2018 FIFA World Cup
DeSoto was told, in detail, of the plight of the Narvaez Expedition, by natives, for the first time in La Florida. Originally celebrated by the ancient Greeks as Kronia, the festival of Cronus, Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of Saturn, which originally took place on 17 December, but expanded to a whole week, up to 23 December. Paul's, whose interior is lined with columns on each side. Kazan , Republic of Tatarstan Belgium: Lake Wales Arts Center. Specific dating is problematic. Of the three companies that failed at least three tests, two of them, Edison and Northern Capital Select, were being shut down or sold by January.
This island paradise also considered very eco-friendly and everywhere in Aruba has being environmentally concious.
Divi-divi trees, that are unknown to any other Caribbean island dot Aruba. Aruba is also home to 80 nationalities and the culture is everywhere in Aruba. Local art, music, resturants, and even celebrations throughout the year can be enjoyed in Aruba on your romantic getaway. Aruba has so much to offer lovers searching for that perfect romantic getaway. The Solomon Islands are the perfect romantic getaway because of all their private and secluded ammenities as well as intimate attractions of the Solomon Islands.
Marovo Lagoon is the longest lagoon in the southern hemisphere, if not the world. It is also a favorite among couples. Very few experiences top a visit to an actual thriving rainforest, and a stop at Uepi Island in the Solomon Island chain not only is a barrier reef island covered in lush rainforest, but it has a sandy beach flanked by warm waters of the lagoon on one side and a deep marine abyss on the other.
Uepi island has diving and snorkeling, sea kayaking and even expeditions with an experienced tour guide, wakeboarding and tubing, glass bottom paddleboarding, fishing, jungle trails to explore, and coconut crab walks that take you into the jungle by canoe at night. Cuisine of the Solomon Islands has the very best that the Pacific has to offer as well as dishes that reflect the culture of the islands. Make The Solomon Islands your lovers playground with a romantic getaway to this virtually untouched paradise.
Somoa is a nation located in the Pacific Islands and on the island of Upolu, at the Coconuts Beach Club and Resort, lovers on romantic getaways are catered to. Spend lazy days on the beach or watch the sunsets from your Fale. Upolu Island is rich in Samoan culture and no visit is without being exposed to the thriving Samoan culture where every night there is something to see and do with the local people of the island!
The food is out of this world, literally! Five star cuisine mixed with foods that reflect the Samoan culture served on candle lit tables, beachside cabanas, or even in your very own Fale envokes romance. You can enjoy massages, facials, waxing, pedi and manicures, wraps, and other Spa services here. Coconuts also offers tours and excursions to: Coconut Beach Club and Resort of Upolu Island, Samoa offers year round entertainment and activities to suit everyone, especially couples.
This island resort is also a popular wedding destination for lovers on a getaway who want to take that next step. Coconuts has several wedding packages complete with photographers ready to capture your special day! Turtle Island is a acre private island resort which is part of the Yasawa group in the Republic of Fiji. This is the perfect romantic getaway if privacy is what you seek with luxury included. There are fourteen areas fourteen bures-or managers that are spacious and decorated with handcrafted furnishings and fittings.
The managers or bures as they are called, are far enough away so that you will feel as if the island is yours and yours alone.
For those who want to up their luxury, there are Grand lodgings where the rooms have king-size four poster beds, jacuzzui, an outdoor shower, and a veranda with a queen-sized chaise loungers. The cuisine of Turtle Island is not only the best of island fare but is served at a communal table where guests can come together to be social or you can opt for more private and intimate settings.
Whatever you want or need, can usually be found to make your romantic getaway experience perfect. Ever thought of taking a romantic getaway to England, but you wanted to avoid the hustle and bustle of London? Shere, Surrey is just 30 miles from London and has impressive romantic credentials. You can visit the local boutiques and shops or take a drive to London, which is just 30 miles away. Whiskey, bagpipes, tartan kilts, ancient castles, and early Medieval to massive cathedrals are just part of the allure of Edinburgh.
Stunning rugged and rustic landscapes of rolling hills, mountainous areas, carved out streams, and mirrored lakes are just some of the beautiful landscapes of this romantic city. Edinburg streets are drenched in history and has a thriving cultural scene. If you are looking for a romantic getaway that is a break from island paradises and busy cities, and something more about natural and cultural beauty steeped in history, then Edinburgh, Scotland is your romantic getaway option! Edinburgh and its people are proud of their heritage and throughout the year there is always some festival or fair celebrating it.
Make Edinburgh, Scotland your romantic getaway when visiting the United Kingdom. One of the most romantic cities in Europe is Stockholm, Sweden. This beautiful city is known to offer its visitors opportunities to try out kayaking, hiking, water sports, and scenic trips through the countryside.
One of the favorite activities in Stockholm aside from mountain climbing trips is the skating. Every season, skaters flock to the iced lakes and waterways as well as the annual ice festivals that take place right on the ice. Some of the best ice carvers carve out sculptures. International delicacies and local fare are a big hit with tourists as well as romantic couples. Hotels that range from rustic cottages and hostels to five star grand hotels give couples a variety in lodgings.
There are also many historical and art oriented points of interest in Stockholm. Stockholm has a wonderful and vibrant night life, where the whole city is lit up and comes to life with its music and cultural scene.
The city is over years old with roots deep in Viking ancestry with scenic views of the Baltic Sea. Stockholm is also home to some of the best shopping experiences around. Skogskyrkogarden woodland cemetery , Drottningholm Palace, and the remains of Viking settlement Birka. For art and culture travel to Skeppsholmen Island and Gamla Stan.
