|MSI Insurance main page||Matt's Annotated Résumé||e mail me|
MSI Insurance1, and primarily the main property/casualty company Mutual Service Casualty, Inc., went from being a small but financially stable regional insurer in the mid-1990s to a financial trainwreck by the end of 2001. I was there during this time (starting in late December 1996) and thought I'd go back and look at the things that killed MSI. Even though I was reporting on results, I was in the Marketing department to start with and my duties were primarily concerned with direct written premium, unit sales, agent profitability, productivity and that sort of thing. I didn't report financials at MSI (I would include much more financial data once we became part of COUNTRY) and the company was weirdly secretive or even slightly delusional2 about financial results. As a result, even as things reached maximum tension in late 2001, most people remained oblivious of how dire the Company's situation was. I could tell things weren't going well from the anxiety and tension among the accounting and senior actuarial staff, but didn't see how bad it was until I read the 2001 Mutual Service Casualty Insurance Company Annual Statement (AS).
You'll see this again, in context and date order, but if one line captures the appalling speed and extent of MSI's demise, it's a footnote in the 2001 Annual Statement:
At December 31, 2001 the consolidated group had $107,661,171 of operating loss carry forwards originating in 1997 through 2000 which will expire, if unused, in years 2012 through 2021. (AS 2001, p. 14.2)
So, just to be clear here, from January 1, 1997, two days after I started at MSI, through December 31, 2000, Mutual Service Casualty lost $73,740 per day. That's somewhat worse than burning a $50 bill every single minute for four solid years.
Due to this obliviousness, and the speed with which senior management managed to drive this company into near-failure, I thought I'd go back and take a look at the items that brought MSI to its knees and resulted in a virtual takeover by COUNTRY Financial3. I don't say this with bitterness; we were lucky that COUNTRY came along and rescued MSI, and COUNTRY is an honorable company I was happy to work for. But it still leaves the question hanging, What Happened to MSI?
No one person knows the whole tale. I am starting with the documentation, but would be like to flesh out the details beyond the bare numbers. Contact me with your stories, and I'll fill in the gaps. But, as a start, here we go. Enjoy!
Note: table needs fixing. Tables and CSS are new to me and I'll sort it out shortly.
|Year||Unassigned funds (surplus)|
An investment in a Texas insurance agency. Every One Must Benefit, it is supposed to have meant. It meant lavish salaries and offices for those in EOMB and a headache for those not in it. It ended up a complete writeoff for MSI.
From the 2001 Annual Statement
In 2001, the Company recognized a realized loss of $7,725,000 on sale of its shares and bonds in EOMB Holdings, a non-insurance company. The Company recognized an unrealized loss on this impaired SCA of $1,000,000 in 2000. As of December 31, 2001, the Company no longer holds any shares of EOMB Holdings. (2001 AS, p.14.3)
That sounds to me like $8.7M in write offs, $1M in 2000 and $7.7M in 2001. The 2002 Annual Statement also mentions EOMB but seems at variance with the 2001 AS. Maybe it's the distinction between "shares and bonds" in 2001 and "shares" in the 2002 note. Either way, it was a bad investment:
In 2001, the Company recognized a realized loss of $1,809,052 on sale of its shares in EOMB Holdings, a non-insurance company. As of December 31, 2001, the Company no longer holds and shares of EOMB Holdings. (2002 AS, p. 14.3)
That 2002 footnote mentions only the equity part of the 2001 writeoff and doesn't mention the 2000 writeoff or the debt part of the 2001 writeoff. I guess not quite everyone benefited.
Mutual insurance companies are owned by their policyholders. There isn't a line for "stockholder's equity" as there is in a regular C Corporation. The line which most closely resembles this is the "Unassigned funds (surplus)" line in the Annual Statement, the residual after all debts and liabilities are accounted for. One quirk of this organizational structure is that the company can't raise capital by selling stock in the way that a publicly-traded firm can. However, there is a way to shore up the capital position from the regulator's point of view: surplus notes. In other contexts, this would be called subordinate debt, as its rights to assets of the firm are subordinate to others including the rights of insurance claimants. So, in Annual Statements, there is a line called "Surplus as regards policyholders" which includes Surplus notes. If you want to shore up the capital of your mutual insurance company, just sell some of these notes. MSI had done it in the past, both with outside parties and between related entities, and then paid them off, and now sold some again.
