependent on our earnings, financial condition, operating results, capital requirements, any contractual, regulatory or other restrictions on the payment of dividends by our subsidiaries to AMERISAFE, and other factors that our board of directors deem relevant.

AMERISAFE is a holding company and has no direct operations. Our ability to pay dividends in the future depends on the ability of our operating subsidiaries to pay dividends to us. Our insurance company subsidiaries are regulated insurance companies and therefore are subject to significant regulatory restrictions limiting their ability to declare and pay dividends. See “Business—Regulation—Dividend Limitations.” in Item 1 of this report.

Our existing revolving credit agreement contains covenants that restrict our ability to pay dividends on our common stock. See “Liquidity and Capital Resources.” in Item 7 of this report.

Description of Capital Stock

AMERISAFE is authorized to issue 60,000,000 shares of capital stock, consisting of:

 

   

10,000,000 shares of preferred stock, par value $0.01 per share; and

 

   

50,000,000 shares of common stock, par value $0.01 per share.

As of March 1, 2012, 18,150,262 shares of common stock were outstanding. As of that date, there were no other shares of our capital stock outstanding.

 

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Share Repurchases

The following table summarizes the Company’s purchases of its common stock, par value $0.01 per share, during the three months ended December 31, 2011:

 

Period

   Total
Number of
Shares
Purchased
     Average Price
Paid per Share (1)
     Total Number of
Shares
Purchased as
Part of Publicly
Announced
Program (2)
     Approximate
Dollar Value of
Shares that May
Yet Be Purchased
Under the
Program
(in thousands)
 

October 1, 2011 to October 31, 2011

     32,610       $ 18.78         32,610       $ 24,388   

November 1, 2011 to November 30, 2011

     —         $ —           —         $ 24,388   

December 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011

     —         $ —           —         $ 24,388   
  

 

 

       

 

 

    

Total

     32,610            32,610      
  

 

 

       

 

 

    

 

(1) Average price per share includes commissions.
(2) The Board of Directors initially authorized the Company’s share repurchase program in February 2010. In October 2011, the Board reauthorized this program with a new limit of $25.0 million. Unless reauthorized, the program will expire on December 31, 2012.

 

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Item 6. Selected Financial Data.

The following tables summarize certain selected financial data that should be read in conjunction with our audited financial statements and accompanying notes thereto for the year ended December 31, 2011 included in this report and “Item. 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”

The financial data for 2007 to 2010 has been adjusted to correct the accounting for our estimate of liability for state guaranty fund assessments. For additional information see Note 1 in the notes of our consolidated financial statements included in this report.

 

    Year Ended December 31,  
    2011     2010     2009     2008     2007  
    (In thousands, except share and per share data)  

Income Statement Data

         

Gross premiums written

  $ 272,101      $ 228,424      $ 256,454      $ 307,841      $ 327,761   

Ceded premiums written

    (13,881     (20,549     (20,158     (19,650     (20,215
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net premiums written

  $ 258,220      $ 207,875      $ 236,296      $ 288,191      $ 307,546   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net premiums earned

  $ 251,015      $ 218,881      $ 250,896      $ 289,493      $ 306,906   

Net investment income

    26,340        26,242        28,014        30,998        30,208   

Net realized gains (losses) on investments

    2,228        2,449        2,033        (18,856     147   

Fee and other income

    1,080        584        1,268        742        1,058   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total revenues

    280,663        248,156        282,211        302,377        338,319   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred

    189,706        157,388        163,316        176,389        198,531   

Underwriting and certain other operating costs (1)

    22,490        6,277        12,351        13,128        25,038   

Commissions

    18,507        16,350        18,418        20,592        20,352   

Salaries and benefits

    19,914        21,405        21,447        20,411        18,896   

Interest expense

    1,311        1,548        1,810        2,460        3,545   

Policyholder dividends (2)

    1,464        834        770        3,504        (367
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total expenses

    253,392        203,802        218,112        236,484        265,995   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Income before taxes

    27,271        44,354        64,099        65,893        72,324   

Income tax expense

    3,146        9,748        16,536        20,874        21,306   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net income

    24,125        34,606        47,563        45,019        51,018   

Redemption premium

    —          —          (875     —          —     
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net income (loss) available to common shareholders

  $ 24,125      $ 34,606      $ 46,688      $ 45,019      $ 51,018   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Portion allocable to common shareholders (3)

    100.0     100.0     94.1     94.0     94.0

Net income (loss) allocable to common shareholders

  $ 24,125      $ 34,606      $ 43,933      $ 42,318      $ 47,962   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Diluted earnings per common share equivalent

  $ 1.29      $ 1.81      $ 2.28      $ 2.21      $ 2.51   

Diluted weighted average of common share equivalents outstanding

    18,700,982        19,095,320        19,268,295        19,141,688        19,079,380   

Selected Insurance Ratios

         

Current accident year loss ratio (4)

    78.2     81.8     73.8     68.0     67.8

Prior accident year loss ratio (5)

    (2.6 )%      (9.9 )%      (8.7 )%      (7.1 )%      (3.1 )% 
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net loss ratio

    75.6     71.9     65.1     60.9     64.7

Net underwriting expense ratio (6)

    24.3     20.1     20.8     18.7     20.9

Net dividend ratio (2) (7)

    0.6     0.4     0.3     1.2     (0.1 )% 
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net combined ratio (8)

    100.5     92.4     86.2     80.8     85.5

 

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     As of December 31,  
     2011      2010      2009      2008      2007  
     (In thousands)  

Balance Sheet Data

              

Cash and cash equivalents

   $ 45,536       $ 60,966       $ 63,188       $ 95,241       $ 47,329   

Investments

     805,974         765,537         737,297         704,732         711,745   

Amounts recoverable from reinsurers

     96,212         95,133         81,878         67,763         77,272   

Premiums receivable, net

     121,223         122,618         151,570         156,567         152,150   

Deferred income taxes

     29,286         28,837         26,488         32,188         25,658   

Deferred policy acquisition costs

     18,756         17,400         18,128         20,289         18,414   

Deferred charges

     3,120         2,936         3,030         3,381         3,553   

Total assets

     1,148,509         1,117,923         1,110,499         1,101,357         1,057,218   

Reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses

     538,214         532,204         534,655         531,293         537,403   

Unearned premiums

     118,699         111,494         122,500         137,100         138,402   

Insurance-related assessments

     21,506         18,718         28,046         33,445         36,188   

Debt

     25,780         36,090         36,090         36,090         36,090   

Redeemable preferred stock (9)

     —           —           —           25,000         25,000   

Shareholders’ equity (10)

     350,852         330,192         306,133         255,856         209,981   

 

(1) Includes policy acquisition expenses and other general and administrative expenses, excluding commissions and salaries and benefits, related to insurance operations and corporate operating expenses.
(2) In 2007, includes a net $1.3 million reduction of dividends accrued for policyholders in Florida. Florida law requires payment of dividends to Florida policyholders pursuant to a formula based on underwriting results from policies written in Florida in a consecutive three-year period.
(3) Reflects the participation rights of our redeemable preferred stock, which was redeemed on December 31, 2009. See Note 12 to our audited financial statements.
(4) The current accident year loss ratio is calculated by dividing loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred for the current accident year by the current year’s net premiums earned.
(5) The prior accident year loss ratio is calculated by dividing the change in loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred for prior accident years by the current year’s net premiums earned.
(6) The net underwriting expense ratio is calculated by dividing underwriting and certain other operating costs, commissions and salaries, and benefits by the current year’s net premiums earned.
(7) The net dividend ratio is calculated by dividing policyholder dividends by the current year’s net premiums earned.
(8) The net combined ratio is the sum of the net loss ratio, the net underwriting expense ratio and the net dividend ratio.
(9) Effective as of December 31, 2009, we redeemed all then-outstanding shares of Series C and Series D redeemable preferred stock.
(10) Shareholders’ equity as of December 31, 2007 has been adjusted to correct the accounting for our estimate of liability for state guaranty fund assessments for periods prior to 2007.

 

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Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

The following discussion of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and the notes thereto included in Item 8 of this report. This discussion includes forward-looking statements that are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors described in Item 1A of this report. These factors could cause our actual results in 2012 and beyond to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, those forward-looking statements.

Overview

AMERISAFE is a holding company that markets and underwrites workers’ compensation insurance through its insurance subsidiaries. Workers’ compensation insurance covers statutorily prescribed benefits that employers are obligated to provide to their employees who are injured in the course and scope of their employment. Our business strategy is focused on providing this coverage to small to mid-sized employers engaged in hazardous industries, principally construction, trucking and agriculture. Employers engaged in hazardous industries pay substantially higher than average rates for workers’ compensation insurance compared to employers in other industries, as measured per payroll dollar. The higher premium rates are due to the nature of the work performed and the inherent workplace danger of our target employers. Hazardous industry employers also tend to have less frequent but more severe claims as compared to employers in other industries due to the nature of their businesses. We provide proactive safety reviews of employers’ workplaces. These safety reviews are a vital component of our underwriting process and also promote safer workplaces. We utilize intensive claims management practices that we believe permit us to reduce the overall cost of our claims. In addition, our audit services ensure that our policyholders pay the appropriate premiums required under the terms of their policies and enable us to monitor payroll patterns that cause underwriting, safety or fraud concerns. We believe that the higher premiums typically paid by our policyholders, together with our disciplined underwriting and safety, claims and audit services, provide us with the opportunity to earn attractive returns for our shareholders.