For beautiful morning or evening strolls, Royal Djugarden Park is full of parkland and forest that is also full of things to do that can take up to several days to explore and experience. Stockholm, Sweden has the Ericsson Globe which is a giant golf ball shaped arena that dominates the skyline in the southern part of Stockholm. Charleston is the epitomy of southern charm, hospitality, and history. Charleston is one of the most well preserved cities in the United States. What makes this the perfect romantic getaway is that visitors instantly feel transported to a different era.
Strolls down cobbled streets past magnificent churches, grand antebellum mansions, and beautiful gardens enchant couples as well as tourists. For the couples that have a deep love of history, Charleston has old plantations and numerous historical museums with a dedication to the Civil War and Old South.
Charleston may be encompassed by tradition, but it has a modern flare. Fine dining featuring gourmet Southern cuisine and stylish boutiques and shops line the streets of downtown Charleston. Charleston is full of first class hotels as well as bed and breakfasts that offer their own set of luxurious ammentities. Entertainment can be found virtually everywhere in Charleston. There are a range of theaters, museums, arts, and even wineries. Hop on an old fashioned paddle wheel boat for a river ride to Fort Sumpter National Monument and tour the famous old fort.
Charleston has one of the most picturesque harbors in the United States. South Carolina Aquarium that his host to many interactive exhibits and programs as well as marine species that includes: Charleston, South Carolina knows how to cater to the romantic in all of us with a romantic getaway to its city!
There are literally over museums and historical sites as well as theaters and art galleries. Depending on what time of the year you go, there is some sort of event going on. The scenic countryside views alone are worth the getaway to beautiful Nova Scotia. Seaside Inns and bed and breakfasts offer couples a wonderful and enticing romantic getaway. Nova Scotia has more than 1, resturants that offer seafood, fresh produce, local wine and much more as well as intimate settings.
Nightlife begins in Halifax at many of the Nova Scotia bars and pubs. Charters for fishing or just for touring around the island are a big draw as are: The locals are friendly and want you to have the best romantic getaway possible when visiting their island.
Of all the beautiful lands and interesting places on the Emerald Isle, the Ring of Kerry is one of two of the most romantic spots for a romantic getaway that Ireland has to offer.
The Ring of Kerry is part of the mystical and unspoiled region of Ireland that has attracted visitors and most of those honeymooning or in love couples for hundreds of years. It is a natural hub for outdoor pursuits including golf, watersports, cycling, hiking, fishing in freshwater rivers, and scenic views. The Ring of Kerry has some of the finest beaches in the Rossbeigh area in Europe that provide a lovely seaside adventure.
This place gives amazing insight into the ancient ancestory of Ireland with its many historical points of interests such as Iron Age Forts and Ogham Stores, Old Monasteries, and a landscape that was carved out of rock by the last Ice Age. Want a romantic getaway that is off the beaten path? Something unique that will be memorable?
When you stay at the Blancaneaux Lodge, be prepared to have meals prepared from spreading organic gardens and prepared by a team of world class trained chefs. Romance abounds with a trip to the Waterfall Spa that is both luxurious and eco-friendly.
Frolic through the jungle paradise on foot or a by bike to hidden rock pools that lead to Big Rock Falls or just relax by the freshwater infinity pool.
The Blancaneaux Lodge also provides tours to ancient Mayan ruins that include a 4WD off road excursion to the Mayan citadel Caracol and a canoe trip through remote Mayan caves as well as horseback riding adventures. This romantic getaway is complete with secluded cabanas with extravagant romantic king sized four poster beds, jacuzzis, and bathing facilities for two. No romantic safari in the wilds of South Africa would be complete without a stay at Kruger National Park.
The resort features both indoor and outdoor safaris, private plunge pools, and a wood deck with a thatched gazebo where you can observe wildlife over breakfast. When the sun goes down, enjoy a meal al fresco near an animal watering hole with delicacies and wine pairings that is custom to your tastes. Imbue your romantic getaway with more adventure by taking a hot air balloon ride, spending a day at a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center, or playing golf.
No matter what you are up for, Kruger National Park in South Africa can deliver for a unqiue romantic getaway. Each room comes with a king sized bed, elegant parlor, and oversized copper and mosaic soaking tub that is fit for a princess and her prince!
The rural town of Boonsboro is a small picturesque town that echos the colonial history as well as is in close proximity to the Appalacian Trail that is a favorite with hikers. It offers its visitors cultural and historical points of interest and a variety of shopping excursions. The picturesque beauty along with the intimate artistic design of the Inn Boonsboro is a coveted romantic getaway that is a must.
Blackberry Farm is a 65 room mountain resort that lies in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Blackberry Farms is luxury accomidations at its finest with antiques, fireplaces, and verandas.
There are plenty of activities to keep two love birds busy such as hiking, canoeing, croquet, tennis, mountain biking, seasonal outdoor swimming, and bonfires. Blackberry Farm is also home to some of the best fly fishing, food, and wine events, carriage and wagon rides, horseback riding, sporting clay shooting, and pampering spas.
No matter what time of year you visit Blackberry Farms for your romantic getaway, Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee is the ideal setting for a romantic weekend retreat with all its ammenities. Dining experiences take down home southern cooking and adds a fine dining twist to it. Romantic indoor or outdoor dining experiences as well as moonlit strolls under the stars add a story book feel with the one you love.
Sonoma is complete with landscapes of the Pacific Ocean, Lake Sonoma, the Russian River, statuesque Redwood forests, and picturesque hills of grape vines make this destination exquisite for romantic getaways. There are a variety of hotels, inns, quaint and luxurious bed and breakfasts that are quite remarkable in Sonoma County.
Aside from the various wineries located here, there are spas that pamper their guests. Shopping and food experiences flourish here in Sonoma County ranging from boutiques and shopping malls to outdoor markets to fine dining resturants.
Sonoma County is at the heart of wine country! Many of the farms allow you to pick your own fruits and flowers. For wine lovers looking for a romantic getaway, Sonoma County located in Sonoma, California 30 miles north of San Francisco, is the perfect getaway!
