Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations


V. CRITICAL ACCOUNTING POLICIES Progressive is required to make certain estimates and assumptions when preparing its financial statements and accompanying notes in conformity with GAAP. Actual results could differ from those estimates in a variety of areas. The three areas that we view as most critical with respect to the application of estimates and assumptions are the establishment of our loss reserves, the method of determining impairments in our investment portfolio, and the valuation of our deferred tax assets.

A. Loss and LAE Reserves Loss and loss adjustment expense (LAE) reserves represent our best estimate of our ultimate liability for losses and LAE relating to events that occurred prior to the end of any given accounting period but have not yet been paid. At December 31, 2009, we had $6.1 billion of net loss and LAE reserves, which included $4.8 billion of case reserves and $1.3 billion of incurred but not recorded (IBNR) reserves.

Progressive’s actuarial staff reviews over 400 subsets of the business data, which are at a combined state, product, and line coverage level (the “products”), to calculate the needed loss and LAE reserves. We begin our review of a set of data by producing multiple estimates of needed reserves, using both paid and incurred data, to determine if a reserve change is required. In the event of a wide variation among results generated by the different projections, our actuarial group will further analyze the data using additional techniques. Each review develops a point estimate for a relatively small subset of the business, which allows us to establish meaningful reserve levels for that subset. In addition, the actuarial staff completes separate projections of needed case and IBNR reserves.

We review a large majority of our reserves by product/state combination on a quarterly time frame, with the remaining reserves generally reviewed on a semiannual basis. A change in our scheduled reviews of a particular subset of the business depends on the size of the subset or emerging issues relating to the product or state. By reviewing the reserves at such a detailed level, we have the ability to identify and measure variances in the trends by state, product, and line coverage that otherwise would not be seen on a consolidated basis. Our intricate process of reviewing the aforementioned subsets makes compiling a companywide roll up to generate a range of needed loss reserves not meaningful. We do not review loss reserves on a macro level and, therefore, do not derive a companywide range of reserves to compare to a standard deviation.

In analyzing the ultimate accident year loss experience, our actuarial staff reviews in detail, at the subset level, frequency (number of losses per earned car year), severity (dollars of loss per each claim), and average premium (dollars of premium per earned car year). The loss ratio, a primary measure of loss experience, is equal to the product of frequency times severity divided by the average premium. The average premium for personal and commercial auto businesses is known and, therefore, is not estimated. The projection of frequency for these lines of business is usually stable in the short term, because a large majority of the parties involved in an accident report their claims within a short time period after the occurrence. The actual frequency experienced will vary depending on the change in mix of class of drivers insured by Progressive, but the accuracy of the projected level is considered to be reliable. The severity experienced by Progressive, which is much more difficult to estimate, especially for injury claims, is affected by changes in underlying costs, such as medical costs, jury verdicts, and regulatory changes. In addition, severity will vary relative to the change in our mix of business by limit.

Assumptions regarding needed reserve levels made by the actuarial staff take into consideration influences on available historical data that reduce the predictiveness of our projected future loss costs. Internal considerations that are process-related, which generally result from changes in our claims organization’s activities, include claim closure rates, the number of claims that are closed without payment, and the level of the claims representatives’ estimates of the needed case reserve for each claim. These changes and their effect on the historical data are studied at the state level versus on a larger, less indicative, countrywide basis.

External items considered include the litigation atmosphere, state-by-state changes in medical costs, and the availability of services to resolve claims. These also are better understood at the state level versus at a more macro countrywide level.

The manner in which we consider and analyze the multitude of influences on the historical data, as well as how loss reserves affect our financial results, is discussed in more detail in our Report on Loss Reserving Practices, which was filed on June 25, 2009 via Form 8-K.

At December 31, 2009, Progressive’s carried net reserve balance of $6.1 billion implicitly assumes that the loss and LAE severity for accident year 2009 over accident year 2008 will increase by 2.9% for personal auto liability and decrease 2.4% for commercial auto liability. Personal auto liability and commercial auto liability reserves represent approximately 98% of our total carried reserves. As discussed above, the severity estimates are influenced by many variables that are difficult to quantify and which influence the final amount of claims settlement. That, coupled with changes in internal claims practices, the legal environment, and state regulatory requirements, requires significant judgment in the estimate of the needed reserves to be carried.