We actively market our insurance in 35 states and the District of Columbia through independent agencies, as well as through our wholly owned insurance agency subsidiary. We are also licensed in an additional 12 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Two of the key financial measures that we use to evaluate our performance are return on average equity and growth in book value per share. We calculate return on average equity by dividing annual net income by the average of annual shareholders’ equity. Our return on average equity was 7.1% in 2011, 10.9% in 2010 and 16.2% in 2009. We calculate book value per share by dividing ending shareholder’s equity by number of common shares outstanding. Our book value per share was $19.33 at December 31, 2011, $17.99 at December 31, 2010 and $16.20 at December 31, 2009.

Investment income is an important element of our net income. Because the period of time between our receipt of premiums and the ultimate settlement of claims is often several years or longer, we are able to invest cash from premiums for significant periods of time. As a result, we are able to generate more investment income from our premiums as compared to insurance companies that operate in other lines of business that pay claims more quickly. From December 31, 2006 to December 31, 2011, our investment portfolio, including cash and cash equivalents, increased from $665.5 million to $851.5 million and produced net investment income of $26.3 million in 2011, $26.2 million in 2010 and $28.0 million in 2009.

The use of reinsurance is an important component of our business strategy. We purchase reinsurance to protect us from the impact of large losses. Our reinsurance program for 2012 includes 14 reinsurers that provide coverage to us in excess of a certain specified loss amount, or retention level. Our 2012 reinsurance program provides us with reinsurance coverage for each loss occurrence up to $50.0 million, subject to applicable deductibles, retentions and aggregate limits. However, for any loss occurrence involving only one claimant, our reinsurance coverage is limited to $10.0 million for any single claimant, subject to applicable deductibles,

 

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retentions and aggregate limits. Our 2011 program was substantially similar to our 2012 program which calls for us to retain the first $1.0 million of each loss. For losses between $1.0 million and $5.0 million, we are subject to an annual aggregate deductible of 6.5% of subject earned premium before our reinsurers are obligated to reimburse us. The aggregate limit for all claims for losses between $1.0 million and $5.0 million has two parts, as fully described in “Business—Reinsurance” in Item 1 of this report. For losses between $5.0 million and $10.0 million, the three year aggregate limit is $20.0 million. As losses are incurred and recorded, we record amounts recoverable from reinsurers for the portion of the losses ceded to our reinsurers.

Our most significant balance sheet liability is our reserve for loss and loss adjustment expenses. We record reserves for estimated losses under insurance policies that we write and for loss adjustment expenses related to the investigation and settlement of claims. Our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses represent the estimated cost of all reported and unreported loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred and unpaid at any given point in time based on known facts and circumstances. Reserves are based on estimates of the most likely ultimate cost of individual claims. These estimates are inherently uncertain. In addition, there are no policy limits on the liability for workers’ compensation claims as there are for other forms of insurance. Therefore, estimating reserves for workers’ compensation claims may be more uncertain than estimating reserves for other types of insurance claims with shorter or more definite periods between occurrence of the claim and final determination of the loss and with policy limits on liability for claim amounts.

Our focus on providing workers’ compensation insurance to employers engaged in hazardous industries results in our receiving relatively fewer but more severe claims than many other workers’ compensation insurance companies. Severe claims, which we define as claims having an estimated ultimate cost of more than $0.5 million, usually have a material effect on each accident year’s loss reserves (and our reported results of operations) as a result of both the number of severe claims reported in any year and the timing of claims in the year. As a result of our focus on higher severity, lower frequency business, our reserve for loss and loss adjustment expenses may have greater volatility than other workers’ compensation insurance companies.

For example, for the five-year period ended December 31, 2011 we had recorded 178 severe claims, or an average of 36 severe claims per year for accident years 2007 through 2011. The number of severe claims reported in any one accident year as of December 31, 2011 ranged from a low of 26 in 2011 to a high of 43 in 2009. The average reported severity for these claims ranged from $0.8 million for the 2008 accident year to $1.2 million for the 2010 accident year. For the five accident years, these severe claims accounted for an average of 12.4 percentage points of our overall loss and loss adjustment expense, or LAE, ratio, measured at December 31, 2011.

Further, the ultimate cost of severe claims is more difficult to estimate, principally due to uncertainties as to medical treatment and outcome and the length and degree of disability. Because of these uncertainties, the estimate of the ultimate cost of severe claims can vary significantly as more information becomes available. As a result, at year end, the case reserve for a severe claim reported early in the year may be more accurate than the case reserve established for a severe claim reported late in the year.

A key assumption used by management in establishing loss reserves is that average per claim case incurred loss and loss adjustment expenses will increase year over year. We believe this increase primarily reflects medical and wage inflation and utilization. However, changes in per average claim case incurred loss and loss adjustment expenses can also be affected by frequency of severe claims in the applicable accident years.

As more fully described in “Business—Loss Reserves” in Item 1 of this report, the estimate for loss and loss adjustment expenses is established based upon management’s analysis of historical data, and factors and trends derived from that data, including claims reported, average claim amount incurred, case development, duration, severity and payment patterns, as well as subjective assumptions. This analysis includes reviews of case reserves for individual open severe claims in the current and prior years. Management reviews the outcomes from actuarial analyses to confirm the reasonableness of its reserve estimate.

 

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Substantial judgment is required to determine the relevance of our historical experience and industry information under current facts and circumstances. The interpretation of this historical and industry data can be impacted by external forces, principally frequency and severity of unreported claims, length of time to achieve ultimate settlement of claims, utilization, inflation in medical costs and wages, insurance policy coverage interpretations, jury determinations and legislative changes. Accordingly, our reserves may prove to be inadequate to cover our actual losses. If we change our estimates, these changes would be reflected in our results of operations during the period in which they are made, with increases in our reserves resulting in decreases in our earnings.

Our gross reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses at December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009 were $538.2 million, $532.2 million and $534.7 million, respectively. As a percentage of gross reserves at year end, IBNR represented 22.3% in 2011, 19.6% in 2010 and 20.9% in 2009.

In 2011, we decreased our estimates for prior year loss reserves by $6.6 million. In 2010, we decreased our estimates for prior year loss reserves by $21.6 million. In 2009, we decreased our estimates for prior year loss reserves by $21.9 million.

The workers’ compensation insurance industry is cyclical in nature and influenced by many factors, including price competition, medical cost increases, natural and man-made disasters, changes in interest rates, changes in state laws and regulations, and general economic conditions. A hard market in our industry is characterized by decreased competition that results in higher premium rates, more restrictive policy coverage terms, and lower commissions paid to agencies. In contrast, a soft market is characterized by increased competition that results in lower premium rates, expanded policy coverage terms, and higher commissions paid to agencies. We believe that the workers’ compensation insurance industry is transitioning from a soft market cycle. Our strategy is to focus on maintaining underwriting profitability.

For additional information regarding our loss reserves and the analyses and methodologies used by management to establish these reserves, see the information under the caption “Business—Loss Reserves” in Item 1 of this report.

Principal Revenue and Expense Items

Our revenues consist primarily of the following:

Net Premiums Earned. Net premiums earned is the earned portion of our net premiums written. Net premiums written is equal to gross premiums written less premiums ceded to reinsurers. Gross premiums written includes the estimated annual premiums from each insurance policy we write in our voluntary and assigned risk businesses during a reporting period based on the policy effective date or the date the policy is bound, whichever is later.

Premiums are earned on a daily pro rata basis over the term of the policy. At the end of each reporting period, premiums written that are not earned are classified as unearned premiums and are earned in subsequent periods over the remaining term of the policy. Our insurance policies typically have a term of one year. Thus, for a one-year policy written on July 1, 2011 for an employer with constant payroll during the term of the policy, we would earn half of the premiums in 2011 and the other half in 2012. On a monthly basis, we also recognize net premiums earned from mandatory pooling arrangements.

We estimate the annual premiums to be paid by our policyholders when we issue the policies and record those amounts on our balance sheet as premiums receivable. We conduct premium audits on all of our voluntary business policyholders annually, upon the expiration of each policy, including when the policy is renewed. The purpose of these audits is to verify that policyholders have accurately reported their payroll expenses and employee job classifications, and therefore have paid us the premium required under the terms of the policies.

 

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The difference between the estimated premium and the ultimate premium is referred to as “earned but unbilled” premium, or EBUB premium. EBUB premium can be higher or lower than the estimated premium. EBUB premium is subject to significant variability and can either increase or decrease earned premium based upon several factors, including changes in premium growth, industry mix and economic conditions. Due to the timing of audits and other adjustments, the ultimate premium earned is generally not determined for several months after the expiration of the policy.