The beautiful Pocono Mountains are located in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, and have long been a favorite romantic getaway and place for honeymooners. Two hours away from the city of Philidelphia and New York City, is filled with scenic views and a myriad of activities and attractions. The Pocono Mountains are large with roughly 2, square miles for lovers to explore. Accomodations range from campsites to resorts. Backcountry camping is permitted along the Appalacian Trail. For a trip back into time, visit the Millbrook Village off the Old Mine Road, a community designed in the late 19th century style with homes and other buildings reflecting that era.
In the summer tour guides in Millbrook Village dress in time period clothing and offer tours of their beloved village. Additional seasonal activites in the Pocono Mountains are: Poconos also has a quaint bed and breakfast, The Black Walnut that not only a beautiful Tudor style building but has beautiful luxurious rooms that have excellent scenic views on their acres. The Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania is a welcome destination for a romantic getaway!
Couples love the wild wilderness of Alaska. Regardless of whether you are looking for a quiet bed and breakfast to cozy intimate lodges, or five star hotels, Alaska has it!
Alaska offers romantic getaways that include with a visit to Kodiak, Alaska, an adventure cruise where you can see bears, assorted native birds, and whales thrive in Alaskan wilderness and waters. There is some of the best salmon fishing in Alaska and whether you charter a boat or try one of the exclusive fly fishing boat tours.
Aside from the many things to do in Alaska, there is no short changing the natural beauty that this state is known for. Breathtaking views of snow capped mountains, thick wilderness, beautiful waters, and rugged outdoors are what make Alaska a great place for romantic getaways.
The cuisine and food offerings of Alaska are many, ranging from local rustic foods to gourmet cuisine. Discover romance in Alaska! While on the path to creating the perfect romantic getaway, discover your inner child with a romantic getaway to Walt Disney World in sunny Orlando, Florida.
Aside from the spectacular amusement parks and sights of Walt Disney World, Disney has added several features to their franchise that is for couples and honeymooners only! Disney now offers a Walt Disney Cruise that tours the islands of the Bahamas. The Disney experience for romance also includes spa treatments and even offers private fireworks cruises, where you can really have sparks that fly for just you and your significant other on this romantic getaway.
Cinderella and her Prince Charming, never had it so good as with a couples romantic getaway package from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida! Just south of the equator, Bali enoys a warm and tropical climate year round. This resort offers stellar views and a beautiful three-tiered pool. The seascapes enchant visitors to visit the white sandy tropical beaches of the region and snorkeling as well as scuba diving are a favorite here. Gourmet cuisine that not only infuses local foods and traditions is what is offered here as well as shopping in boutiques and open air markets.
Water sports, swimming pool, spas, and tours through some of the most breathtaking landscapes around. In total, only four players were sent off in the entire tournament, the fewest since A player is automatically suspended for the next match for the following offences: The following awards were given at the conclusion of the tournament. The award was sponsored by Hyundai. FIFA also published an alternate team of the tournament based on player performances evaluated through statistical data.
Prize money amounts were announced in October The tournament logo was unveiled on 28 October by cosmonauts at the International Space Station and then projected onto Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre during an evening television programme.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said that the logo was inspired by "Russia's rich artistic tradition and its history of bold achievement and innovation", and FIFA President Sepp Blatter stated that it reflected the "heart and soul" of the country.
The official mascot for the tournament was unveiled 21 October , and selected through a design competition among university students. A public vote was used to select from three finalists—a cat, a tiger, and a wolf. The first phase of ticket sales started on 14 September , The general visa policy of Russia did not apply to participants and spectators, who were able to visit Russia without a visa right before and during the competition regardless of their citizenship.
A Fan-ID was required to enter the country visa-free, while a ticket, Fan-ID and a valid passport were required to enter stadiums for matches.
Fan-IDs also granted World Cup attendees free access to public transport services, including buses, and train service between host cities. Fan-ID was administered by the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media , who could revoke these accreditations at any time to "ensure the defence capability or security of the state or public order". The official match ball of the World Cup group stage was " Telstar 18 ", based on the name and design of the first Adidas World Cup ball from It was introduced on 9 November After the group stage, "Telstar Mechta" was used for the knockout stage.
The word mechta Russian: The difference between Telstar 18 and Mechta is the red details on the design. Its music video was released on 8 June Thirty-three footballers who are alleged to be part of the steroid program are listed in the McLaren Report. The choice of Russia as host has been challenged. Controversial issues have included the level of racism in Russian football,    and discrimination against LGBT people in wider Russian society. Allegations of corruption in the bidding processes for the and World Cups caused threats from England's FA to boycott the tournament.
Garcia , a US attorney, to investigate and produce a report on the corruption allegations. Eckert's summary cleared Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoing, but was denounced by critics as a whitewash. On 3 June , the FBI confirmed that the federal authorities were investigating the bidding and awarding processes for the and World Cups. In response to the March poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal , British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that no British ministers or members of the royal family would attend the World Cup, and issued a warning to any travelling England fans.
The British Foreign Office and MPs had repeatedly warned English football fans and "people of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent" travelling to Russia of "racist or homophobic intimidation, hooligan violence and anti-British hostility".
At the close of the World Cup Russia was widely praised for its success in hosting the tournament, with Steve Rosenberg of the BBC deeming it "a resounding public relations success" for Putin, adding, "The stunning new stadiums, free train travel to venues and the absence of crowd violence has impressed visiting supporters. Russia has come across as friendly and hospitable: All the foreign fans I have spoken to are pleasantly surprised.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino stated, "Everyone discovered a beautiful country, a welcoming country, that is keen to show the world that everything that has been said before might not be true. A lot of preconceived ideas have been changed because people have seen the true nature of Russia. The elimination of the US national team in qualifying led to concerns that US interest and viewership of this World Cup would be reduced especially among "casual" viewers interested in the US team , especially noting how much Fox paid for the rights, and that US games at the World Cup peaked at During a launch event prior to the elimination, Fox stated that it had planned to place a secondary focus on the Mexican team in its coverage to take advantage of their popularity among US viewers factoring Hispanic and Latino Americans.
