TDCI Encourages Investors to Know the Risks of Financial “Unicorns”

(Nashville, TN – Insurance News 360) – On March 14, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Securities Division cautioned investors to be sure they do their research before investing in “unicorn” start up companies. The warning came after the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) issued an advisory on the topic.

When it comes to financing businesses and start up companies, a “unicorn”  is a privately held company that is estimated to be valued at more than $1 billion. Privately held companies cannot sell shares to the public and has a limited number of investors. They can raise capital to fund business endeavors, and recent changes in securities laws have given them more options to do so. The investors in these types of companies are typically private funds, like private equity, hedge funds, or venture capital; they may also include wealthy individuals, owners and employees of the company itself.  SEC-registered mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and business development companies (BDCs) also may invest in unicorns.

Putting your money into this type of company carries big risk, especially when there is a direct investment. Because they are privately held, there is no public market to trade the securities, and these securities are not easily sold or exchanged for cash. This is why the market valuations may not accurately reflect the actual value of the company. Also, public disclosures may not be up to the level of what is required of publicly traded companies.

“Rushing into an investment that you don’t fully understand can be bad for your bottom line,” said TDCI Assistant Commissioner Frank Borger-Gilligan. “We encourage Tennesseans to always conduct thorough research to learn the risks associated with the investments they are considering.”

What are Some Risks of Investing in pre-IPO Shares?

Fraud: weak internal controls and corporate governance infrastructure may lead to fraudulent practices by a unicorn. For example, a company could create false sales and shipping documents to artificially increase sales numbers.

Disclosure: since the securities of unicorns will not be registered at the state or federal level, investors may lack important information to make an investment decision.

Liquidity: there is no guarantee shares can be resold after purchase.

Valuation: the valuation on a unicorn pre-IPO may not reflect the intrinsic value of the enterprise. In addition, even if the unicorn eventually holds an IPO, there is no guarantee the stock price will rise. Some IPOs are unsuccessful, and shares fall after the company goes public.

Remember, before making any decisions with your money, ask questions, make sure you understand the risks, and contact the Tennessee Securities Division for detailed background information about those who sell securities or give investment advice, as well as about the products being offered.

The Tennessee Securities Division can be reached at 615-741-2947.

Source: Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI).

Researchers confirm genetic mutation link to ALS symptoms

(Bethesda, MD – Insurance News 360) – A team of researchers has confirmed there is a new genetic mutation that is linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The international team shows that changes in the neuronal transport gene KIF5A are associated with ALS.

The gene in question is Kinesin family member 5A (KIF5A). It has been linked to two rare neurodegenerative disorders, and has been definitively connected to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) by several of the world’s top ALS research labs. Mutations in this gene cause problems in transport of proteins along the axions that connect nerve cells of the brain and spine. This eventually leads to the neuromuscular symptoms of ALS.

Published in the March 21 issue of “Neuron,” the study was led by Bryan Traynor, M.D., Ph.D., of the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health and John Landers, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, with key funding support from the NIA, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at NIH, and several public and private sector organizations.

There was a comprehensive collaborative effort to examine the data that pointed toward KIF5A as a suspect for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The team of researchers from NIH conducted a large-scale genome-wide association study, and a team at the University of Massachusetts looked for rare variants in the next generation sequence data.   There were more than 125,000 samples in the study.

“Axons extend from the brain to the bottom of the spine, forming some of the longest single cellular pathways in the body,” said Traynor. “KIF5A helps to move key proteins and organelles – specialized parts of cells — up and down that axonal transport system, controlling the engines for the nervous system’s long-range cargo trucks. This mutation disrupts that system, causing the symptoms we see with ALS.”

The project’s next steps include further study of the frequency and location of mutations ithin the gene, to determine what cargos are disrupted. ccording to Traynor, next steps for the project include further study of the frequency and location of mutations within KIF5A and determining what cargos are being disrupted. He and his team hope this will help reveal what aspect of axonal transport is essential to maintain the cell.

Source: National Institutes of Health.

Wolf Administration Announces Recovery of More Than $98 Million for Pennsylvania Insurance Consumers in 2017

(Pittsburg, PA – Insurance News 360) – In 2017, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department returned $98,073,388 in stolen funds, unpaid insurance claims and refunds for premium overcharges to 33,138 customers throughout the state.

“Ensuring consumers are afforded all of the rights and protections guaranteed to them by Pennsylvania law is what we work for,” said Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman. “Protecting consumers and holding businesses to the highest standards continues to be a top priority of Governor Wolf and the department.”

