Insurance: A Lack of Assurance

Seizures, lowered investor ratings, and mergers signal mounting financial uncertainty in a troubled business

The word in financial circles, albeit sotto voce in recent months, has been to watch out for the insurance industry as the next to be sucked into the vortex of the nation's sagging real estate values. Though the number of outright collapses so far this year remains relatively small, the industry failure rate has picked up ominously in recent weeks and now involves one of the nation's largest insurers. Two weeks ago, in what was the biggest failure to date, New Jersey state authorities took over Mutual Benefit Life, the country's 18th largest life insurer, with assets of $13.5 billion. Last...

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