Fox stated that it was still committed to broadcasting a significant amount of coverage for the tournament. In February , Ukrainian rightsholder UA: PBC stated that it would not broadcast the World Cup. This came in the wake of growing boycotts of the tournament among the Football Federation of Ukraine and sports minister Ihor Zhdanov. Broadcast rights to the tournament in the Middle East were hampered by an ongoing diplomatic crisis in Qatar over alleged support of extremist groups.
Qatar is the home country of the region's rightsholder, beIN Sports. On 2 June , beIN pulled its channels from Du and Etisalat , but with service to the latter restored later that day. Etisalat subsequently announced that it would air the World Cup in the UAE, and continue to offer beIN normally and without interruptions. On 12 July , FIFA stated that it "has engaged counsel to take legal action in Saudi Arabia and is working alongside other sports rights owners that have also been affected to protect its interests.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other competitions of that name, see World Cup disambiguation. For the video game, see FIFA Not a FIFA member. Bronnitsy , Moscow Oblast Australia: Kazan , Republic of Tatarstan Belgium: Krasnogorsky , Moscow Oblast Brazil: Sochi , Krasnodar Krai Colombia: Verkhneuslonsky , Republic of Tatarstan Costa Rica: Roshchino , Leningrad Oblast  Denmark: Anapa , Krasnodar Krai Egypt: Grozny , Chechen Republic England: Repino , Saint Petersburg  France: Istra , Moscow Oblast Germany: Vatutinki , Moscow  Iceland: Gelendzhik , Krasnodar Krai Iran: Bakovka, Moscow Oblast Japan: Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan Mexico: Khimki , Moscow Oblast Morocco: Voronezh , Voronezh Oblast Nigeria: Plugging that model into A.
RMS' two chief competitors argued there was inadequate scientific grounding to heavily promote a five-year outlook. Best to reconsider requiring a model "based on theories. Having alternative models available was good, she said, but "I personally was an advocate of not rushing into something that was not tested and would have a dramatic change. Certainly, I had a lot of conversations with A.
The warnings were not heeded. Both Eqecat and AIR eventually produced their own five-year versions, though AIR warned clients it considered the only credible version to be the long-term model. By January , five months before RMS released its new model, at least half a dozen reinsurers were pricing their contracts based on the new numbers, comments made in quarterly earnings calls show.
The pricing triggered a cascade of rate hikes in Florida. That, in turn, required it to buy more reinsurance from its parent, a cost that resulted in a 47 percent rate increase to its Florida customers.
Allstate increased the loss estimates of its long-term hurricane model by 41 percent, a "climate cycle" adjustment it only briefly noted within its 4,page request for a 22 percent rate hike. By the time the actual model was released in May , it had already reshaped the Florida property insurance market, unleashing the largest spike in premiums in state history.
A state commission must review and approve catastrophe models before insurers may use them to set rates. No short-term model has ever passed that test. RMS in submitted its model for review by the Florida Hurricane Loss Methodology Commission -- the only body of its kind in the nation. Meteorologists, statisticians and engineers for the commission began a lengthy review. But when RMS learned those reviewers planned to reject the model, the company withdrew it from consideration.
A draft report shows the objections centered largely on how RMS had determined its new hurricane rates. The panel said the model change failed to meet credibility and bias tests, and it questioned how RMS had picked its four scientists and why so few were invited. Shah later told the Herald-Tribune he believed Florida was "mucking things up," suppressing a credible view of risk "so pricing can be more affordable.
RMS continues to promote its short-term model as the preferred option for its customers. A survey by Bermuda officials shows it is the dominant model for Bermuda reinsurers, the most crucial source of private hurricane protection for Florida. At the outset in , RMS promised to revisit its forecast at the end of every season. Rather than produce their own storm predictions, they were asked by an expert in gathering scientific opinion to rank 39 different climate models that RMS would then run to produce a five-year forecast.
He came armed with Tiddlywinks, 30 for each scientist, to help them visualize and rank the weather simulators. What struck University of Colorado environmental science professor Roger Pielke as he played with his pile of green chips was the pointlessness. Pielke, already a critic of the five-year forecast, believed the 39 models were a stacked deck, "biased upwards.
RMS said it gave its experts the option of sticking with a long-term average. Another participant, Georgia Tech climatologist Judith Curry, had her own misgivings. She believed the selection too narrow. When RMS averaged the scientists' choices, the number of expected storms had dropped from the previous finding in This time, the number of Category 3 and higher hurricanes expected to strike the U.
That decrease meant the risk of hurricanes had dropped by a third. Presumably, homeowners' premiums should follow suit. But there was no rush to adjust homeowners' bills and no publicity surrounding the new scientific "consensus. RMS in December described the results as "consistent" with past findings. It disclosed the lower numbers six months later in an April confidential report to clients.
By then it was too late to effect that year's reinsurance rates for many insurance companies. Company vice president Claire Souch denied that RMS promoted the increase and downplayed the decrease.
Following the unusually inactive season, RMS announced it would skip its annual expert review. By fall , RMS had changed its methodology to remove the human element, Souch said. Souch said a new model will be released in February.
It is expected to decrease rates along the coast and increase them inland, RMS officials said. For his part, Pielke returned to Colorado and set up a random number generator to rank RMS' 39 climate models from -- akin to blindly throwing darts to choose the best model.