Since 2012, the state’s insurance department has also returned $680,518,671 to consumers after a multi-state settlement with various life insurance companies.  As a leader in this ongoing examination of life insurance companies, Pennsylvania has helped not only recover financial benefits for consumers, but also entered settlement agreements with many life insurers requiring them to reform their business practices. Some companies were making selective use of the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF), and instead of paying policy benefits upon a policyholder’s death, the companies were only terminating payment of annuity benefits. These companies have now committed to properly using the DMF to identify potentially unpaid insurance benefits and locate beneficiaries.

The Insurance Department also has made available, in conjunction with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the Life Policy Finder, which can help beneficiaries find life insurance policies that may have been lost over the years.

If you have a question about your insurance or need to file a complaint, you may contact the Insurance Department’s Bureau of Consumer Services at 1-877-881-6388 or online.

Source: Pennsylvania Insurance Department.

Customer Satisfaction with Original Equipment Tires Shows Significant Improvement

(Costa Mesa, CA – Insurance News 360) – The J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study reveals that overall customer satisfaction with original equipment tires has shown great improvement since 2015

The study, conducted each year, looks at tire owner satisfaction in tire wear, tire ride, tire appearance, and tire handling. The study ranks luxury vehicles, passenger cars, performance sport and truck

Michelin tires earned a 765 in the luxury segment, 753 in passenger, 774 in performance and 731 in truck/utility.

“The rise in satisfaction helps validate tire manufacturers’ efforts to meet the demands of OEMs while simultaneously improving the customer experience,” said Brent Gruber, Senior Director, Automotive Quality Practice at J.D. Power. “The fact that there is little difference in satisfaction between run-flat and traditional tires is a great example. Many OEMs have been replacing spare tires with run-flats to help reduce vehicle weight and improve fuel efficiency. Just a few years ago run-flat tires were a detriment to customer satisfaction but the experience is much more positive now.”

The 2018 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 30,477 owners of 2016 and 2017 model-year vehicles, and was fielded in October-December 2017.

Source: J.D. Power.

Tennessee Announces Actions against Internet Cryptocurrency Company ‘Bitcoiin’

(Nashville, TN – Insurance News 360) – Tennessee Securities Team Alerts Investors to Internet Crypto Company ‘Bitcoiin’

On March 22, the Tennessee Department of Commercen and Insurance Securities Division announced that consumers should be aware of actions against an Internet cryptocurrency company called Bitcoiin, after the State of New Jersey issued a cease and desist order to Bitcoiin, which is also known as Bitcoiin B2G. This is NOT Bitcoin, nor are the two affiliated in any way.

New Jersey issued the cease and desist order on March 7. The company offered investments to the public and New Jersey residents, in the Bitcoiin ICO and ‘Bitcoiin Staking Program’ through a website that announces an expectation that each B2G will be worth $388 by December 2018.

New Jersey’s filing told respondents to stop selling securities unless they had been registered, and to stop acting as broker-dealers, or agents in the state.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance wants Tennessee residents to know that none of the companies, promoters, or specific investments related to Bitcoiin are registered in the state.  It also urges caution when individuals invest in cryptocurrencies, which are created and stored electronically in the blockchain, which is a public database that permanently records digital transactions.

They are not insured or controlled by a central bank or other governmental authority, cannot always be exchanged for other commodities, and are subject to little or no regulation.

“Rushing into an investment that you don’t fully understand can be bad for your bottom line,” said TDCI Assistant Commissioner Frank Borger-Gilligan. “We encourage Tennesseans to always conduct thorough research to learn the risks associated with the investments they are considering.”

In order to help protect consumers, TDCI reminds investors to keep watch for common “red flags” of investment fraud:

“Guaranteed” high investment returns. There is no such thing as guaranteed investment returns, and there is no guarantee that the cryptocurrency will increase in value. Be wary of anyone who promises a high rate of return with little or no risk.

Unsolicited offers. An unsolicited sales pitch may be part of a fraudulent investment scheme.  Cryptocurrency investment opportunities are promoted aggressively through social media. Be very wary of an unsolicited communication—meaning you didn’t ask for it and don’t know the sender—about an investment opportunity.

Sounds too good to be true. If the project sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for exaggerated claims about the project’s future success.

Pressure to buy immediately.

Tennesseans who have invested with Bitcoiin are urged to contact TDCI by phone at (615) 741-5900 or by email at

Source: Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI).