This one is mentioned in the 2000 Annual Statement. It doesn't say who the purchaser is on this note, and it's not referenced in 2001 or 2002.
The Company has a surplus note outstanding in the amount of $6,533,333 at a rate which is based on the LIBOR Rate plus 230 basis points. The surplus note was issued on December 29, 1994 and matures on April 15, 2008. The present value of the note at December 31, 2000 is $6,533,333. $598,618 of interest was paid in 2000. No interest was accrued at December 31, 2000.
This one isn't mentioned in footnotes again.
This is before I came to MSI. Right before year-end the Canadian firm Cooperators invested $4,000,000 in Mutual Service Casualty. It's got an interest rate of 7.625% and matures on 12/9/2007. The 2000 AS says it was issued on 12/29/95; the 2001 AS says 12/28/95. It's good to make sure you get the details right.
On December 28, 1995, the Company issued $4,000,000 of surplus notes Cooperators General Insurance Company [sic]. Principal and interest payments are subject to the approval of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Notes are subordinate to all claims of any policyholder, claimant and beneficiary, and to all other creditors except for holders of other surplus notes issued by the Company. (2002 AS p14.4)
The 2000 Annual Statement had a few more details, though weirdly, it didn't note the buyer as the 2002 AS would.
The Company has another surplus note outstanding in the amount of $4,000,000 at a rate of 7.625%. The note was issued on December 29, 1995 and matures on December 27, 2007. The present value of the note at December 31, 2000 is $4,000,000. $305,000 of interest was paid in 2000. No interest is accrued at December 31, 2000.
This is also before I came to MSI.
On June 3, 1996, the Company issued $8,000,000 of surplus notes to National Consumer Cooperative Bank. Principal and interest payments are subject to the approval of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Notes are subordinate to all claims of any policyholder, claimant and beneficiary, and to all other creditors except for holders of other surplus notes issued by the Company. (2002 AS p14.4)
We'll see surplus notes again when COUNTRY gets involved.
I had two interviews in late December 1996. At the first one, things were going well for MSI. By the time of the second interview, there'd been snowstorms in the Pacific Northwest which had collapsed the roofs on many controlled atmosphere produce warehouses, primarily for apples. MSI, in its rush into commercial agriculture, was a big insurer in this market. This was an expensive incident just in time for my first day at work:
At year-end 1996, the company experienced a major catastrophe in the Pacific Northwest from heavy snow loads which resulted in roof collapses to insured apple packing & storage facilities. During 1997, the gross loss developed to $60 million, exhausting catastrophe limits and causing a $9.936 million net impact to Sch. P, Part I (Special Property), along with various summary exhibits for the 1996 accident year. (2000 AS, p. 20.5)
Yowza, so there's a $10 million hit to surplus in the last week of the year? Good thing we issued those surplus notes!
Not all MSI losses were due to ill-advised expansion into little-understood businesses or bad investments, sometimes regular personal lines could bite. In May 1998, with work access to the Internet through a shared Company connection, I could see that a big huge storm front was coming our way. My then-bright, shiny new truck, a 1996 Ford Ranger, was out in the parking lot. I didn't want my new truck getting pummeled by hail, so left work early (like 3:45) and took it home and put it in the garage. The storm came through the Cities at rush hour, catching thousands of cars on the road and pounding them and damaging 11 of Northwest Airlines' planes so badly at the airport they were unflyable until they went to, oh, Al's Body Shop or wherever you take 727s. Cars in our parking lot got hit so hard they broke out windows on all sides. My truck, which I still drive in 2014, was unscathed. This storm hurt:
During 1998, the company's risks were involved in several summer storm catastrophes in the upper Midwest. The total loss for these storms was $46 million, while net losses of $18 million were sustained primarily in Personal Auto Physical Damage and Homeowners. (2000 AS, p. 20.5)
Not sure how this relates to this footnote, from the same year:
During 1998, the Company experienced significant catastrophic activity from the hail storms in the Midwest. The net impacts of these events was $17 million. (2000 AS, p. 20.4).
I expect these are referring to the same losses and are just sloppy editing, not $35 million in total. Though this is MSI we're talking about, so who knows.