A Herald-Tribune investigation shows that since the state's last spate of hurricanes, a dramatic shift has taken place. Two-thirds of property insurance premiums now leave Florida as unregulated payments to largely offshore reinsurers -- companies that sell hurricane protection to insurers and that operate without rate control or consumer oversight.
They, more than state insurers and state regulators, determine how much Floridians must pay to live in the state, and whether property insurance is available at all. Florida's growing reliance on this profit-driven market is eroding its ability to withstand the inevitable disaster. There has been no storm to trigger payments. Most of the money is gone, pocketed by a reinsurance industry that plays by Wall Street rules, able to rack up profits no regulated insurance company would be allowed to keep.
Had it remained in Florida, that money could have doubled the size of the state's publicly run catastrophe fund and lowered premiums 20 percent. It could have paid for another round of hurricanes like the eight that struck in and Instead, homeowners' insurance premiums reached record levels in and , exacerbating widespread policy cancellations. The lost capital also weakened insurance company finances, drained surplus for future storms, and pushed carriers over the edge, giving Florida the highest insurance failure rate in the nation.
The volatile reinsurance market now has such a tight hold on Florida that homeowners and the state economy are perpetually at risk of future market shocks, even those triggered by events elsewhere in the world. The costly dependence frustrates those who would try to revive the state's foundering property insurance market. State Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty alternatively has pleaded with reinsurers to play a greater role in Florida and called them "greedy" when they extracted crushing rate hikes.
Jeb Bush set aside his free-market ideology to conclude Florida could not "be at the mercy of people who hope for catastrophes to keep their rates high. The newspaper learned that Bush secretly spent part of his last year in office seeking an alternative, lobbying his brother in the White House and fellow governors of catastrophe-prone states to create a government substitute. But in Florida today, and increasingly along the eastern seaboard, reinsurance is on the verge of replacing traditional insurance altogether.
A month after Katrina, with the storm's cost and death toll mounting, Allstate president Thomas Wilson expressed regrets in an October quarterly earnings conference call, but said that the nation's second-largest insurer was through with hurricanes. Allstate and other national carriers accelerated a retreat from risk along the American coast. From to , 2. The state-run Citizens Property Insurance for the first time became the largest provider of hurricane coverage in Florida.
With no viable alternative, state regulators and private insurance companies looked to offshore reinsurers to underwrite the risk posed by storms. With a few million dollars in the bank, newly formed insurers could buy large amounts of reinsurance to instantly write billions of dollars worth of coverage. Petersburg home insurer started after with funding in part from a Bermuda reinsurer. The cost for turning over almost all of its risk is high.
The Herald-Tribune found more than half a dozen Florida insurers paying more than 50 cents for a dollar of hurricane coverage, reinsurance rates brokers say are the highest in the world. Yet Florida's insurers continue to buy more. They use the premium they collect to purchase additional reinsurance to write more policies, rather than retaining the money to shore up their own capital bases.
The portion of homeowners' premium devoted to reinsurance in that time increased from 37 percent to 64 percent, according to the newspaper's analysis of 70 Florida-only property insurers.
The national average is only 19 percent. That in turn drove up the cost of coverage for homeowners. Quarterly premium reports show the average Florida homeowner pays 72 percent more today than in The average premium has nearly doubled or more in nine coastal counties. The change in how Florida's largest insurers handle risk is most dramatic. A state report noted State Farm, Allstate, Universal Property and American Strategic in spent only 7 percent of their premium on reinsurance.
Annual financial reports show more than 28 Florida insurers devote more than half their premium to external coverage, some to the point of extinction. Hurricane Ike was barreling through the Atlantic as a Category 4, on a westerly track that had the potential to deliver the long-dreaded sucker punch that would bring Florida to its knees.
As stomachs churned in Florida, a quarter turn around the globe on the balmy Mediterranean, the reinsurance industry welcomed an American calamity. The financial giants who underwrite the world's risks were gathered in Monte Carlo for their annual Rendez-Vous de Septembre. Amid champagne parties and sailing races, they kept close watch on the advance of the storm.
The head of research for a London brokerage sized up the hurricanes circulating in the American Gulf. There was nothing in his tone, nor the reaction of those taking note, to reveal they were discussing the decimation of another American city.
The cost of calamity coverage is determined mostly by supply and demand. Big disasters can temporarily dampen quarterly profits and even kill a few unlucky reinsurers, but they drive up demand and draw down capital, shrinking supply. The macabre sentiment pervading Monte Carlo in was parodied a few mornings later at the Cafe de Paris, where reinsurance brokers massed deep for preliminary negotiations on the hurricane contracts for which Floridians would pay the next year.
By missing New Orleans, the trade journal quipped, the hurricane had "failed to destroy billions of dollars worth of energy infrastructure and make millions of uninsured poor people homeless.
The money on the table comes from the world's richest investors -- institutional funds, global bankers and, increasingly, U. The objects of their betting are hurricanes, typhoons and earthquakes, as well as pandemic diseases.
No other insured peril in the world comes close in potential losses. But the risk of a hurricane accounts for only a fraction of the price reinsurers charge. The majority of the cost is driven by how much profit investors demand, and whether insurers are desperate enough to pay those rates.
Florida insurers are particularly needy buyers, hence they have little choice to refuse what reinsurers demand to be paid. On average, the Herald-Tribune calculated, reinsurers charge five times more than the actuarial risk of loss. The translation for Florida property owners: In reinsurance, such math is unquestioned.
It is not "undue profitability" but "the cost of capital," concluded an industry-funded study by the vaunted Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania. These new players demanded paybacks equal to or better than the heady profits rolling off mortgage-backed securities.
They sought return percentages from the mid-teens to high 20s, Mike Millete, a managing director of Goldman Sachs, told reinsurance executives during a industry forum in Bermuda. In the end, Bermuda reinsurance investors saw a record return on equity, according to a Guy Carpenter analysis.