JD Power Study Reveals Greater Customer Satisfaction with Punctual Telecommunications Technicians

(Costa Mesa, CA – Insurance News 360) – Consumers are happier with their telecommunications services when service technicians are on time for appointments and provide more precise service windows. The results of the inaugural J.D. Power U.S. Telecom In-Home Service Technician Study, released on March 22.

Longer service windows and early or late arrivals negatively impact customer satisfaction.

The study looked at consumer perceptions of on-site service technician visits for high speed data, phone and TV service installation and service. There were six attributes examined in this study:   quality of work; timeliness of completing work; knowledge of technician; courtesy of technician; professionalism of technician; and scheduling an appointment.

“The more flexible telecom companies can be with offering service windows that work with their customers’ schedules and the more precise they are at hitting those target times, the higher levels of customer satisfaction they can realize,” said Peter Cunningham, Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Practice Lead at J.D. Power. “Though this may seem like common sense, there are huge performance gaps among the different providers. Those that are getting it right have developed strong skill sets in both managing customer expectations and delivering on them.”

The study revealed the following things:

Shorter service windows are associated with higher satisfaction: Scheduling an appointment satisfaction is 49 points higher among customers with service windows of one hour or less than among those with a two-hour window. That gap jumps to 104 points when customers are given a four-hour window.

Customers are happier when technicians arrive on the right day, on time. Although overall satisfaction for punctual technicians was 871, it dropped to 819 when technicians were early and 683 when they were late (and this includes technicians who come on the wrong day).

Customers are happier when technicians fix problems on a single visit. Those whose issues require multiple visits are more likely to indicate that they will switch services.

Customers appreciate contact prior to technician arrival. According to the survey, customer satisfaction is 138 points higher when a technician contacted them prior to arrival.

Customers are happier when they can schedule appointments online. Use of digital channels to schedule appointments leads to greater customer satisfaction than when customers must use the telephone.

Study Rankings

DISH Network ranks highest in telecommunications in-home service technician satisfaction with a score of 885. Charter Spectrum ranks second (860), AT&T/DIRECTV (859) ranks third and Verizon (856) ranks fourth. The industry average is 853.

The 2018 U.S. Telecom In-Home Service Technician Study was fielded in December 2017-January 2018, collecting 3,744 responses. To be eligible to participate, respondents needed to have an in-home telecom service technician visit in the past six months.

For more information about the 2018 U.S. Telecom In-Home Service Technician Study, visit

Source: J.D. Power.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announces new ELD waiver

(Washington, DC – Insurance News 360) – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has implemented a 90-day temporary waiver to the Congressionally-mandated electronic logging device rule in order to address the needs of the agricultural industries in the U.S.

The agency is also publishing final guidance on the agricultural 150-air-miles-of-service exemption and personal conveyance.

“We continue to see strong compliance rates across the country that improve weekly, but we are mindful of the unique work our agriculture community does and will use the following 90 days to ensure we publish more helpful guidance that all operators will benefit from,” said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez.

Roadside compliance with the record keeping reuirements for hours of service have been increasing (including the ELD rule) since 2017. Compliance is as high as 96 percent, with more than 330 separate self-certified devices on the registration list.

On April 1, full enforcement of the rule began. Carriers that did not have an electronic logging device as required were placed out of service and would remain out of service for 10 hours, in accordance with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance criteria.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation

Access Insurance Company liquidation announced, consumers need new insurance coverage

(Harrisburg, PA – Insurance News 360) – On March 22, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman announced that Texas-based auto insurer Access Insurance Company has been issued an order of liquidation by a Texas court. In Pennsylvania, there are more than 42,000 policies affected.

Those affected by this liquidation can legally drive, but need to find new insurance by April 13, or when their current policy expires, whichever date comes first. The company’s policies will expire at 11:59 p.m. on April 12.

“Pennsylvania drivers who have coverage through Access Insurance Company should file any claims that may arise at, or by calling 1-866-747-6931, until their current policy expires or until April 12,” Altman said.  Claims filed during this period will be paid through the Pennsylvania Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association.

The Special Deputy Receiver in this case is Cantilo & Bennett, L.L.P. of Austin, Texas and will manage the liquidation.  Policyholders with questions can contact them at, or by calling 512-478-6000.

“Pre-paid premiums will be refunded to policyholders as soon as practical.  Policyholders do not need to take any action to receive refunds,” Altman said.

Consumers with questions may also call the Pennsylvania Insurance Department Consumer Services Bureau at 1-877-881-6388, or use the link on the department’s homepage,, to ask a question.

Source: Pennsylvania Insurance Department.