We review the estimate of EBUB premiums on a quarterly basis using historical data and applying various assumptions based on the current market, and we record an adjustment to premium, related losses, and expenses as warranted.

Net Investment Income and Net Realized Gains and Losses on Investments. We invest our statutory surplus funds and the funds supporting our insurance liabilities in fixed maturity and equity securities. In addition, a portion of these funds are held in cash and cash equivalents to pay current claims. Our net investment income includes interest and dividends earned on our invested assets, and amortization of premiums and discounts on our fixed-maturity securities. We assess the performance of our investment portfolio using a standard tax equivalent yield metric. Investment income that is tax-exempt is increased by our marginal federal tax rate of 35% to express yield on tax-exempt securities on the same basis as taxable securities. Net realized gains and losses on our investments are reported separately from our net investment income. Net realized gains occur when our investment securities are sold for more than their costs or amortized costs, as applicable. Net realized losses occur when our investment securities are sold for less than their costs or amortized costs, as applicable, or are written down as a result of other-than-temporary impairment. We classify the majority of our fixed maturity securities as held-to-maturity. We also have some fixed-maturity securities classified as available-for-sale, as are our equity securities. Net unrealized gains or losses on our securities classified as available-for-sale are reported separately within accumulated other comprehensive income on our balance sheet.

Fee and Other Income. We recognize commission income earned on policies issued by other carriers that are sold by our wholly owned insurance agency subsidiary as the related services are performed. We also recognize a small portion of interest income from mandatory pooling arrangements in which we participate.

Our expenses consist primarily of the following:

Loss and Loss Adjustment Expenses Incurred. Loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred represents our largest expense item and, for any given reporting period, includes estimates of future claim payments, changes in those estimates from prior reporting periods and costs associated with investigating, defending, and administering claims. These expenses fluctuate based on the amount and types of risks we insure. We record loss and loss adjustment expenses related to estimates of future claim payments based on case-by-case valuations and statistical analyses. We seek to establish all reserves at the most likely ultimate exposure based on our historical claims experience. It is typical for our more serious claims to take several years to settle and we revise our estimates as we receive additional information about the condition of the injured employees. Our ability to estimate loss and loss adjustment expenses accurately at the time of pricing our insurance policies is a critical factor in our profitability.

Underwriting and Certain Other Operating Costs. Underwriting and certain other operating costs are those expenses that we incur to underwrite and maintain the insurance policies we issue. These expenses include state and local premium taxes and fees and other operating costs, offset by commissions we receive from reinsurers under our reinsurance treaty programs. We pay state and local taxes, licenses and fees, assessments, and contributions to state workers’ compensation security funds based on premiums. In addition, other operating costs include general and administrative expenses, excluding commissions and salaries and benefits, incurred at both the insurance company and corporate level.

Commissions. We pay commissions to our subsidiary insurance agency and to the independent agencies that sell our insurance based on premiums collected from policyholders.

 

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Salaries and Benefits. We pay salaries and provide benefits to our employees.

Policyholder Dividends. In limited circumstances, we pay dividends to policyholders in particular states as an underwriting incentive. Additionally, Florida law requires payment of dividends to Florida policyholders pursuant to a formula based on underwriting results from policies written in Florida over a consecutive three-year period.

Interest Expense. Interest expense represents amounts we incur on our outstanding indebtedness at the then-applicable interest rate.

Income Tax Expense. We incur federal, state, and local income tax expense.

Critical Accounting Policies

Understanding our accounting policies is key to understanding our financial statements. Management considers some of these policies to be very important to the presentation of our financial results because they require us to make significant estimates and assumptions. These estimates and assumptions affect the reported amounts of our assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses and related disclosures. Some of the estimates result from judgments that can be subjective and complex and, consequently, actual results in future periods might differ from these estimates.

Management believes that the most critical accounting policies relate to the reporting of reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses, including losses that have occurred but have not been reported prior to the reporting date, amounts recoverable from reinsurers, assessments, deferred policy acquisition costs, deferred income taxes, the impairment of investment securities and share-based compensation.

The following is a description of our critical accounting policies.

Reserves for Loss and Loss Adjustment Expenses. We record reserves for estimated losses under insurance policies that we write and for loss adjustment expenses, which include defense and cost containment, or DCC, and adjusting and other, or AO, expenses, related to the investigation and settlement of policy claims. Our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses represent the estimated cost of all reported and unreported loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred and unpaid at any given point in time based on known facts and circumstances.

Our reserves for loss and DCC expenses are estimated using case-by-case valuations based on our estimate of the most likely outcome of the claim at that time. In addition to these case reserves, we establish reserves on an aggregate basis that have been incurred but not reported, or IBNR. Our IBNR reserves are also intended to provide for aggregate changes in case incurred amounts as well as for recently reported claims which an initial case reserve has not been established. The third component of our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses is our AO reserve. Our AO reserve is established for those future claims administration costs that cannot be allocated directly to individual claims. The final component of our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses is the reserve for mandatory pooling arrangements.

In establishing our reserves, we review the results of analyses using actuarial methods that utilize historical loss data from our more than 26 years of underwriting workers’ compensation insurance. The actuarial analysis of our historical data provides the factors we use in estimating our loss reserves. These factors are primarily measures over time of the number of claims paid and reported, average paid and incurred claim amounts, claim closure rates and claim payment patterns. In evaluating the results of our analyses, management also uses substantial judgment in considering other factors that are not considered in these actuarial analyses, including changes in business mix, claims management, regulatory issues, medical trends, employment and wage patterns, insurance policy coverage interpretations, judicial determinations and other subjective factors. Due to the

 

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inherent uncertainty associated with these estimates, and the cost of incurred but unreported claims, our actual liabilities may vary significantly from our original estimates.

On a quarterly basis, we review our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses to determine whether adjustments are required. Any resulting adjustments are included in the results for the current period. In establishing our reserves, we do not use loss discounting, which would involve recognizing the time value of money and offsetting estimates of future payments by future expected investment income. Additional information regarding our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses and the actuarial method and other factors used in establishing these reserves can be found under the caption “Business—Loss Reserves” in Item 1 of this report.

Amounts Recoverable from Reinsurers. Amounts recoverable from reinsurers represent the portion of our paid and unpaid loss and loss adjustment expenses that are assumed by reinsurers and related commissions due from reinsurers. These amounts are separately reported on our balance sheet as assets and do not reduce our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses because reinsurance does not relieve us of liability to our policyholders. We are required to pay claims even if a reinsurer fails to pay us under the terms of a reinsurance contract. We calculate amounts recoverable from reinsurers based on our estimates of the underlying loss and loss adjustment expenses, as well as the terms and conditions of our reinsurance contracts, which could be subject to interpretation. In addition, we bear credit risk with respect to our reinsurers, which can be significant because some of the unpaid loss and loss adjustment expenses for which we have reinsurance coverage remain outstanding for extended periods of time.

Premiums Receivable. Premiums receivable represents premium-related balances due from our policyholders based on annual premiums for policies written, including surcharges and deposits and it is adjusted for premium audits, endorsements, cancellations, cash transactions and charge offs. The balance is shown net of the allowance for doubtful accounts and it includes an estimate for EBUB. The EBUB estimate is subject to significant variability and can either increase or decrease premiums receivable and earned premiums based upon several factors, including changes in premium growth, industry mix and economic conditions.

Assessments. We are subject to various assessments and premium surcharges related to our insurance activities, including assessments and premium surcharges for state guaranty funds and second injury funds. Assessments based on premiums are recorded as an expense as premiums are earned and generally paid one year after the calendar year in which the policies are written. Assessments based on losses are recorded as an expense as losses are incurred and are generally paid within one year of when claims are paid by us. State guaranty fund assessments are used by state insurance oversight agencies to pay claims of policyholders of impaired, insolvent or failed insurance companies and the operating expenses of those agencies. Second injury funds are used by states to reimburse insurers and employers for claims paid to injured employees for aggravation of prior conditions or injuries. In some states, these assessments and premium surcharges may be partially recovered through a reduction in future premium taxes.

Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs. We defer commission expenses, premium taxes and certain marketing, sales, underwriting and safety costs that vary with and are primarily related to the acquisition of insurance policies. These acquisition costs are capitalized and charged to expense ratably as premiums are earned. In calculating deferred policy acquisition costs, these costs are limited to their estimated realizable value, which gives effect to the premiums to be earned, anticipated losses and settlement expenses and certain other costs we expect to incur as the premiums are earned, less related net investment income. Judgments as to the ultimate recoverability of these deferred policy acquisition costs are highly dependent upon estimated future profitability of unearned premiums. If the unearned premiums were less than our expected claims and expenses after considering investment income, we would reduce the deferred costs.