Greenberg had a 26 percent return on Validus Holdings. Lancashire Re gave its New York private equity fund investors a 33 percent return. And in , the largest reinsurer of Florida carriers reported a 38 percent return.
On the other hand, Florida regulators limit property insurers to a 3. Called policyholder surplus, this stash represents the first line of defense for hurricane claims.
In , Florida insurers had 65 cents in the bank to back every dollar of brick and shingle they insured. The decrease is all the more alarming because it occurs during a lull in hurricane activity, when Florida insurers should be building capital to withstand future storms. And it comes despite record revenues. But in three of the past four storm-free years, the total amount of surplus held by Florida-based insurers gained only minor ground.
In , when reinsurers raised their Florida rates to counter Wall Street losses, it actually dropped. Since , 10 carriers have fallen so short on capital they have been forced to close, been placed under regulatory consent orders or had their financial ratings withdrawn.
Nowhere are the riches from Florida more on display than when the industry gathers on the French Riviera for its annual convention in Monte Carlo. For a week during the height of the Florida hurricane season, the extravagant gambling resort is packed with hundreds of reinsurers and brokers who negotiate their contracts. Tradition demands a sailboat race at the Monte Carlo Yacht Club. Some years there is also a road rally through the south of France in collectible cars.
The bulk of the week is devoted to "building relationships," a function some reinsurance brokers say they hold more important than the price for any one year. In , as Florida gambled with the weather, hundreds of reinsurance underwriters and brokers packed the marbled lobby of the Hotel de Paris and commandeered the outdoor tables of the Cafe de Paris, befuddling cruise ship tourists who had nowhere to go.
Brokers huddled over spreadsheets beneath bronze busts of Louise XIV or scribbled notes against a grand piano or beneath a Greek nude. The bigger reinsurance houses held forth from private salons and yachts tied up in the harbor. The brokers from Guy Carpenter held a huge party in a ballroom beneath a ceiling papered in gold, lasers casting corporate logos atop the bathing nudes painted on the walls.
On the next block, top-hatted magicians on stilts greeted delegates who entered through a veil of tiny bubbles, tossing firecrackers over their heads. The impeccably dressed hosts from Dubai handed out party favors of oversized billfolds, while a bus crouched at the curb to ferry brokers to the next soiree.
On the terrace, a trio of sequined starlets slid among the strolling financiers, trailed by backup dancers. When State Farm stepped up its march out of Florida, it loudly and publicly claimed hurricanes were pushing it toward financial disaster.
The company argued it had to leave the Florida coast -- and drop nearly half a million customers -- because it could not profit in a state wracked by so many storms. A Herald-Tribune investigation finds Florida's largest insurer has instead found an easier way to profit from homeowners desperate for coverage. And the desperation State Farm helped create allows it to command some of the highest rates in the world.
The conduit for this back-door insurance is DaVinci Reinsurance Ltd. The virtual corporation was launched in by State Farm and a Bermuda reinsurer with which it has close ties. Its partner, RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd. While it has little physical presence, DaVinci is now one of the state's most important hurricane reinsurers. Contracts show DaVinci provided coverage last year to more than 50 Florida insurance carriers representing the owners of 3.
Through DaVinci, State Farm quietly continues to collect money from thousands of former customers who were told their homes were too risky to insure. Collectively, these customers have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to State Farm's offshore reinsurance venture. Florida's payments for are not yet available.
In Florida, the insurance rates State Farm can charge are regulated by the government. Profits are controlled and taxed. The potential loss from a major hurricane is measured in billions of dollars. DaVinci's premiums, on the other hand, are as high as the market will bear. Based in Bermuda, it avoids U. State Farm officials would not disclose the company's current ownership interest in DaVinci.
Nor would RenRe release the names of DaVinci's directors. Securities filings show that since , State Farm has had an option to leave DaVinci, but as of December it had not exercised that right. A spokesman for State Farm responded to questions from the Herald-Tribune with a two-sentence statement. DaVinci helped facilitate the transformation of Florida's home insurance market into one reliant on thinly capitalized, Florida-based companies and unregulated offshore reinsurance.
DaVinci, along with its partner RenaissanceRe, writes a specialized form of reinsurance that allows investors to launch and operate new Florida insurers with relatively little cash. DaVinci's presence made it easier for State Farm to withdraw from Florida's densely populated coastlines and in five years shed more than , customers -- by helping give those customers a place to go.
The company's withdrawal has put pressure on lawmakers to give concessions to the insurance industry, but is not so cataclysmic as to prompt state intervention to prevent it.
In the end, Florida officials allowed State Farm to sharply raise rates and eliminate policy discounts while shifting to safer parts of the state and retaining its highly profitable auto insurance operation in Florida.
Earnings projections filed with state regulators show State Farm expects to collect as much premium in as it did before its exodus. Within weeks of the Sept. RenRe provided 20 percent of the money and manages the venture. At the outset, DaVinci was a nominal reinsurer for Florida. It specialized in low-risk contracts with large U. It doubled its capacity to write reinsurance and refocused much of its business on Florida. Together, DaVinci and RenRe became the largest provider of hurricane coverage to Florida-based insurers.
The rates they charged Florida insurers post-Katrina doubled, RenRe executives told stock analysts at the time. National reinsurance records show that in , Florida-only insurers provided 23 percent of DaVinci's U. By , it was 41 percent. Interviews and documents examined by the Herald-Tribune show DaVinci focused on selling the riskiest, hardest-to-get coverage most critical to Florida's weakest property insurers. What's more, State Farm organized its withdrawal in a way that helped it keep control of its most profitable business -- car insurance.