In writing up the decline and fall of MSI it became apparent that no one business transaction did the company in, that it was a pattern of poor decisions. Having said that, the AgPI program, a new agricultural insurance product sold in 1998, was probably the biggest torpedo to hit this already-leaky ship. It wiped out half a century's work in building policyholder's surplus5. The Mutual Service Casualty annual statements are typically circumspect in discussing this matter but it was a fronting program (er, excuse me, Reinsured Program) with a company called IGF whose parent firm, Symons International, was publicly-traded. Symons´ SEC filings remain available on the SEC´s EDGAR site and relate the sorry tale.
This episode merits its own page. It´s not quite clear from the various sources what the root problem was heare: bad policy design? Fraud in selling? Overpayment of claims? Misunderstanding of counterparty financial position & integrity? Whatever it was, the AgPI product did about $7,000,000 in premium and, I´m sorry, how much in losses?
IGF Insurance Company. Amount in dispute: $39,165,223.
$5,869,458 is included in reinsurance recoverable on paid losses, $5,295,765 is included in ceded reserves, and $28,000,000 was written off in 2000 due to the financial position of the reinsurer. (2000 AS, Note 14, P. 20.2)
That wasn't the end of it. Who was in charge of this dumpster fire? This is from the next year:
Under Uncollectible Reinsurance:
IGF Insurance $13,244,904 (2001 AS, p. 14.6)
That's $41,244,904 between 2000 and 2001. And that´s just for MSI! I read through a bunch of Symons´ 10Ks, 10Qs, 8Ks and annual reports, available for the deeply-interested on the SEC's EDGAR site, and was confused for a while by Symons´ write-off of $29.7 million in this AgPI train wreck. How could that be? Didn´t MSI have the big write off? We'll, actually, both companies did! AgPI was conceived and executed so that it earned $7.5 million in premium and resulted in an eye-watering $70 million in losses. There would be nagging ongoing legal actions that dragged on for a few more years. There was a trial date set for August 2003 on the MSI/Symons suits but by then MSI didn't care to mention it any longer in the Annual Statements (probably meaning they did not recover any of those write-offs from 2000/01, I expect) and Symons had ceased filing reports with the SEC, which would eventually get them de-registered.
To be fair, I think Reliance caught a lot of companies off-guard. In 1998 it had $1.7 billion in statutory surplus and was rated A- (excellent) by A.M. Best until June 2000. By October 2001, it was in such dire shape that the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania took over the company and put it into liquidation. MSI wasn't the only firm caught by this, but was in a weak position to handle the equity destruction it wrought.
Under Uncollectible Reinsurance:
Reliance Insurance Company $19,010,243 (2001 AS, p. 14.6)
It is possible that Mutual Service Casualty later recovered or may still recover some part of this. I haven't noticed any notes to that effect but I haven't been searching for them either. Even if that were the case, it would not be a full recovery. Reliance is still in runoff and its surplus position has deteriorated by another billion dollars over the years. What was clear at the end of 2001 is that MSI wouldn't be seeing any of that money any time soon.
Not many details, but a hint of things to come.
Starting with the accident year 2000, the company cedes most of its core business to Country Mutual Insurance Company. The impact of this is to increase the ceded amounts and decrease the net amounts.
I wasn't actually aware of this at the time. All the policies were still written on MSI paper and the metrics we followed were still in effect. We did stop selling Mutual Service Life policies and start selling COUNTRY Life policies along in here somewhere and I was aware of that change.
I'd love to have heard the presentation on this investment. Country bought in and now were pregnant to the tune of $12 million.
On June 27, 2000, the Company issued $12,000,000 of surplus notes to Country Mutual Insurance Company (an affiliate). Principal and interest payments are subject to the approval of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Notes are subordinate to all claims of any policyholder, claimant and beneficiary, and to all other creditors except for holders of other surplus notes issued by the Company. (2002 AS p14.4)
The 2000 Annual Statement had more details than the later 2002 AS on this note:
The company [they didn't capitalize it in this AS] also has a surplus note outstanding in the amount of $12,000,000 at a rate of 7.75%. The surplus note was issued on June 27, 2000 and matures on January 2, 2020. The present value of the note at December 31, 2000 is $12,000,000. $286,750 of interest was paid in 2000. No interest is accrued at December 31, 2000.
