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Weekly news: Trump admin makes way for more short-term plans; Aspen closes unit

Risk and regulation

The Trump administration has further opened the door for insurers to market short-terms plans intended to be available at cheaper costs but without the protections now covered by the Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Mercury Insurance Co.'s appeal to overturn a California Court of Appeal ruling that held Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones' 2013 order requiring the insurer to reduce its homeowner insurance rates.

Government policies and programs like Medicare and Medicaid are dampening competition and artificially driving up the prices of prescription medicines, the White House argued in a new report.

Maine's Bureau of Insurance approved National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc.'s proposed average decrease of 12% in workers' compensation loss costs for 2018.

Insurance industry representatives urged state regulators to extend the benefits of the recent bilateral insurance pact between the European Union and the U.S. to other countries that meet high solvency standards — garnering recognition for the U.S. system and its industry in the process.

Bank of America Corp. said in its annual filing that it is still working through five separate lawsuits with financial guarantor Ambac Assurance Corp. The lawsuits concern bond insurance policies provided by Ambac on some securitized pools with loans that Ambac alleges were misrepresented by Bank of America.

Property and casualty

Enstar Group Ltd.'s Lloyd's managing agency, StarStone Underwriting Ltd., has finalized its planned reinsurance-to-close transaction with Neon Underwriting Ltd.

An Enstar Group subsidiary agreed to reinsure the New South Wales motor vehicle compulsory third-party insurance business of Zurich Insurance Group AG's Australian subsidiary, effective Jan. 1.

Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd. has closed its U.S. property insurance unit in Bermuda after the company posted an operating loss of $178.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, The Royal Gazette reported.

The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. will acquire The Farmers Exchanges' Foremost-branded small commercial business sold through independent agents following a renewal rights agreement.

State Auto Financial Corp. has reached the stage in its turnaround in which the "noise" from its financial results will start to go away, said Michael LaRocco, the company's chairman, president and CEO.

Federated National Holding Co.'s unit Federated National Insurance Co. has closed its planned purchase of the interests in Monarch Delaware Holdings LLC held by Federated National Holding's joint venture partners.

French insurer AXA will use the proceeds from its upcoming U.S. IPO to strengthen its position in health, property and casualty and protection in a specific group of countries, its CEO said Feb. 22.

Life and health

Principal Financial Group Inc. has completed the acquisition of MetLife Afore SA de CV, MetLife Inc.'s pension fund management business in Mexico, after Mexican regulators approved the deal.

Genworth Financial Inc. has disclosed the expected risk-based capital ratio for its U.S. life insurance companies for the year ended Dec. 31, 2017.

Earnings

Erie Indemnity Co. reported fourth-quarter 2017 net income of $32.1 million, or 61 cents per share, down from $45.8 million, or 87 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Assured Guaranty Ltd. reported fourth-quarter 2017 operating income of $91 million, or 77 cents per share, down from $139 million, or $1.05 per share, in the prior-year period.

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