It created a list of insurers to which State Farm agents could direct dropped customers. Homeowners who switched to those companies could retain their multi-policy discounts. State Farm agents also keep their clients if they move them into the state-created Citizens, or to the pre-approved companies -- most of which are backed by DaVinci reinsurance coverage.
Details about DaVinci were kept quiet enough that several longtime Florida State Farm agents told the Herald-Tribune they were not aware most of the pre-approved companies had a connection to State Farm.
Tampa resident Trudy Hensley canceled her State Farm home and car policies in after seeing her premium jump 66 percent in two years. State Farm's threat to drop Florida residents angered her enough to look for coverage elsewhere. She switched to Tower Hill. What she did not know was that the Tower Hill group, including four insurers under that umbrella, is by far DaVinci's largest Florida customer. I have no feelings of Good Neighborliness," Hensley said. It's another case of those big insurance companies taking advantage of people.
Hensley's first reaction after being told about DaVinci was to ask for a list of companies that do not buy reinsurance from the company. The duo supplied the majority of hurricane protection for six companies, a list that included Security First, Argus and the now-defunct Northern Capital. According to financial contracts reviewed by the Herald-Tribune, DaVinci was the third-largest commercial provider of hurricane reinsurance in Florida by the end of As State Farm dropped customers along the Florida coast, many remained in the State Farm family when they were picked up by companies using DaVinci reinsurance, including Northern Capital.
The Miami-based insurer was started in by the owners of a security guard company. Like many Florida start-up insurers, Northern Capital lacked the money to insure that many homes. It could have drastically scaled back its growth plans to fit the money it had. Instead, it devoted two-thirds of its income to buy reinsurance, letting it insure thousands more homes.
Northern Capital concentrated its business in Miami-Dade County and adjacent areas -- a region State Farm closed to new business in A Herald-Tribune review of scores of reinsurance contracts found similar terms for other companies. As Northern Capital illustrates, the contracts worked out better for State Farm than for companies that bought the coverage. In early , state regulators accused Northern Capital of paying too much for reinsurance and put it under secret supervision. After two deadly hurricane seasons, major insurance carriers were leaving, smaller companies struggled to raise capital and Florida families scrambled to find coverage and pay escalating premiums.
As they strove to recover from the eight hurricanes of and , Floridians took another hit — from Bermuda reinsurance companies that seized on the crisis to double or triple their rates. These reinsurance companies, which insure the insurance companies, are the lifeblood for scores of under-capitalized, highly leveraged start-up insurers. Most carriers could not remain in business without costly reinsurance policies geared to cover their losses.
But in , many reinsurers reduced the storm coverage they were willing to give Florida. Some purposefully refused to write policies for months, convinced they could extract an even higher price from insurers that neared collapse. First-hand accounts, brokerage reports and copies of reinsurance contracts written that year show Florida insurers were still cobbling together hurricane protection in August and September, during the peak of danger, and paying three times the January rate.
The cost was paid by Florida property owners, some of whom suddenly faced premiums as high as their house payments. Real estate agents complained they were losing home sales as buyers no longer qualified for mortgages, and Florida bank leaders trouped to Tallahassee begging relief. There are more than 1, foreign insurers incorporated in this oceanic frontier town, including 59 reinsurers that provide billions of dollars of hurricane protection for nearly every home in Florida, from swamp trailer to coastal high-rise.
They crowd and color every aspect of Bermuda. With no place to build, newcomers worth hundreds of millions settle for whatever they can lease. Two cram offices next to a hair salon, heralded by wooden signs of equal size. With no place to park, wealthy executives buzz around on motor scooters, ties flapping and knees peeking beneath colorful Bermuda shorts, one of the persisting oddities cultivated by the island's financial expats.
Bermuda's regulations are famously light, exposing consumers to business practices designed to reduce competition and encourage price-fixing. Solvency requirements exist, but they are dramatically light compared with what private financial rating firms consider reasonable. Only the island's 37 largest reinsurers must file audited annual reports.
Only 29 of those agree to make the document public. The only other records Bermuda allows the public to view are kept in a drab office building two blocks from the harbor. Hidden on the third floor, behind a wobbling counter propped against the wall, a government clerk will fetch all that Bermuda cares to make public about the financial giants who shoulder Florida's tremendous hurricane risk.
What they do contain is unhelpful — mostly lists of island lawyers who serve on boards of convenience that hide the real owners and decisionmakers.
Reinsurance contracts and comments by executives show that even when they had money in the bank and board approval to use it, Bermuda reinsurers cut the capital they were willing to allot to Florida. The layoff in part was driven by the belief global warming had increased hurricane risk, a view backed by some scientists hired by the insurance industry. But it also was driven by a hunger to maximize profit — to, as ACE Ltd. Rather than just ride Katrina-driven price increases, the Herald-Tribune found, reinsurers worked to make them bigger.
They sat on business they normally would have signed. They turned away Florida insurers they normally would have backed.
When he spoke, Aspen had written only half its normal Florida contracts. O'Kane expected reinsurance prices to double because Aspen was not the only reinsurer refusing to write. Other reinsurers also were holding out. Other reinsurers were willing to write policies but seized on the opportunity to boost profits in other ways. Montpelier Reinsurance, for example, stopped selling a broad form of coverage on which many Florida reinsurers relied and offered a more expensive substitute.
He would make it up later, he promised, earning 30 percent more while writing half the risk. Florida regulators began a watchlist of insurers without full coverage at the start of hurricane season. Industry sources said five insurers were put under temporary supervision. Records obtained by the Herald-Tribune show at least one, United Property and Casualty, was still short in mid-September and operating under a regulatory consent order, even as it sought a state loan to expand.
The average home premium increased 80 percent. Residents near the coast saw increases of percent. More than , Florida families lost their private coverage, forced to find a new company or join Citizens, the state-run insurer of last resort.