Deferred Income Taxes. We use the liability method of accounting for income taxes. Under this method, deferred income tax assets and liabilities are recognized for the future tax consequences attributed to differences

 

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between the financial statement carrying amounts of existing assets and liabilities and their respective tax bases. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are measured using tax rates expected to apply to taxable income in the years in which those temporary differences are expected to be recovered or settled. The effect on deferred tax assets and liabilities resulting from a tax rate change impacts our net income or loss in the reporting period that includes the enactment date of the tax rate change.

In assessing whether our deferred tax assets will be realized, management considers whether it is more likely than not that we will generate future taxable income during the periods in which those temporary differences become deductible. Management considers the scheduled reversal of deferred tax liabilities, tax planning strategies and projected future taxable income in making this assessment. If necessary, we establish a valuation allowance to reduce the deferred tax assets to the amounts that are more likely than not to be realized.

Impairment of Investment Securities. Impairment of an investment security results in a reduction of the carrying value of the security and the realization of a loss when the fair value of the security declines below our cost or amortized cost, as applicable, for the security, and the impairment is deemed to be other-than-temporary. We regularly review our investment portfolio to evaluate the necessity of recording impairment losses for other-than-temporary declines in the fair value of specific investments. We consider various factors in determining if a decline in the fair value of an individual security is other-than-temporary. Some of the factors we consider include:

 

   

any reduction or elimination of preferred stock dividends, or nonpayment of scheduled principal or interest payments;

 

   

the financial condition and near-term prospects of the issuer of the applicable security, including any specific events that may affect its operations or earnings;

 

   

how long and by how much the fair value of the security has been below its cost or amortized cost;

 

   

any downgrades of the security by a rating agency;

 

   

our intent not to sell the security for a sufficient time period for it to recover its value;

 

   

the likelihood of being forced to sell the security before the recovery of its value; and

 

   

an evaluation as to whether there are any credit losses on debt securities.

Share-Based Compensation. In accordance with Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 718, Compensation-Stock Compensation, we recognize compensation costs for stock option awards over the applicable vesting periods.

 

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Results of Operations

The table below summarizes certain operating results and key measures we use in monitoring and evaluating our operations.

 

    Year Ended December 31,  
    2011     2010     2009  
    (In thousands)  

Income Statement Data

     

Gross premiums written

  $ 272,101      $ 228,424      $ 256,454   

Ceded premiums written

    (13,881     (20,549     (20,158
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net premiums written

  $ 258,220      $ 207,875      $ 236,296   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net premiums earned

  $ 251,015      $ 218,881      $ 250,896   

Net investment income

    26,340        26,242        28,014   

Net realized gains (losses) on investments

    2,228        2,449        2,033   

Fee and other income

    1,080        584        1,268   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total revenues

    280,663        248,156        282,211   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred

    189,706        157,388        163,316   

Underwriting and certain other operating costs (1)

    22,490        6,277        12,351   

Commissions

    18,507        16,350        18,418   

Salaries and benefits

    19,914        21,405        21,447   

Interest expense

    1,311        1,548        1,810   

Policyholder dividends

    1,464        834        770   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total expenses

    253,392        203,802        218,112   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Income before taxes

    27,271        44,354        64,099   

Income tax expense

    3,146        9,748        16,536   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net income

  $ 24,125      $ 34,606      $ 47,563   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Selected Insurance Ratios

     

Current accident year loss ratio (2)

    78.2,     81.8     73.8

Prior accident year loss ratio (3)

    (2.6 )%      (9.9 )%      (8.7 )% 
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net loss ratio

    75.6     71.9     65.1
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net underwriting expense ratio (4)

    24.3     20.1     20.8

Net dividend ratio (5)

    0.6     0.4     0.3

Net combined ratio (6)

    100.5     92.4     86.2
    As of December 31,  
    2011     2010     2009  
    (In thousands)  

Balance Sheet Data

     

Cash and cash equivalents

  $ 45,536      $ 60,966      $ 63,188   

Investments

    805,974        765,537        737,297   

Amounts recoverable from reinsurers

    96,212        95,133        81,878   

Premiums receivable, net

    121,223        122,618        151,570   

Deferred income taxes

    29,286        28,837        26,488   

Deferred policy acquisition costs

    18,756        17,400        18,128   

Deferred charges

    3,120        2,936        3,030   

Total assets

    1,148,509        1,117,923        1,110,499   

Reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses

    538,214        532,204        534,655   

Unearned premiums

    118,699        111,494        122,500   

Insurance-related assessments

    21,506        18,718        28,046   

Debt

    25,780        36,090        36,090   

Shareholders’ equity

    350,852        330,192        306,133   

 

(1) Includes policy acquisition expenses, and other general and administrative expenses, excluding commissions and salaries and benefits, related to insurance operations and corporate operating expenses.

 

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(2) The current accident year loss ratio is calculated by dividing loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred for the current accident year by the current year’s net premiums earned.
(3) The prior accident year loss ratio is calculated by dividing the change in loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred for prior accident years by the current year’s net premiums earned.
(4) The net underwriting expense ratio is calculated by dividing underwriting and certain other operating costs, commissions and salaries, and benefits by the current year’s net premiums earned.
(5) The net dividend ratio is calculated by dividing policyholder dividends by the current year’s net premiums earned.
(6) The net combined ratio is the sum of the net loss ratio, the net underwriting expense ratio and the net dividend ratio.

Overview of Operating Results

Year Ended December 31, 2011 Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2010

Gross Premiums Written. Gross premiums written for 2011 were $272.1 million, compared to $228.4 million for 2010, an increase of 19.1%. The increase was attributable to a $33.1 million increase in premiums resulting from payroll audits and related premium adjustments, a $10.6 million increase in annual premiums on voluntary policies written during the period and a $0.1 million increase in premiums from mandatory pooling arrangements. These increases were partially offset by a $0.2 million decrease in direct assigned risk premiums. Related premium adjustments in 2011 include a $0.3 million increase in “earned but unbilled”, or EBUB, premium. Premium adjustments for the same period in 2010 included a $2.5 million decrease in EBUB premium.

Net Premiums Written. Net premiums written for 2011 were $258.2 million, compared to $207.9 million for 2010, an increase of 24.2%. The increase was primarily attributable to the increase in gross premiums written. As a percentage of gross premiums earned, ceded premiums were 5.2% for 2011, compared to 8.6% for 2010. The decrease in ceded premiums as a percentage of gross premiums earned is a result of a change in our reinsurance treaties.

Net Premiums Earned. Net premiums earned for 2011 were $251.0 million, compared to $218.9 million for 2010, an increase of 14.7%. The increase was attributable to the increase in net premiums written, offset by an increase in unearned premiums.

Net Investment Income. Net investment income in 2011 was $26.3 million, compared to $26.2 million in 2010, an increase of 0.4%. The pre-tax investment yield on our investment portfolio was 3.1% per annum for 2011, compared to 3.2% per annum for 2010. The tax-equivalent yield on our investment portfolio was 4.6% per annum for 2011, compared to 4.4% per annum for 2010. The tax-equivalent yield is calculated using the effective interest rate and a 35% marginal tax rate. Average invested assets, including cash and cash equivalents, increased 3.3%, from an average of $806.7 million for 2010 to an average of $833.4 million for 2011.

Net Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments. Net realized gains on investments in 2011 totaled $2.2 million, compared to $2.4 million in 2010. Net realized gains in 2011 resulted from $2.4 million in gains from called fixed maturity securities, the sale of equity securities and the sale of fixed maturity securities from the available-for-sale portfolio. These gains were offset by an other-than-temporary impairment of $0.2 million on one asset-backed security from our held-to-maturity portfolio. Net realized gains in 2010 primarily resulted from $3.1 million in gains from called fixed-maturity securities and the sale of certain equity and fixed-maturity securities from the available-for-sale portfolio. These gains were offset by an other-than-temporary impairment of $0.7 million on one equity security.

Loss and Loss Adjustment Expenses Incurred. Loss and LAE incurred totaled $189.7 million for 2011, compared to $157.4 million for 2010, an increase of $32.3 million, or 20.5%. The current accident year losses and LAE incurred were $196.3 million, or 78.2% of net premiums earned, compared to $179.0 million, or 81.8% of net premiums earned for 2010. We recorded favorable prior accident year development of $6.6 million in 2011, compared to $21.6 million in 2010. This is further discussed below in “Prior Year Development.” Our net loss ratio was 75.6% for 2011, compared to 71.9% for 2010.

 

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Underwriting and Certain Other Operating Costs, Commissions and Salaries and Benefits. Underwriting and certain other operating costs, commissions and salaries and benefits for 2011 were $60.9 million, compared to $44.0 million for 2010, an increase of 38.3%. This increase was primarily due to a $10.5 million increase in insurance related assessments, a $3.7 million decrease in experience-rated commissions, a $2.2 million increase in commission expense and a $1.6 million decrease in ceding commission related to our 2011 reinsurance agreement. Offsetting these increases were a $1.5 million decrease in salaries and benefits and a $0.3 million decrease in consulting expense. In 2010, we experienced large rate reductions in certain loss-based assessments. Our underwriting expense ratio increased to 24.3% in 2011 from 20.1% in 2010.

