Skip to Highlights

Because of population growth, resulting real estate development, and rising real estate values in hazard-prone areas, our nation is increasingly exposed to higher property casualty losses--both insured and uninsured--from natural catastrophes than in the past. In the 1990s, a series of natural disasters, including Hurricane Andrew and the Northridge earthquake, raised questions about the adequacy of the insurance industry's financial capacity to cover large catastrophes without limiting coverage or raising premiums. Recognizing this greater exposure and responding to concerns about insurance market capacity, participants in the insurance industry and capital markets have developed new capital market instruments as an alternative to traditional property-casualty reinsurance, or insurance for insurers. GAO's objectives were to (1) describe catastrophe risk and how the insurance and capital markets provide coverage against such risks; (2) describe how risk-linked securities, particularly catastrophe bonds, are structured; and (3) analyze how key regulatory, accounting, tax, and investor issues might affect the use of risk-linked securities.

Full Report