I'm not sure how wide MSI opened the kimono on this deal. Some time around this period (I didn't note down the date or anything) one of the senior accounting people stopped by my desk with some financials. They had been presented to COUNTRY and this person was trying to find out where they'd come from. Not me! Sadly, I didn't get a copy to see how that presentation compared to the annual statements. I never did hear where they'd originated.
The Life company had cash and Mutual Service Casualty needed it. Time to sell them some stuff! No profit or loss on this, but it took an illiquid asset and turned it into cash.
On September 29, 2000, the Company sold its affiliate Mutual Service Life eleven seasoned commercial mortgages having a statement value of $4,220,221. The average yields of the mortgage loans approximated current market yields and were transferred at statement value with no gain or loss. (2002 AS, p. 14.2)
A couple of months later there was another transaction to get some cash from the Life company into Mutual Service Casualty. This one yielded both cash and a bit of profit. The itemization on p.25 lists the Home Office building and the Sales & Service Center separately.
On December 11, 2000, the Company sold to affiliate Mutual Service Life its 49% interest in MSI's home office facilities located in Arden Hills, Minnesota. The property was sold at a market value of $8,685,000 as determined by an independent appraisal. The property had a carrying value at the time of sale of $7,143,000, resulting in a realized gain of $1,542,000. (2002 AS, p. 14.2)
Dammit, lookit all that money the Life company still has! Sell them some more stuff! Can I interest you in some slightly used office furniture? No? How about some more seasoned mortgages? Nothing like a little basil and oregano on your commercial debt. There was again no profit or loss on this, but it took an illiquid asset and turned it into cash.
On January 12, 2001, the Company sold its affiliate Mutual Service Life seven seasoned commercial mortgages having a statement value of $4,427,521. The average yields of the mortgage loans approximated current market yields and were transferred at statement value with no gain or loss. (2002 AS, p. 14.2)
MSI closed down Commercial Agriculture later that year. I'm not sure what took so long. This happened on September 19, 2001. I remember it clearly because it was my first day back from a couple of weeks in England, including being there for 9/11. The voicemail announcing this was supposed to be released after 9:00 while the employees were all in a meeting; instead, it went out in the middle of the night and was already in my voicemails when I checked them around 7:00AM. I believe it was actually meant to happen a week earlier but the 9/11 terrorist attacks delayed the announcement.
In third quarter of 2001, the Company announced its intention to exit the Commercial Agribusiness marketplace. By December 31, 2001, the Company had obtained permission from all states to withdraw its commercial agribusiness products. Anticipated writings were minimal in 2002. However, cashflows related to settling reserves will continue for longer than 12 months, therefor the Commercial Agribusiness results have been reported consistently with the Company's reporting of continuing operations. Due to the pooling arrangement with County Mutual Insurance Company, the exit will have a minimal effect on the Company's Balance Sheet and Statement of Income. (2002 AS, p. 14.1)
November 15, 2001 proved to be a busy day.
Modern was a stock company and MSC owned all the stock. One way to raise cash was to sell assets to someone with some money. So we did.
On November 15. 2001, the Company sold its wholly owned subsidiary, Modern Service Insurance Company, to affiliate County Mutual Insurance Company for $22,912,052, an amount which represented book value plus the unrealized gains on bond holdings. (2002 AS, p. 14.2)
On November 15, 2001, the Company ceded its net unearned premiums, loss and loss adjustment reserves to affiliate Country Mutual Insurance Company.
This is actually a conversion of $2,000,000 of the surplus notes from 6/27/2000. There's no new cash, but there are control implications because the guarantee fund certificates came with voting rights.
On November 15, 2001, the Company issued $2,000,000 of guarantee fund certificates to Country Mutual Insurance Company (an affiliate). Principal and interest payments are subject to the approval of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Principal and interest payments can only made only [sic] to the extent the Company has current net profits to make such payments. The certificates entitle Country Mutual Insurance Company one vote for each ten dollars of certificates. (2002 AS p14.4)
That's 200,000 votes. Also, this was in the paragraph in the 2002 Annual Statement regarding the original $12,000,000 in surplus notes from June 2000:
$2,000,000 of surplus notes were converted to guarantee fund certificates noted above on November 15, 2001.