Interest expense. Interest expense for 2011 was $1.3 million, compared to $1.5 million for 2010. Weighted average borrowings for 2011 were $31.1 million, compared to $36.1 million for 2010. The weighted average interest rate decreased to 4.2% per annum for 2011 from 4.3% per annum for 2010.

Income tax expense. Income tax expense for 2011 was $3.1 million, compared to $9.7 million for 2010. The decrease was primarily attributable to a decrease in pre-tax income, from $44.4 million for 2010 to $27.3 million for 2011. The effective tax rate also decreased to 11.5% for 2011, compared to 22.0% for 2010. This decrease is due to the higher level of tax-exempt investment income relative to our lower pre-tax income. The rate decrease included a $1.4 million expense reduction in 2011 for the change in valuation allowance for deferred tax assets related to unrealized losses on our investment portfolio. In 2010, the effective rate included a $0.9 million expense reduction for deferred tax assets related to unrealized losses on our investment portfolio.

Year Ended December 31, 2010 Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2009

Gross Premiums Written. Gross premiums written for 2010 were $228.4 million, compared to $256.5 million for 2009, a decrease of 10.9%. The decrease was attributable to a $28.2 million decrease in annual premiums on voluntary policies written during the period, a $1.3 million decrease in premiums from mandatory pooling arrangements, a $0.4 million decrease in direct assigned risk premiums and a $1.9 million increase in premiums resulting from payroll audits and related premium adjustments. Related premium adjustments in 2010 include a $2.5 million decrease in EBUB premium. Premium adjustments for the same period in 2009 included a $6.0 million decrease in EBUB premium.

Net Premiums Written. Net premiums written for 2010 were $207.9 million, compared to $236.3 million for 2009, a decrease of 12.0%. The decrease was primarily attributable to the decline in gross premiums written. As a percentage of gross premiums earned, ceded premiums were 8.6% for 2010, compared to 7.4% for 2009. Ceded premiums earned for our lowest layer of reinsurance in 2010 and 2009 was based on a flat amount of premium, thus with a decrease in gross earned the percent increased.

Net Premiums Earned. Net premiums earned for 2010 were $218.9 million, compared to $250.9 million for 2009, a decrease of 12.8%. The decrease was attributable to the decline in net premiums written offset by earnings from premiums written in the previous four quarters.

Net Investment Income. Net investment income in 2010 was $26.2 million, compared to $28.0 million in 2009, a decrease of 6.3%. The pre-tax investment yield on our investment portfolio was 3.2% per annum for 2010, compared to 3.5% per annum for 2009. The tax-equivalent yield on our investment portfolio was 4.4% per annum for 2010, compared to 4.8% per annum for 2009. The tax-equivalent yield is calculated using the effective interest rate and a 35% marginal tax rate. Monthly average invested assets, including cash and cash equivalents, decreased 0.6%, from a monthly average of $811.9 million for 2009 to a monthly average of $806.7 million for 2010.

Net Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments. Net realized gains on investments in 2010 totaled $2.4 million, compared to $2.0 million in 2009. Net realized gains in 2010 primarily resulted from $3.1 million in gains from called fixed-maturity securities and the sale of certain available-for-sale equity and fixed-maturity securities.

 

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These gains were offset by an other-than-temporary impairment of $0.7 million on one equity security. Net realized gains in 2009 were attributable to $1.7 million in gains from the sale of certain equities and $0.3 million in gains from the sale of one asset-backed security.

Loss and Loss Adjustment Expenses Incurred. Loss and LAE incurred totaled $157.4 million for 2010, compared to $163.3 million for 2009, a decrease of $5.9 million, or 3.6%. The current accident year losses and LAE incurred were $179.0 million, or 81.8% of net premiums earned, compared to $185.2 million, or 73.8% of net premiums earned for 2009. The increase in the current accident year loss ratio was mainly driven by frequency and severity. However the higher current accident year loss ratio amounted to a decrease in losses incurred due to lower earned premiums. We recorded favorable prior accident year development of $21.6 million in 2010, compared to $21.9 million in 2009. This is further discussed below in “Prior Year Development.” Our net loss ratio was 71.9% for 2010, compared to 65.1% for 2009.

Underwriting and Certain Other Operating Costs, Commissions and Salaries and Benefits. Underwriting and certain other operating costs, commissions and salaries and benefits for 2010 were $44.0 million, compared to $52.2 million for 2009, a decrease of 15.7%. This decrease was primarily due to a $4.0 million decrease in insurance-related assessments, a $2.1 million decrease in commissions, a $1.7 million decrease in the provision for accounts receivable write-offs, a $0.5 million decrease in legal expenses and a $0.3 million decrease in mandatory pooling arrangement fees. Income from the commutation of certain reinsurance contracts commutations decreased $0.4 million. Salaries and benefits were flat overall. However, salary expense in 2010 included $1.2 million of additional compensation due to change in the forfeiture assumptions for options granted in November 2005 that fully vested in 2010. Our underwriting expense ratio decreased to 20.1% in 2010 from 20.8% in 2009.

Interest expense. Interest expense for 2010 was $1.5 million, compared to $1.8 million for 2009. Weighted average borrowings for both periods were $36.1 million. The weighted average interest rate decreased to 4.3% per annum for 2010 from 4.9% per annum for 2009.

Income tax expense. Income tax expense for 2010 was $9.7 million, compared to $16.5 million for 2009. The decrease was primarily attributable to a decrease in pre-tax income, from $64.1 million for 2009 to $44.4 million for 2010. The effective tax rate also decreased to 22.0% for 2010, compared to 25.8% for 2009. This decrease is due to the higher level of tax-exempt investment income relative to our lower pre-tax income. The rate decrease included a $0.9 million expense reduction in 2010 for the change in valuation allowance for deferred tax assets related to unrealized losses on our investment portfolio. In 2009, the effective rate included a $0.7 million expense reduction for deferred tax assets related to unrealized losses on our investment portfolio.

Prior Year Development

The Company recorded favorable prior accident year loss and loss adjustment expense development of $6.6 million in 2011, $21.6 million in 2010 and $21.9 million in 2009. The table below sets forth the favorable or unfavorable development for accident years 2006 through 2010 and, collectively, all accident years prior to 2006.

 

     Favorable/(Unfavorable)
Development for Year
Ended December 31,
 
     2011     2010     2009  

2010

   $ (23.3   $ —        $ —     

2009

     0.3        (3.4     —     

2008

     4.7        4.7        (3.4

2007

     11.5        9.3        12.4   

2006

     4.0        6.3        5.8   

Prior to 2006

     9.4        4.7        7.1   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total net development

   $ 6.6      $ 21.6      $ 21.9   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

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The table below sets forth the number of open claims as of December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009, and the numbers of claims reported and closed during the years then ended.

 

     Twelve Months
Ended December 31,
 
     2011     2010     2009  

Open claims at beginning of period

     5,129        4,511        4,793   

Claims reported

     5,986        5,800        5,275   

Claims closed

     (5,931     (5,182     (5,557
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Open claims at end of period

     5,184        5,129        4,511   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

At December 31, 2011, our incurred amounts for certain accident years, particularly 2006, 2007 and 2008, have not developed to the degree management previously expected. The assumptions we used in establishing our reserves for these accident years were based on our historical claims data. However, as of December 31, 2011, actual results for these accident years have been better than our assumptions would have predicted. At the same time, actual results for accident year 2010 are higher than we predicted. We do not presently intend to modify our assumptions for establishing reserves in light of recent results. However, if actual results for current and future accident years are consistent with, or different than, our results in these recent accident years, our historical claims data will reflect this change and, over time, will impact the reserves we establish for future claims.

Our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses are inherently uncertain and our focus on providing workers’ compensation insurance to employers engaged in hazardous industries results in our receiving relatively fewer but more severe claims than many other workers’ compensation insurance companies. As a result of this focus on higher severity, lower frequency business, our reserve for loss and loss adjustment expenses may have greater volatility than other workers’ compensation insurance companies. For additional information, see “Business—Loss Reserves.”

Liquidity and Capital Resources

Our principal sources of operating funds are premiums, investment income, and proceeds from maturities of investments. Our primary uses of operating funds include payments for claims and operating expenses. We pay claims and operating expenses using cash flow from operations and invest our excess cash in fixed maturity and equity securities. We presently expect that our projected cash flow from operations will provide us sufficient liquidity to fund future operations, including payment of claims and operating expenses, payment of interest on our subordinated notes and other holding company expenses, for at least the next 18 months.

We forecast claim payments based on our historical trends. We seek to manage the funding of claim payments by actively managing available cash and forecasting cash flows on a short- and long-term basis. Cash payments, net of reinsurance, for claims were $179.1 million in 2011, $164.9 million in 2010 and $163.8 million in 2009. We fund claim payments out of cash flow from operations, principally premiums, net of amounts ceded to our reinsurers, and net investment income. Our investment portfolio has increased from $582.9 million at December 31, 2005 to $851.5 million at December 31, 2011.

