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California: Insurers Show off Their Good Works

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The California Department of Insurance is reporting that 199 of the 203 large insurers operating in the state have filed community investment reports.

California has required financial institution community investment reports for years, but the state updated and expanded the reporting requirements in 2010, when Assembly member Jose Solorio, D-Central Orange County, Calif., the chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee, steered Assembly Bill 41 through the Legislature.

The bill, which was signed into law by then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R, now requires “each insurer that collects more than $100 million in premiums from Californians to file a policy statement detailing that company’s goals for community development and infrastructure investments in underserved communities,” according to officials at the California department.

The California department publishes the community investment reports on its website.

Only two life insurers missed the community investment report filing deadline, and 67 insurers that were not required to file the reports filed the reports anyway.

A report is supposed to describe an insurer’s community investment goals and geographic areas served.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, a unit of MetLife Inc., New York (NYSE:MET), writes in the report that it wants to support California community development and infrastructure projects through investments in commercial mortgages, real estate investments, bonds, housing tax credit investments, and renewable energy investments.

MetLife companies have made about $2.7 billion in investments from 1997 to 2008. And it also has a social investment program that makes investments of about $3 million to $5 million per project.

Prudential Insurance Company of America, part of Prudential Financial Inc., Newark, N.J. (NYSE:PRU), says it has invested more than $1 billion in social investments since it started a formal social investment program in 1976.

The social investments unit “collaborates with partners who share the dedication to create healthy, sustainable communities,” Prudential says. “These investments support projects that develop and preserve affordable housing, improve access to quality education, and connect neighborhoods and residents to mainstream economic opportunities.”

Los Angeles and San Francisco are two of the focuses of program investments, Prudential says.

The social investments unit also invests in microfinance and social venture efforts in Mexico, Korea, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan, China and India, Prudential says.

In related news, the Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies, Sacramento, Calif., and the Association of California Insurance Companies, Sacramento, a property-casualty group, have joined with several and other state and national groups to supplement the individual company reports with a report on “The Insurance Industry’s Impact on California’s Economy.”

The groups note that the 784 p-c companies operating in the state and the 456 life and health companies in the state own about $45 billion in California municipal bonds, have invested about $118 billion in certified Community Development Financial Institutions in the state, and have made about $19 billion in investments through the California Organized Investment Network (COIN), which was founded in 1996 to invest in low-income and moderate-income communities.

Insurers also support California communities by making charitable contributions and grants, and by supplying volunteers, the groups say.


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