A few industry leaders were troubled. Bill Riker, president at the time of Renaissance Reinsurance, said the Bermuda reinsurers overreached, hurting their own market. Most reinsurers simply rejoiced. A Florida insurer typically needs to buy reinsurance from a dozen or more reinsurers who each agree to pay a portion of the losses. But the prices on those contracts are set by consensus, not competition.
And only a handful of the largest reinsurers participate in the negotiation phase. A reinsurer who has the largest share of the contract, or takes the last essential piece of it, can drive up the price everyone charges, even if there are others willing to take less. Industry leaders contend the process stabilizes prices and protects consumers from reinsurers that might bid too low and go broke when disaster strikes. I don't see it happening.
The state represents the largest catastrophe risk in the insured world. It also has more small, thinly capitalized insurance companies than any other state. Thus, Florida demand for reinsurance almost always outstrips supply, most of which comes from a few dominant reinsurers. Johns Insurance president Reese Bowen. Bill Posey, a Republican from South Florida who for years chaired the state Senate's insurance committee.
American regulators have raised no challenge to consensus pricing. But controversy surrounding its use overseas prompted the European Union to investigate in Brokerage reports show state residents suffer even when a big storm like Katrina is not distorting the market. A glut of capital and soft markets drove U. But the profits Bermuda reinsurers make are, under Bermuda law, tax-free. Regulation of Bermuda's 1, insurers is left to the Bermuda Monetary Authority, which is not an arm of government.
The independent organization is run with oversight from a board that includes executives of the very companies it oversees. The system is structured to allow multimillion-dollar ventures to spring to life in weeks. New executives and their business plans are reviewed by a panel of executives from other firms, not by regulators. By comparison, it takes months of regulatory review to launch a Florida insurance company.
State officials require criminal background checks and must examine the capital sources behind a new company. Solvency requirements, though changing, remain light. In , Bermuda for the first time determined how much money a reinsurer needed by how much risk it assumed. But the level was set so low it provided little protection. To keep an A grade from financial rating firm A.
Paula Cox is the Bermuda prime minister of finance, as was her father before her. She also is a lawyer for ACE Ltd. Her brother, Jeremy Cox, is the supervisor of insurance, responsible for setting the standards Bermuda reinsurers must meet. Bermuda officials and their supporters insist the island is making strides in matching European countries.
With insurance premiums hitting record highs and national carriers dropping millions of homeowners, Gold told regulators in late he could cover tens of thousands of families for bargain basement prices. Sell policies over the phone instead of through agents, and stop handing out checks when homeowners filed claims, sending repairmen to fix the problems instead. The approach was unorthodox, so much so that even the man Gold hired to run his company thought it was headed for disaster. But the Office of Insurance Regulation was willing to let Gold try, and in granted People's Trust permission to sell insurance, putting thousands of homeowners into the hands of a company run by a man who had no insurance experience.
Then, when insurance agents around Florida began to allege in September that People's was endangering customers by using unlicensed workers to sell policies, state regulators held off action. They waited until early to begin their own inquiry. What the Office of Insurance Regulation would eventually discover is that behind Gold's ideas to rewrite the rules of Florida home insurance was a large call center operation, pumping out thousands of policies containing legal violations that could have left unwitting homeowners uninsured for major risks.
Ultimately cited for hundreds of violations, People's Trust was ordered to reorganize in April It was allowed to keep its 30, policies. By July, with a newly trained staff but the same business model, regulators put Gold back into business for a second try at the Florida market. Gold blames early problems on his inexperience and said he never intended to do anything more than give Floridians an affordable option to insure their homes. Gold, a former New Jersey office equipment distributor, got into property insurance by happenstance.
He had retired to Florida, built a house, and was outraged at what companies charged to insure it. Unable to find a bargain, Gold launched his own insurer, and hired his home contractor as his claims manager. Ever the salesman, Gold courted the media and politicians.
Charlie Crist's 52nd birthday bash in July Thanks to what Gold claims was the handiwork of Senate President Jeff Atwater, he was seated at the head table next to the governor and his future wife. As Gold tells it, People's Trust was licensed by Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation with full knowledge that its plans were unorthodox.
Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty "personally told me we were a breath of fresh air, that he approved of our approach to the marketplace," Gold said.
People's Trust cuts costs by relying on telephone sales by marketers following scripts, skipping the 10 percent commission usually pocketed by outside agents. Instead of writing claims checks, the company sends out repairmen whose costs it controls. Gold also plans to stock a warehouse with hurricane repair supplies to avoid the supply shortages and inflated prices that usually follow a major disaster. Within a year, People's Trust had more than 30, customers. But Gold quickly ran into problems.
In September , the Florida Association of Insurance Agents began to document scores of violations, and by November , turned over large boxes of evidence to state regulators. Among the alleged violations: People's was illegally allowing unlicensed employees to sell insurance.
And in pursuit of low premiums, it often was writing policies that did not fully cover homeowners for such hazards as sinkholes. The agents also warned the two Florida agencies that oversee insurance companies that People's Trust was offering homeowners unjustifiable discounts in an attempt to undercut competitors. By charging too little, the association warned, People's Trust was endangering its ability to pay future claims.
By late , Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's Department of Financial Services had started a slow but methodical investigation into Gold's use of unlicensed agents, a line of inquiry that would take a year to unfold without ever closing down the operation. The Office of Insurance Regulation did not send its own examiners to check on People's until February Deputy Commissioner Belinda Miller said the delay was reasonable, considering the time needed to line up an investigation and the intervening holidays.
OIR reports on the investigation were never finished, but early drafts show examiners randomly inspected policies. Every one contained at least one violation of state law.
In all, the policies contained violations of 22 state statutes. The policies lacked documentation of the property insured. They lacked required documentation that policyholders knew they had foregone coverage for things like sinkholes and floods.