The following table highlights what the effect would be to our carried loss and LAE reserves, on a net basis, as of December 31, 2009, if during 2010 we were to experience the indicated change in our estimate of severity for the 2009 accident year (i.e., claims that occurred in 2009):

(millions) Estimated Changes in Severity for Accident Year 2009
-2% -1% As
+1% +2%
Personal auto liability $ 4,584.3 $ 4,641.1 $ 4,697.9 $ 4,754.7 $ 4,811.5
Commercial auto liability   1,296.1   1,304.6   1,313.1   1,321.6   1,330.1
Other1   112.6   112.6   112.6   112.6   112.6
Total $ 5,993.0 $ 6,058.3 $ 6,123.6 $ 6,188.9 $ 6,254.2

1) Includes reserves for personal and commercial auto physical damage claims and our non-auto lines of business; no change in estimates is presented due to the immaterial level of these reserves.

Note: Every percentage point change in our estimate of severity for the 2009 accident year would affect our personal auto liability reserves by $56.8 million and our commercial auto reserves by $8.5 million.

Our 2009 year-end loss and LAE reserve balance also includes claims from prior years. Claims that occurred in 2009, 2008, and 2007, in the aggregate, accounted for approximately 91% of our reserve balance. If during 2010 we were to experience the indicated change in our estimate of severity for the total of the prior three accident years (i.e., 2009, 2008, and 2007), the effect to our year-end 2009 reserve balances would be as follows:

(millions) Estimated Changes in Severity for Accident Year 2009, 2008, and 2007
-2% -1% As
+1% +2%
Personal auto liability $ 4,376.1 $ 4,537.0 $ 4,697.9 $ 4,858.8 $ 5,019.7
Commercial auto liability   1,259.7   1,286.4   1,313.1   1,339.8   1,366.5
Other1   112.6   112.6   112.6   112.6   112.6
Total $ 5,748.4 $ 5,936.0 $ 6,123.6 $ 6,311.2 $ 6,498.8

1) Includes reserves for personal and commercial auto physical damage claims and our non-auto lines of business; no change in estimates is presented due to the immaterial level of these reserves.

Note: Every percentage point change in our estimate of severity for the 2009, 2008, and 2007 accident year would affect our personal auto liability reserves by $160.9 million and our commercial auto reserves by $26.7 million.

Our best estimate of the appropriate amount for our reserves as of year-end 2009 is included in our financial statements for the year. Our goal is to ensure that total reserves are adequate to cover all loss costs, while sustaining minimal variation from the time reserves are initially established until losses are fully developed. At the point in time when reserves are set, we have no way of knowing whether our reserve estimates will prove to be high or low (and, thus, whether future reserve development will be favorable or unfavorable), or whether one of the alternative scenarios discussed above is “reasonably likely” to occur. During 2009, our estimate of the needed reserves at the end of 2008 decreased 2.3%. The following table shows how we have performed against this goal over the last ten years.

($ in millions)
For the
years ended
December 31,
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Loss and LAE Reserves1 $ 2,200.2 $ 2,785.3 $ 3,069.7 $ 3,632.1 $ 4,346.4 $ 4,948.5 $ 5,313.1 $ 5,363.6 $ 5,655.2 $ 5,932.9 $ 6,123.6
Re-estimated reserves as of:                      
One year later 2,276.0 2,686.3 3,073.2 3,576.0 4,237.3 4,592.6 5,066.2 5,443.9 5,688.4 5,796.9  
Two years later 2,285.4 2,708.3 3,024.2 3,520.7 4,103.3 4,485.2 5,130.5 5,469.8 5,593.8  
Three years later 2,277.7 2,671.2 2,988.7 3,459.2 4,048.0 4,501.6 5,093.6 5,381.9  
Four years later 2,272.3 2,666.9 2,982.7 3,457.8 4,070.0 4,471.0 5,046.7  
Five years later 2,277.5 2,678.5 2,993.7 3,475.4 4,073.7 4,475.5  
Six years later 2,284.9 2,683.7 3,002.5 3,472.5 4,072.4  
Seven years later 2,287.4 2,688.4 3,000.6 3,470.1  
Eight years later 2,291.9 2,688.6 2,995.8  
Nine years later 2,290.8 2,683.5  
Ten years later 2,286.7    
Cumulative Development:                      
Favorable(Unfavorable) $ (86.5) $ 101.8 $ 73.9 $ 162.0 $ 274.0 $ 473.0 $ 266.4 $ (18.3) $ 61.4 $ 136.0  
Percentage2 (3.9) 3.7 2.4 4.5 6.3 9.6 5.0 (.3) 1.1 2.3  