As discussed above under “—Overview,” we purchase reinsurance to protect us against severe claims and catastrophic events. Based on our estimates of future claims, we believe we are sufficiently capitalized to satisfy the deductibles and retentions in our 2012 reinsurance program. We reevaluate our reinsurance program at least annually, taking into consideration a number of factors, including cost of reinsurance, our liquidity requirements, operating leverage and coverage terms.

Even if we maintain our existing retention levels, if the cost of reinsurance increases, our cash flow from operations would decrease as we would cede a greater portion of our written premiums to our reinsurers. Conversely, our cash flow from operations would increase if the cost of reinsurance declined relative to our retention.

 

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Net cash provided by operating activities was $43.7 million in 2011, as compared to $44.8 million in 2010, and $27.3 million in 2009. Major components of cash provided by operating activities in 2011 were net premiums collected of $260.1 million, investment income collected of $31.2 million and amounts recovered from reinsurers of $3.1 million, offset by claim payments of $182.0 million, $65.2 million of operating expenditures, federal taxes paid of $2.0 million and dividends to policyholders paid of $1.6 million. Major components of cash provided by operating activities in 2010 were net premiums collected of $236.6 million, investment income collected of $30.6 million and amounts recovered from reinsurers of $3.8 million, offset by claim payments of $167.4 million, $49.2 million of operating expenditures, federal taxes paid of $6.5 million and dividends to policyholder paid of $3.2 million. Major components of cash provided by operating activities in 2009 were net premiums collected of $239.7 million, investment income collected of $32.1 million and amounts recovered from reinsurers of $5.4 million, offset by claim payments of $171.1 million, $59.1 million of operating expenditures, federal taxes paid of $18.8 million, and dividends to policyholders paid of $1.0 million.

Net cash used in investing activities was $42.9 million in 2011, as compared to $36.7 million in 2010 and $33.8 million in 2009. In 2011, major components of net cash used in investing activities included investment purchases of $294.8 million and net purchases of furniture, fixtures and equipment of $1.1 million, offset by proceeds from sales and maturities of investment of investments of $253.0 million. In 2010, major components of net cash used in investing activities included investment purchases of $194.5 million and net purchases of furniture, fixtures and equipment of $3.2 million, offset by proceeds from sales and maturities of investments of $161.0 million. In 2009, major components of net cash used in investing activities included investment purchases of $186.4 million and net purchases of furniture, fixtures and equipment of $1.0 million, offset by proceeds from sales and maturities of investments of $153.6 million.

Net cash used in financing activities was $16.2 million in 2011, as compared to net cash used in financing activities of $10.4 million in 2010 and net cash used in financing activities of $25.5 million in 2009. Major components of cash used in financing activities in 2011 included $10.3 million for the purchase of our common stock, $10.3 million for the redemption of subordinated debt securities, $3.3 million of proceeds from the exercise of stock options and $1.0 million of tax benefit from share-based compensation. Major components of cash used in financing activities in 2010 included $12.1 million for the purchase of our common stock, $1.5 million of proceeds from the exercise of stock options and $0.2 million of tax benefit from share-based compensation. Major components of cash used in financing activities in 2009 included $25.9 million for the redemption of all outstanding shares of Series C and D redeemable preferred stock and proceeds of $0.3 million from the exercise of stock options.

Interest on our outstanding subordinated notes accrues at a floating rate equal to the three-month LIBOR plus a marginal rate. Our $25.8 million issuance of subordinated notes due 2034 have a marginal interest rate of 3.8% and, as of December 31, 2011, had an effective rate of 4.3%. These notes are currently repayable at the option of the Company. In March 2012, the Board authorized the Company to redeem $12.9 million aggregate principal amount of these notes.

In July 2011, the Company redeemed all $10.3 million of subordinated notes from ACT I and the related trust was canceled.

In October 2007, the Company entered into an agreement providing for a line of credit in the maximum amount of $20.0 million with Frost Bank, NA. The agreement expired in October 2010. The Company renewed this agreement in the fourth quarter 2010 for an additional three years to mature in December of 2013. Under the agreement, advances may be made either in the form of loans or letters of credit. Borrowings under the agreement accrue at interest rates based upon prime rate or LIBOR. The Company pays a fee of 3/8% (three eighths of one percent ) on the unused portion of the loan in arrears quarterly for a fee of $75,000 annually, assuming the line of credit is not used during the calendar year. The line of credit is unsecured. At December 31, 2011, there were no outstanding borrowings.

 

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The Board of Directors initially authorized the Company’s share repurchase program in February 2010. In October 2011, the Board reauthorized this program. As of December 31, 2011, we had repurchased a total of 1,258,250 shares of our outstanding common stock for $22.4 million. The Company had $24.4 million available for future purchases at December 31, 2011. The purchases will continue to be affected from time to time depending upon market conditions and subject to applicable regulatory considerations. It is anticipated that future purchases will be funded from available capital.

AMERISAFE is a holding company that transacts business through its operating subsidiaries, including American Interstate, Silver Oak Casualty and American Interstate of Texas. AMERISAFE’s primary assets are the capital stock of these insurance subsidiaries. The ability of AMERISAFE to fund its operations depends upon the surplus and earnings of its subsidiaries and their ability to pay dividends to AMERISAFE. Payment of dividends by our insurance subsidiaries is restricted by state insurance laws, including laws establishing minimum solvency and liquidity thresholds. Based upon the prescribed calculation, the insurance subsidiaries could pay to AMERISAFE dividends of up to $21.4 million after March of 2012 without seeking regulatory approval. See “Business—Regulation—Dividend Limitations” in Item 1 of this report.

In March 2009, we commuted certain reinsurance agreements with Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Connecticut General Life Insurance and Phoenix Life Insurance Company covering portions of the 1998 accident year. We received cash of $2.5 million in exchange for releasing Lincoln National, Connecticut General and Phoenix Life from their reinsurance obligations under the commuted agreements. As a result of the commutation, we recorded additional pre-tax income of approximately $0.3 million in the first quarter of 2009. Lincoln National remains obligated to subsidiaries of the Company under other reinsurance agreements.

Investment Portfolio

The principal objectives of our investment portfolio are to preserve capital and surplus and to maintain appropriate liquidity for corporate requirements. Additional objectives are to support our A.M. Best rating and to maximize after-tax income and total return. We presently expect to maintain sufficient liquidity from funds generated by operations to meet our anticipated insurance obligations and operating and capital expenditure needs. Excess funds from operations will be invested in accordance with our investment policy and statutory requirements.

We allocate our portfolio into four categories: cash and cash equivalents, short term investments, fixed maturity securities and equity securities. Cash and cash equivalents include cash on deposit, money market funds and municipal securities, corporate securities and certificates of deposit with an original maturity of less than 90 days. Short-term investments include municipal securities, corporate securities and certificates of deposit with an original maturity greater than 90 days but less than one year. Our fixed maturity securities include obligations of the U.S. Treasury or U.S. agencies, obligations of states and their subdivisions, long-term certificates of deposit, U.S. Dollar-denominated obligations of the U.S. or Canadian corporations, U.S. agency-based mortgage-backed securities, commercial mortgage-backed securities and asset-backed securities.

Under Louisiana and Texas law, as applicable, each of American Interstate, Silver Oak Casualty and American Interstate of Texas is required to invest only in securities that are either interest-bearing, interest-accruing or eligible for dividends, and must limit its investment in the securities of any single issuer to five percent of the insurance company’s assets. As of December 31, 2011, we were in compliance with these requirements.

We employ diversification policies and balance investment credit risk and related underwriting risks to minimize our total potential exposure to any one business sector or security.

As of December 31, 2011, our investment portfolio, including cash and cash equivalents, totaled $851.5 million, an increase of 3.0% from December 31, 2010. The majority of our fixed maturity securities are classified as held-to-maturity, as defined by FASB ASC Topic 320, Investments-Debt and Equity Securities. As such, the

 

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reported value of those securities is equal to their amortized cost, and is not impacted by changing interest rates. The remainder of our fixed maturity securities and all of equity securities are classified as available-for-sale and reported at fair value.

On January 1, 2008, we adopted FASB ASC Topic 820, Fair Value Measurements and Disclosures, which defines fair value, establishes a fair value hierarchy and requires an entity to maximize the use of observable inputs and minimize the use of unobservable inputs when measuring fair value. As disclosed in Note 19 of the financial statements, our securities available-for-sale are classified using Level 1 and 2 inputs. We did not elect the fair value option prescribed under FASB ASC Topic 825, Financial Instruments, for any financial assets or financial liabilities in 2010 or 2011.

The composition of our investment portfolio, including cash and cash equivalents, as of December 31, 2011 is shown in the following table.

