Legislators were concerned about unmanageable workers’ compensation losses by staffing companies who were “self insured” in California, and as part of SB 863 required them to become insured as of the end of this year. Perhaps this legislative premonition was well founded. Shares of Vancouver based staffing company Barrett Business Services Inc. were down more than 50 percent after the company announced a big quarterly loss late last month.The Company attributed the loss to an $80 million pretax increase in self insured workers’ compensation reserves, which effectively wiped out Barrett Business Services’ pretax earnings for the past five years. As a result of this news, the Company’s stock declined more than 58%, or $26.18 per share, to close at $18.28 per share on October 29, 2014, on unusually heavy volume.
The Vancouver, Wash. company, provides a variety of business management solutions for small and medium-sized companies with fifty locations in ten states and dozens of offices in Northern and Southern California. BBSI provides human resource outsourcing and professional management consulting, BBSI said the loss resulted from setting aside $80 million for old workers’ compensation claims. “We have every reason to believe that the workers’ compensation data we have presented in the third quarter will normalize over time, proving that the strengthening process and change in practice have had the intended effect,” said CEO Michael Elich, in a news release. “Until then, we believe taking a conservative approach right now allows us to look forward and removes the obstacles of the unknowns within the model.”
A number of attorneys are investigating the company, and at least one, Glancy Binkow and Goldberg LLP, representing investors of BBSI has filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington on behalf of a class comprising purchasers of BBSI securities. The Complaint alleges that defendants made false and/or misleading statements and failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company’s operations and financial performance and prospects. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (1) the Company under accrued its self-insured workers’ compensation reserves; (2) as a result, the Company overstated its earnings; (3) the Company lacked adequate internal and financial controls; and (4), as a result of the foregoing, defendants’ statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times. A Los Angeles law firm says it’s investigating potential claims on behalf of shareholders of BBSI. The Wagner Firm says its investigation concerns “possible violations of federal securities laws” and focuses on statements the company made about its “financial results, operations and business prospects” as well as others across the nation. Several other law firms nationwide have issued similar press releases.
Established in 1965,BBSI offers both temporary and long-term staffing to some 1,750 small and midsized businesses. Its staffing services focus on light industrial, clerical, and technical businesses. Barrett also does business as a professional employment organization (PEO), providing outsourced human resource services, such as payroll management, benefits administration, risk management, recruiting, and placement for more than 1,500 clients. Each year about 90% of its PEO revenue comes from customers residing in the states of California and Oregon. Barrett depends mostly on the light-industrial sector for the majority of its staffing services revenue (the sector represented 86% of its total revenue in 20010). Its light-industrial workers operate machinery and perform manufacturing, loading and unloading, and construction-site cleanup tasks.
The Company is a self-insured employer with respect to workers’ compensation coverage for all of its employees (including employees co-employed through client service agreements) working in California, Oregon, Maryland, Delaware and Colorado, with some exceptions. The Company maintains excess workers’ compensation insurance through its wholly owned captive insurance company, Associated Insurance Company for Excess (“AICE”), with a per occurrence retention of $5.0 million, except in Maryland and Colorado.
In February, 2014, BBSI entered into a workers’ compensation insurance arrangement with ACE to provide coverage to BBSI employees in California beginning in the first quarter of 2014. The agreement will be effective through January 2015 with the potential for annual renewals thereafter.The arrangement, typically known as a fronted program, provides BBSI a licensed, admitted insurance carrier in California to issue policies on behalf of BBSI without the intention of transferring any of the worker’s compensation risk for the first $5.0 million per claim. The risk of loss up to the first $5.0 million per claim is retained by BBSI through an indemnity agreement. While this portion of the risk of loss remains with BBSI, ACE assumes credit risk should BBSI be unable to satisfy its indemnification obligations to ACE. ACE also bears the economic burden for all costs in excess of $5.0 million per claim. The arrangement with ACE addresses the requirements of legislation enacted in California in 2012 (Senate Bill 863) under which the Company cannot continue its self-insurance program in California beyond January 1, 2015.