1) Represents loss and LAE reserves net of reinsurance recoverables on net unpaid losses at the balance sheet date.

2) Cumulative development ÷ loss and LAE reserves.

Note: The chart above represents the development of the property casualty loss and LAE reserves for 1999 through 2008. The last line in the triangle for each year represents the following:

Re-estimated reserves = Total amount paid to-date + Total remaining case reserves on unsettled claims.

Changes in the estimated severity and the actual number of late reported claims are the cause of the change in our re-estimated reserves from year to year. The cumulative development represents the aggregate change in our estimates over all years.

From 1999 through 2001, while we experienced an increase in bodily injury severity, our developed reserves were within 4% of our original estimates. The bodily injury severity change was much lower than we expected between 2002 and 2005; thus, the reserve run-off for these years was very favorable following the end of each year, or about 4% to 10% of our original carried amounts. The reserve development for each of 2006 through 2008 was less than 3% of our original carried reserves.

Because Progressive is primarily an insurer of motor vehicles, we have minimal exposure as an insurer of environmental, asbestos, and general liability claims.

B. Other-Than-Temporary Impairment (OTTI) Realized losses may include write-downs of securities determined to have had an other-than-temporary decline in fair value. We routinely monitor our portfolio for pricing changes that might indicate potential impairments and perform detailed reviews of securities with unrealized losses based on predetermined guidelines. In such cases, changes in fair value are evaluated to determine the extent to which such changes are attributable to (i) fundamental factors specific to the issuer, such as financial conditions, business prospects, or other factors, (ii) market-related factors, such as interest rates or equity market declines (e.g., negative return at either a sector index level or at the broader market level), or (iii) credit-related losses, where the present value of cash flows expected to be collected is lower than the amortized cost basis of the security.

Fixed-income securities and common equities with declines attributable to issuer-specific fundamentals are reviewed to identify all available evidence, circumstances, and influences to estimate the potential for, and timing of, recovery of the investment’s impairment. An other-than-temporary impairment loss is deemed to have occurred when the potential for recovery does not satisfy the criteria set forth in the current accounting guidance.

For fixed-income investments with unrealized losses due to market- or sector-related declines, the losses are not deemed to qualify as other-than-temporary where we do not have the intent to sell an investment, and it is more likely than not that we will not be required to sell the investment, prior to the period of time that we anticipate to be necessary for the investment to recover its cost basis.  In general, our policy for common equity securities with market- or sector-related declines is to recognize impairment losses on individual securities with losses we cannot reasonably conclude will recover in the near term under historical conditions by the earlier of (i) when we are able to objectively determine that the loss is other-than-temporary, or (ii) when the security has been in such a loss position for three consecutive quarters.

When a security in our fixed-maturity portfolio has an unrealized loss and we intend to sell the security, or it is more likely than not that we will be required to sell the security, we write-down the security to its current fair value and recognize the entire unrealized loss through the income statement as a realized loss. If a fixed-maturity security has an unrealized loss and it is more likely than not that we will hold the debt security until recovery (which could be maturity), then we need to determine if any of the decline in value is due to a credit loss (i.e., where the present value of cash flows expected to be collected is lower than the amortized cost basis of the security) and, if so, we will recognize that portion of the impairment in the income statement as a realized loss; any remaining unrealized loss on the security is considered to be due to other factors (e.g., interest rate and credit spread movements) and is reflected in shareholders’ equity, along with unrealized gains or losses on securities that are not deemed to be other-than-temporarily impaired.