So, no new money in from this transaction. It says 'noted above' because these don't appear in date order in the Footnotes, making it hard to keep track of the timeline. That's why I've reordered things on this page. I'm not entirely clear on the technical difference between surplus notes and guarantee fund certificates, but at a minimum it appears to be voting rights and possibly more restrictions on paying interest.
This must have to do with those 200,000 votes.
Effective November 15, 2001, the Board of Directors of the Company is controlled by the Country Financial and Insurance Services group of insurance companies, of which Country Mutual Insurance Company is the lead property casualty insurance company. The holding group is domiciled in the state of Illinois.
Speaking of Illinois...
James Van Houten had come to MSI after the disastrous Third Party Administrator (TPA) health incident of the late 1980s had cost the Life company millions. [Is this next statement true? Confirm] MSI had to stop writing insurance for a bit, while surplus recovered. However, on its own, MSI was kind of a dull boring little Midwestern company, and growing significantly in personal lines in an increasingly competitive environment was really difficult. Instead, Van Houten, who thought himself a great strategic thinker (in fact for a while he taught Business Strategy at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and later Metropolitan State University), chose to expand into markets that offered rapid growth, particularly Commercial Agriculture, Reinsured Programs and Bad Investments. Well, as it worked out, it's like he rescued MSI from burning to death in a fire and instead threw it in a lake to drown. That wasn't going to be a good story to tell for a presumed strategic business expert! So what would you say about your time leading MSI? Well, thanks to the Spring 2002 Illinois State University AMBAssador (the MBA alumni newsletter, go to page 12), we know how it was reported after Van Houten's November 2001 visit to ISU:
"Van Houten majored in comparative literature while attending Long Beach State on an athletic scholarship but never considered pro sports. He then worked at five companies in 11 cities doing 13 jobs. He started in insurance at GM. He then went to Wausau, then to Country Companies (now COUNTRY Insurance & Financial Services), and finally to MSI Insurance, which he owned until he recently sold it and retired."
WHICH HE OWNED? COUNTRY is based in Bloomington/Normal, just like Illinois State, so inevitably someone came across this and sent it up for our amusement and aggravation. By the time he was done with Mutual Service Casualty, he (and you and I) were worth more than MSI, but he never owned it, at least no more than the tiny ownership interest of any MSI policyholder. Sheesh. Also, Van Houten was around until early 2002; he hadn't retired yet in November, but would have by the time this issue of the newsletter came out.
Oh, also, after selling "his" company, he lavished the proceeds of this newfound wealth on the beloved ISU MBA department to the tune of...$250 to $499. (also from the AMBAssador). Anyway, Van Houten was gone in early 2002. There had been some plan to set up and have COUNTRY fund a Cooperative Study Foundation or something, it sounds like a great sinecure for sitting around and pontificating and an outgrowth of the MSI Cooperative Marketing Committee on which I served, but that got pulled once COUNTRY figured out what dire shape MSI was in. His enthusiasm for cooperatives always seemed odd to me since they are a bit, you know, socialist, and Van Houten was always a big free market Republican. Apparently he got a nice severance but I never heard even a whisper of the actual amount, only some rolling of eyes and shaking of heads among those in a position to know. It's always better to run a company into the ground and get paid off than to work for the company and get laid off.
This is another moment I'd like to have been privy to. I imagine there was some element of, 'Oh man, if we don't do this then we're out $12,000,000 on an investment a year and a half old (the 6/2000 surplus notes). We can walk away and write that off and look like idiots, or pony up some more money and begin looking at taking over.' (<--strictly my fevered imaginings). Oh well, you know what they say, in for a dime, in for fifty mil4.
On December 21, 2001, the Company issued $18,000,000 of surplus notes to Country Mutual Insurance Company (an affiliate). Principal and interest payments are subject to the approval of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Notes are subordinate to all claims of any policyholder, claimant and beneficiary, and to all other creditors except for holders of other surplus notes issued by the Company. (2002 AS p14.4)
We owned a brokerage firm called Cornwall and Stevens. They're part of the reason we were so big in the cotton gin market. Lucky us! They remitted a dividend up to MSC on the final day of the year.
On December 31, 2001, the Company was paid a $3,000,000 dividend from its wholly owned subsidiary, Cornwall & Stevens Company, Inc.
So we had that going for us, which is nice.
It's a pity these things expire.