 

     Carrying Value      Percentage
of Portfolio
    Effective Interest
Rate
 
     (In thousands)               

Fixed maturity securities—held-to-maturity:

       

State and political subdivisions

   $ 441,273         51.8     3.6

Corporate bonds

     92,682         10.9     2.7

Commercial mortgage-backed securities

     51,550         6.1     5.5

U.S. agency-based mortgage-backed securities

     46,096         5.4     5.2

U.S. Treasury securities and obligations of U.S. Government agencies

     9,141         1.1     4.2

Asset-backed securities

     5,306         0.6     3.2
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

Total fixed maturity securities—held-to-maturity

     646,048         75.9     3.7
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

Fixed maturity securities—available-for-sale:

       

State and political subdivisions

     57,762         6.8     4.1

Corporate bonds

     42,980         5.0     2.8
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

Total fixed maturity securities—available-for-sale

     100,742         11.8     3.5
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

Equity securities

     12,240         1.4     5.2

Cash and cash equivalents

     45,536         5.4     0.3

Short-term investments

     46,944         5.5     1.1
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

Total investments, including cash and cash equivalents

   $ 851,510         100     3.4
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

For our securities classified as available-for-sale, the securities are “marked to market” as of the end of each calendar quarter. As of that date, unrealized gains and losses are recorded against Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income (Loss), except when such securities are deemed to be other-than-temporarily impaired. For our securities classified as held-to-maturity, unrealized gains and losses are not recorded in the financial statements until realized or until a decline in fair value, below amortized cost, is deemed to be other-than-temporary.

We regularly review our investment portfolio to evaluate the necessity of recording impairment losses for other-than-temporary declines in the fair value of our investments. We consider various factors in determining if a decline in the fair value of an individual security is other-than-temporary. The key factors we consider are:

 

   

any reduction or elimination of preferred stock dividends, or nonpayment of scheduled principal or interest payments;

 

   

the financial condition and near-term prospects of the issuer of the applicable security, including any specific events that may affect its operations or earnings;

 

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how long and by how much the fair value of the security has been below its cost or amortized cost;

 

   

any downgrades of the security by a rating agency;

 

   

our intent not to sell the security for a sufficient time period for it to recover its value;

 

   

the likelihood of being forced to sell the security before the recovery of its value; and

 

   

an evaluation as to whether there are any credit losses on debt securities.

The following table summarizes the fair value of, and the amount of unrealized losses on, our investment securities, segregated by the time period each security has been in a continuous unrealized loss position as of December 31, 2011 and 2010:

 

     Less Than
Twelve Months
    Twelve Months
or Longer
 
   Fair
Value
     Unrealized
Losses
    Fair
Value
     Unrealized
Losses
 
     (In thousands)  

December 31, 2011:

          

Fixed maturity securities

   $ 40,422       $ (382   $ 10,610       $ (1,231

Equity securities

     2,789         (197     —           —     

December 31, 2010:

          

Fixed maturity securities

   $ 88,643       $ (1,517   $ 12,185       $ (1,527

Equity securities

     —           —          —           —     

We reviewed all securities with unrealized losses in accordance with the impairment policy described above. We determined that the unrealized losses in the fixed maturity securities portfolio related primarily to changes in market interest rates since the date of purchase, current conditions in the capital markets and the impact of those conditions on market liquidity and prices generally, and the transfer of the investments from the available-for-sale classification to the held-to-maturity classification in January 2004. We expect to recover the carrying value of these securities as it is not more likely than not that we will be required to sell the security before the recovery of its amortized cost basis. In addition, none of the unrealized losses on debt securities are considered credit losses.

In 2011, we recorded an impairment charge of $0.2 million related to one asset-backed security in our held-to-maturity investment portfolio. We impaired this security because, among other things, a loss of principal was anticipated based upon estimated future cash flows. The impairment charge is included in “Net realized gains (losses) on investments” for 2011.

In 2010, we recorded an impairment charge of $0.7 million related to one equity security. The impairment charge is included in “Net realized gains (losses) on investments” for 2010. We also sold certain equity securities classified as available-for-sale for which an other-than-temporary impairment had previously been recognized. The realized gain of $2.5 million on these previously impaired securities is included in “Net realized gains (losses) on investments” for 2010.

There were no impairment charges recorded in 2009. In order to recapture realized capital gains for income tax purposes, we sold certain equity securities and one fixed-maturity security which was classified as held-to-maturity. These particular securities had been impaired in 2008. The held-to-maturity security was eligible for sale because the security had been downgraded below investment grade. With limited securities classified as available-for-sale, the sale of this fixed-maturity security was needed to maximize our carryback potential. The realized gain of $1.9 million on the sale of these previously impaired securities is included in “Net realized gains (losses) on investments” for 2009.

The pre-tax investment yield on our investment portfolio was 3.1% per annum during the twelve months ended December 31, 2011, compared to 3.2% per annum during the same period in 2010.

 

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Contractual Obligations and Commitments

We manage risk on certain long-duration claims by settling these claims through the purchase of annuities from unaffiliated life insurance companies. In the event these companies are unable to meet their obligations under these annuity contracts, we could be liable to the claimants, but our reinsurers remain obligated to indemnify us for all or part of these obligations in accordance with the terms of our reinsurance contracts. As of December 31, 2011, the present value of these annuities was $92.9 million, as estimated by our annuity providers. Substantially all of the annuities are issued or guaranteed by life insurance companies that have an A.M. Best rating of “A” (Excellent) or better. For additional information, see Note 17 to our consolidated financial statements in Item 8 of this report.

We lease equipment and office space under noncancelable operating leases. Future minimum lease payments at December 31, 2011, were as follows:

 

Year

   Future Minimum
Lease Payments
 
     (In thousands)  

2012

   $ 194   

2013

     100   

2014

     36   

2015

     4   
  

 

 

 
   $ 334   
  

 

 

 

Rental expense was $0.3 million in 2011, $0.5 million in 2010 and $0.9 million in 2009.

The table below provides information with respect to our long-term debt and contractual commitments as of December 31, 2011.

 

Contractual Obligations

  

 

     Payment Due By Period  
   Total      Less Than
1 Year
     1-3 Years      4-5 Years      More Than
5 Years
 
     (In thousands)  

Subordinated notes (1)

   $ 25,780       $ —         $ —         $ —         $ 25,780   

Loss and loss adjustment expenses (2)

     538,214         190,014         190,641         80,715         76,844   

Loss-based insurance assessments (3)

     9,921         3,503         3,514         1,488         1,416   

Capital lease obligations

     —           —           —           —           —     

Operating lease obligations

     334         194         140         —           —     

Purchase obligations

     2,240         1,702         538         —           —     
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

   $ 576,489       $ 195,413       $ 194,833       $ 82,203       $ 104,040   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(1) Amounts do not include interest payments associated with these obligations. Interest rates on our subordinated notes are variable and may change on a quarterly basis. See “—Liquidity and Capital Resources” above for further discussion of our subordinated notes.
(2)

The loss and loss adjustment expense payments due by period in the table above are based upon the loss and loss adjustment expense estimates as of December 31, 2011 and actuarial estimates of expected payout patterns and are not contractual liabilities as to a time certain. Our contractual liability is to provide benefits under the policy. As a result, our calculation of loss and loss adjustment expense payments due by period is subject to the same uncertainties associated with determining the level of loss and loss adjustment expenses generally and to the additional uncertainties arising from the difficulty of predicting when claims (including claims that have not yet been reported to us) will be paid. For a discussion of our loss and loss adjustment expense process, see “Business—Loss Reserves” in Item 1 of this report. Actual payments of loss and loss adjustment expenses by period will vary, perhaps materially, from the amounts shown in the table above to the extent that current estimates of loss and loss adjustment expenses vary from actual ultimate claims

 

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  amounts and as a result of variations between expected and actual payout patterns. See “Risk Factors— Risks Related to Our Business—Our loss reserves are based on estimates and may be inadequate to cover our actual losses” in Item 1A of this report for a discussion of the uncertainties associated with estimating loss and loss adjustment expenses.
(3) We are subject to various annual assessments imposed by certain of the states in which we write insurance policies. These assessments are generally based upon the amount of premiums written or losses paid during the applicable year. Assessments based on premiums are generally paid within one year after the calendar year in which the policies are written, while assessments based on losses are generally paid within one year after the loss is paid. When we establish a reserve for loss and loss adjustment expenses for a reported claim, we accrue our obligation to pay any applicable assessments. If settlement of the claim is to be paid out over more than one year, our obligation to pay any related loss-based assessments extends for the same period of time. Because our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses are based on estimates, our accruals for loss-based insurance assessments are also based on estimates. Actual payments of loss and loss adjustment expenses may differ, perhaps materially, from our reserves. Accordingly, our actual loss-based insurance assessments may vary, perhaps materially, from our accruals.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

We have no off-balance sheet arrangements that have or are reasonably likely to have a current or future effect on our financial condition, changes in financial condition, revenues or expenses, results of operations, liquidity, capital expenditures, or capital resources.

 

Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.