The following table stratifies the gross unrealized losses in our fixed-income and common equity portfolios at December 31, 2009, by the duration in a loss position and magnitude of the loss as a percentage of the cost of the security:

(millions) Fair
Total Gross
Decline of Investment Value
> 15% > 25% > 35% > 45%
Fixed Income:                        
Unrealized loss for less than 12 months $ 2,846.1 $ 12.1 $ 2.5 $ 2.2 $ .3 $
Unrealized loss for 12 months or greater   3,884.6   314.5   138.4   82.8   26.6   26.6
Total $ 6,730.7 $ 326.6 $ 140.9 $ 85.0 $ 26.9 $ 26.6
Common Equity:                        
Unrealized loss for less than 12 months $ 20.9 $ 1.7 $ .9 $ $ $
Unrealized loss for 12 months or greater   9.8   .6        
Total $ 30.7 $ 2.3 $ .9 $ $ $

We completed a thorough review of the existing securities in these loss categories and determined that, applying the procedures and criteria discussed above, these securities were not other-than-temporarily impaired. We do not intend to sell these securities. We also determined that it is more likely than not that we will not be required to sell these securities, for the periods of time necessary to recover the cost bases of these securities, and that there is no additional credit-related impairment on our debt securities.

Since total unrealized losses are already a component of our shareholders’ equity, any recognition of these losses as additional OTTI losses would have no effect on our comprehensive income, book value, or reported investment total return.

C. Deferred Tax Assets The income tax provision is calculated under the balance sheet approach. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are recorded based on the difference between the financial statement and tax bases of assets and liabilities at the enacted tax rates. We regularly review our deferred tax assets for recoverability. As of December 31, 2009, we did not record a valuation allowance against the gross deferred tax asset.

Realization of the deferred tax asset ultimately depends on the existence of sufficient taxable income available of the same character, which may include future reversals of existing temporary differences, future taxable income exclusive of reversing differences, taxable income in prior carryback years, and tax planning strategies.

Our net deferred tax asset was $420.0 million at December 31, 2009. This amount includes $113.7 million related to net unrealized tax losses in our investment portfolio.  The losses creating this deferred tax asset resulted primarily from the widening credit spreads on our fixed-income securities, especially in our preferred stock portfolio that occurred during late 2008 and early 2009. Due to the nature of these writedowns, they have not yet been recognized for tax purposes. To the extent these losses are ultimately recognized, they would generate net capital losses for tax purposes. 

In evaluating the need for a valuation allowance, we have to determine if it is more likely than not that the deferred tax asset will be realized and that we will be able to fully use the deductions that are ultimately recognized for tax purposes. Part of our analysis revolves around the reversal of existing temporary differences (e.g., timing of the recognition of unrealized gains/losses) and our tax planning strategies. In reviewing our need for a valuation allowance, we separate our preferred stock portfolio into two groups. The first group includes those securities that we believe are fundamentally impaired or that we are likely to sell in the near future; we assume no recovery in value for these securities.

The second group is preferred securities that we have the intent and ability to hold to substantial recovery. We believe that the issuers of this second group of securities are financially sound companies with adequate capital. However, if an opportunity presents itself where we can diversify our preferred stock holdings, we may elect to sell a particular security rather than hold it until substantial recovery. This does not change our tax strategy, but provides us with the flexibility to manage our available-for-sale portfolio. Since we are unable to specifically identify when these situations might arise, or which security might be affected, we determined that it would be appropriate to reduce the potential recoverable value of the second group of our preferred stocks when determining our need for a valuation allowance on our deferred tax asset.

As of December 31, 2009, we have sufficient realized and unrealized gains in our investment portfolio to offset any potential losses we may recognize resulting from sales of preferred securities in either of the two groups discussed above.  Although realization of the deferred tax asset is not assured, management believes it is more likely than not that the deferred tax asset will be realized based on our expectation that we will be able to fully utilize the deductions that are ultimately recognized for tax purposes.

Our ability to recognize these deferred tax assets could be affected by further market value declines as well as if our expectations change about either the ability of the securities to recover in value or our intent or ability to hold the securities until recovery. Such changes may require us to establish a valuation allowance against the deferred tax asset, which could have a material effect on our financial condition and results of operations.


The Progressive Corporation   6300 Wilson Mills Road   Mayfield Village, Ohio 44143   440.461.5000