At December 31, 2001 the consolidated group had $107,661,171 of operating loss carry forwards originating in 1997 through 2000 which will expire, if unused, in years 2012 through 2021. (AS 2001, p. 14.2)
So, just to be clear, since I started at MSI through the end of 2000 our visionary strategic top leadership had managed to lose $107 million? That is $73,740 per day! Jesus. If this wasn't criminality, and I have no reason to think it was, what does that leave?
On September 30, 2002, the Company was paid a $1,800,000 dividend from its wholly owned subsidiary, Cornwall & Stevens Company, Inc.(notes to self: see what 2003 and 2004 AS says...may have to visit commerce dept) (also outline what happened to carcass of MSC., &quick note about timing and de-mutualization of MSL. perhaps a more detailed look at AgPi and it's outcome, possibly list of Reinsured programs?)
In mid-2004, MSI began non-renewing policies but policyholders were also offered a guaranteed issue from Country of a Country policy to replace it. The uptake on this was pretty good initially, though policy and agent counts would fall as time went on. This process was mostly done by mid-2005 with the last handful of policies finished off in early 2006. MSI employees became COUNTRY employees on January 1, 2005. COUNTRY formed the Central Region with the four midwestern MSI states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota) plus four existing COUNTRY states (Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri). COUNTRY chose to withdraw from California, the fifth MSI state, though I don't recall the exact timing on this. The conversion was not without issues; although COUNTRY was about 7 times the size of MSI and rock solid financially, its systems were a step (or two) backwards from MSI's. At one management group meeting in the Central Region, we were talking about some conversion issue and it turned out that every single person at the table had had a problem with at least one of their MSI policies converting to COUNTRY's. Still, in the end, it was COUNTRY's financial strength that rescued the core personal and small commercial operations of MSI. As time went on, department after department was closed and consolidated to Illinois. The early 2013 layoff wave and sale of the Arden Hills building late in the year was a part of an attempt to reduce expenses. COUNTRY's expenses are high compared to the industry, and A.M. Best has grumbled about them in recent years and said if they aren't brought under control, COUNTRY's longstanding pristine A+ rating is at risk.
It's tempting to imagine that all would have been bright and rosy at MSI without some of the events outlined above. However, without the big commercial ag premium, the company would have been quite a bit smaller. As it is, MSI was only a small regional company, and it would (as I noted above) have been hard to grow in size in the traditional insurance lines in the historical MSI states. It is a quirk of mutual insurance companies that they're hard to take over, since you can't buy the stock, and if they don't actually fail they can muddle along for ages. I expect this is what MSI would have done, muddled along as a small carrier and probably run into headwinds as the personal lines marketplace has grown more competitive in marketing and more commodity-like in product. Maybe MSI would have got past the bad weather years without serious damage, maybe not. Perhaps MSI would have tried direct marketing in some areas; I first bought insurance online (for my motorcycle) from Progressive in 2002, twelve years ago. (Why not from MSI? I never felt it prudent to have my insurance from my employer. I want the freedom to dispute claims settlements and sue the bastards if I have to (I never have, we've been a great risk for our carriers) without jeopardizing my employment relationship). MSI's systems would have accommodated that sort of initiative better than COUNTRY's systems. Or, perhaps the bad weather, particularly in the latter years, and an adverse regulatory climate in California (where I assume MSI would have stayed) would have ground down surplus until we had to find a suitor or rescuer, or, at the worst, been shut down by the state. At its best, MSI would have just been a small, quietly prosperous company; at its grimmest, the actual history of MSI may have just been a quicker and more lurid path to a destination it would have arrived at anyway.
It's all water under the bridge now in any case. Most people who worked for MSI have gone on to other things. Perhaps they're even telling their friends about how they sold their company and retired. COUNTRY will continue to face pressures from competitors' heavy-advertising, from pricing kept high by the expenses, and from the drag of states from which they ought to just withdraw (I'm looking at you, Oklahoma and Colorado). They, too, can muddle along, secure in their takeover-proof mutual organization, buoyed by the cash cow of Illinois farmowner programs, safe in their superb financial strength and high rating. Even if they do lose the A+ rating, it'll still be a much stronger position than MSI was and so should be around for years to come. In the meantime, they gave many of us another decade with a company which could very well have been shut down at the end of 2001.
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