Market risk is the risk of potential economic loss principally arising from adverse changes in the fair value of financial instruments. The major components of market risk affecting us are credit risk, interest rate risk, and equity price risk. We currently have no exposure to foreign currency risk.

Credit Risk

Credit risk is the potential loss arising principally from adverse changes in the financial condition of the issuers of our fixed maturity securities and the financial condition of our reinsurers.

We address the credit risk related to the issuers of our fixed maturity securities by primarily investing in fixed maturity securities that are rated as investment grade by one or more of Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s or Fitch. We also independently monitor the financial condition of all issuers of our fixed maturity securities. To limit our risk exposure, we employ diversification policies that limit our credit exposure to any single issuer or business sector.

We are also subject to credit risk with respect to our reinsurers. Although our reinsurers are obligated to reimburse us to the extent we cede risk to them, we are ultimately liable to our policyholders on all risks we have reinsured. As a result, reinsurance contracts do not limit our ultimate obligations to pay claims and, in some cases, we might not be able to collect amounts recoverable from our reinsurers. We address this credit risk by initially selecting reinsurers with an A.M. Best rating of “A-” (Excellent) or better and by performing, along with our reinsurance broker, periodic credit reviews of our reinsurers. If one of our reinsurers suffers a credit downgrade, we may consider various options to lessen the risk of asset impairment, including commutation, novation or letters of credit. See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources” in Item 7 of this report.

Interest Rate Risk

Interest rate risk is the risk that we may incur losses due to adverse changes in interest rates. As of December 31, 2011, we had fixed maturity securities with a fair value of $786.0 million and a carrying value of

 

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$746.8 million. These securities are all subject to interest rate risk, but because we classify the majority of our fixed maturity securities as held-to-maturity, changes in fair values have a small effect on the carrying value of our portfolio. We manage our exposure to interest rate risk with respect to these securities by investing in a portfolio of securities with moderate effective duration. At December 31, 2011, the effective duration of the total investment portfolio, including cash and short term investments, was 3.2 years.

We are also subject to interest rate risk on our subordinated debt security, which has quarterly adjustable interest rates based on LIBOR plus a fixed margin. As such, fluctuations in interest rates have a direct effect on interest expense associated with our subordinated debt security.

The table below summarizes the interest rate risk associated with our fixed maturity securities by illustrating the sensitivity of the fair value and carrying value of our fixed maturity securities as of December 31, 2011 to selected hypothetical changes in interest rates, and the associated impact on our shareholders’ equity.

 

Hypothetical Change in

Interest Rates

   Fair Value      Estimated
Change in
Fair Value
    Carrying
Value
     Estimated
Change in
Carrying
Value
    Hypothetical
Percentage
Increase
(Decrease) in
Shareholders’
Equity
 

200 basis point increase

   $ 723,850      $ (62,134   $ 734,783       $ (12,007     (3.4 )% 

100 basis point increase

     754,704         (31,280     740,765         (6,025     (1.7 )% 

No change

     785,984         —          746,790         —          —     

100 basis point decrease

     813,515         27,531        752,086         5,296        1.5

200 basis point decrease

     821,012         35,028        754,166         7,376        2.1

Equity Price Risk

Equity price risk is the risk that we may incur losses due to adverse changes in the market prices of the equity securities we hold in our investment portfolio. We classify our portfolio of equity securities as available-for-sale and carry these securities on our balance sheet at fair value. Accordingly, adverse changes in the market prices of our equity securities result in a decrease in the value of our total assets and shareholders’ equity. In order to minimize our exposure to equity price risk, we independently monitor the financial condition of our equity securities, and diversify our investments. In addition, we limit the percentage of equity securities held in our investment portfolio to the lesser of 10% of the investment portfolio or 30% of shareholders’ equity. As of December 31, 2011, the equity securities in our investment portfolio had a fair value of $12.2 million, representing 3.5% of shareholders’ equity on that date. See “Business—Investments” in Item 1 of this report.

 

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Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.

 

     Page  

Audited Financial Statements as of December 31, 2011 and 2010 and for the three years in the period ended December 31, 2011:

  

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

     63   

Consolidated Balance Sheets

     64   

Consolidated Statements of Income

     65   

Consolidated Statements of Changes in Shareholders’ Equity

     66   

Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows

     67   

Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements

     68   

Financial Statement Schedules:

  

Schedule II. Condensed Financial Information of Registrant

     102   

Schedule VI. Supplemental Information Concerning Property-Casualty Insurance Operations

     105   

Schedules I, III, IV and V are not applicable and have been omitted.

  

 

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Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

The Board of Directors

AMERISAFE, Inc. and Subsidiaries

We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of AMERISAFE, Inc. and Subsidiaries as of December 31, 2011 and 2010, and the related consolidated statements of income, changes in shareholders’ equity, and cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2011. Our audits also include the financial statement schedules listed in the Index at Item 15. These financial statements and schedules are the responsibility of the Company’s management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements and schedules based on our audits.

We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. An audit also includes assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall financial statement presentation. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.

In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of AMERISAFE, Inc. and Subsidiaries at December 31, 2011 and 2010, and the consolidated results of their operations and their cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2011, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Also, in our opinion, the related financial statement schedules, when considered in relation to the basic financial statements taken as a whole, present fairly in all material respects the information set forth therein.

We also have audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), AMERISAFE, Inc. and Subsidiaries’ internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2011, based on criteria established in Internal Control-Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission and our report dated March 9, 2012, expressed an unqualified opinion thereon.

/s/ Ernst & Young LLP

New Orleans, Louisiana

March 9, 2012

 

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AMERISAFE, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES

CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS

(In thousands, except share data)

 

    December 31,  
    2011     2010  

Assets

   

Investments:

   

Fixed maturity securities—held-to-maturity, at amortized cost (fair value $685,242 and $683,463 in 2011 and 2010, respectively)

  $ 646,048      $ 663,345   

Fixed maturity securities—available-for-sale, at fair value (cost $98,077 and $21,865 in 2011 and 2010, respectively)

  $ 100,742      $ 21,649   

Equity securities—available-for-sale, at fair value (cost $11,776 and $1,687 in 2011 and 2010, respectively)

    12,240        1,773   

Short-term investments

    46,944        78,770   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total investments

    805,974        765,537   

Cash and cash equivalents

    45,536        60,966   

Amounts recoverable from reinsurers

    96,212        95,133   

Premiums receivable, net

    121,223        122,618   

Deferred income taxes

    29,286        28,837   

Accrued interest receivable

    9,520        7,704   

Property and equipment, net

    7,628        7,547   

Deferred policy acquisition costs

    18,756        17,400   

Deferred charges

    3,120        2,936   

Federal income taxes recoverable

    —          2,293   

Other assets

    11,254        6,952   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 
  $ 1,148,509      $ 1,117,923   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Liabilities and shareholders’ equity

   

Liabilities:

   

Reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses

  $ 538,214      $ 532,204   

Unearned premiums

    118,699        111,494   

Amounts held for others

    29,981        22,667   

Policyholder deposits

    37,228        39,187   

Insurance-related assessments

    21,506        18,718   

Accounts payable and other liabilities

    25,633        20,653   

Payable for investments purchased

    616        6,718   

Subordinated debt securities

    25,780        36,090   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 
    797,657        787,731   

Shareholders’ equity:

   

Common stock:

   

Voting—$0.01 par value authorized shares—50,000,000 in 2011 and 2010; 19,408,512 and 19,060,649 issued and 18,150,262 and 18,352,041 shares outstanding shares in 2011 and 2010, respectively

    194        191   

Additional paid-in capital

    185,734        180,884   

Treasury stock at cost (1,258,250 shares in 2011 and 708,608 shares in 2010)

    (22,370     (12,102

Accumulated earnings

    185,079        160,954   

Accumulated other comprehensive income

    2,215        265   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 
    350,852        330,192   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 
  $ 1,148,509      $ 1,117,923   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

See accompanying notes.

 

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AMERISAFE, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF INCOME

(In thousands, except share data)

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
   2011      2010      2009  

Revenues

        

Premiums earned

   $ 251,015       $ 218,881       $ 250,896   

Net investment income

     26,340         26,242         28,014   

Net realized gains on investments

     2,228         2,449         2,033   

Fee and other income

     1,080         584         1,268   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total revenues

     280,663         248,156         282,211   

Expenses

        

Loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred

     189,706         157,388         163,316   

Underwriting and certain other operating costs

     22,490         6,277         12,351   

Commissions

     18,507         16,350         18,418   

Salaries and benefits

     19,914         21,405         21,447   

Interest expense

     1,311         1,548         1,810   

Policyholder dividends

     1,464         834         770   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total expenses

     253,392         203,802         218,112   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Income before income taxes

     27,271         44,354         64,099   

Income tax expense

     3,146         9,748         16,536   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net income

     24,125         34,606         47,563   

Redemption premium

     —           —           (875
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net income available to common shareholders

   $ 24,125       $ 34,606       $ 46,688   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Earnings per share

        

Basic

   $ 1.32       $ 1.86       $ 2.33   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Diluted<