Cyber Liability Update: Tax Season and W2 Phishing Scams

Most companies are familiar with phishing emails and train their employees to recognize suspicious emails sent from malicious actors. Less commonly discussed, however, are W2 scams that target human resources departments.

During tax season, cybercriminals target human resources departments by impersonating an executive of the company, most notably through email. The goal is to obtain W2 information then file a fraudulent tax return and collect the refunds. This time of year is ripe for malicious actors, as HR personnel are busy preparing tax information for employees and sharing sensitive data through multiple departments.

Even after employees receive their W2, HR departments need to stay vigilant and keep an eye out for phishing emails. For most people, tax season doesn’t end until they’ve filed a return, and employees are bound to have questions leading up to that time. Human resources professionals should be on the lookout for suspicious emails from anyone asking for individual or bulk tax information. Multiple grammatical errors and blurry headers are also signs of cybercriminals.

According to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “This is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time. It can result in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns. We need everyone’s help to turn the tide against this scheme.”

The W2 phishing scam is occurring earlier in the tax season and to a broader scope of organizations. The number of attacks increased by 870 percent last year and there’s no evidence to suggest these attacks will slow down. As far as action an employer should take, it is recommended to send an email to phishing@irs.gov and place “W2 Scam” in the subject line.

Cyber Liability Insurance policies cover risks associated with W2 scams. For a consultation or assistance with any cyber inquiries, contact us today.

Updated DOL Guidance on Indexed Statutory Penalties for ERISA Plans

On January 15, 2019, the US Department of Labor issued pre-publication guidance on the indexed statutory penalties for certain violations applicable to ERISA welfare plans, under the Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act. The 2019 inflation-adjusted penalties that are applicable to health and welfare plans for 2019 include (but are not limited to) the following key compliance items:

The DOL inflation-adjusted penalties for violations of various other labor and employee benefits laws are also addressed in the updated guidance and will be published shortly in The Federal Register. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Federal Mine Safety and Health Act
  • ERISA (with respect to qualified retirement plans)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
  • Wage and Hour (Fair Labor Standards Act, Immigration & Nationality, Public Service Contracts Act, FMLA)
  • Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP)

Hays Companies is here to help with your compliance needs. If you have any questions, contact your Hays representative or get in touch with us today.

Industry Guide: Reporting Near Misses in the Construction Workplace

Most safety professionals agree that a facility or site audit would uncover at least one near miss condition or scenario at any time, on any day.

In the construction industry, near miss incidents are common occurrences where an accident was narrowly avoided. They’re also a precursor to more dangerous and expensive events. Tracking near misses can help companies reduce the number of incidents by monitoring when and where potential hazards take place. In Hays Companies’ new white paper, Senior Vice President Abby Ferri details:

  • How to start a near miss reporting program
  • Why it’s so important
  • The impact it could have on your company’s bottom line

Construction firms differ in their level of safety reporting sophistication. Some may need to start from the ground up, while others can quickly implement a near miss program. No matter where you are on the spectrum, treat near misses like incidents by recognizing and recording everything.

Click here to read the full white paper!

Paul Nelson Joins Hays Companies

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (January 18, 2019) – Hays Companies announced Paul Nelson has joined its Dallas operations as Senior Vice President. Nelson brings a unique perspective and extensive construction risk experience to Hays’ Texas operations.

“Paul will play a critical role here in Dallas as we continue to grow our Property and Casualty division,” said Erik Templin, President – Hays Companies of Texas. “We are excited to add his valuable construction expertise and Property and Casualty resources to our clients in the Dallas market.”

He began his insurance career in 2006 and in that 13 years he has worked with middle market, large national and fortune 500 clients. Since 2014, Paul has worked closely with clients to measurably affect reporting program performance and provide detailed financial analyses.

He has extensive construction and wrap-up programs expertise in the where he most recently managed controlled insurance programs in the South region. Paul worked with owners and general contractors to implement program structure and placement, bidding strategy and contract and enabling language.

Paul moved to Texas after graduating from Brigham Young University. During his time in risk management, he’s been involved with the Association of General Contractors (AGC), the Construction Financial Management Association and IRMI. Outside of work, Paul is a volunteer for his church where he is president of the Young Men’s Organization.

“I’m excited to join the amazing culture here at Hays Companies and am looking forward to expanding our P&C practice,” said Nelson.

Nelson can be contacted via email at panelson@hayscompanies.com. Want to be notified of new P&C seminars or thought leadership articles? Connect with us here.

ABOUT HAYS COMPANIES

Hays Companies is one of the fastest growing risk management, insurance and employee benefits advisors in the country. Our philosophy of delivering the highest-quality, customer-focused service has led to significant growth for more than 20 years. Today, the company includes 700+ experienced professionals in more than 30 locations throughout the United States. For more information, contact Andrea Field (afield@hayscompanies.com) or visit our website at hayscompanies.com.

Brown & Brown, Inc. Completes Acquisition of Hays Companies

November 16, 2018 – (Daytona Beach) . . . Brown & Brown, Inc. (NYSE:BRO) today announced the completion of the previously-announced acquisition of Hays Companies (“Hays”) by Brown & Brown, Inc.

Brown & Brown, Inc. is a leading insurance brokerage firm, providing risk management solutions to individuals and businesses. With Brown & Brown’s almost 80 years of proven success and thousands of teammates, we offer knowledge you can trust and strive to deliver superior customer service.  For more information on Brown & Brown, visit www.bbinsurance.com.  Hays Companies’ current operations can be reviewed at www.hayscompanies.com.

This press release may contain certain statements relating to future results which are forward-looking statements, including those associated with this acquisition; the appointments of those individuals currently employed by Hays to leadership positions with Brown & Brown after the transaction; and the integration of the current Hays operations with Brown & Brown after the transaction.  These statements are not historical facts, but instead represent only Brown & Brown’s current belief regarding future events, many of which, by their nature, are inherently uncertain and outside of Brown & Brown’s control.  It is possible that actual results may differ, possibly materially, from the anticipated results indicated in these forward-looking statements due to a number of risks and uncertainties.  These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to: Brown & Brown’s consummation and integration of the announced acquisition, including adequately addressing any matters analyzed in the due diligence process; Brown & Brown’s ability to retain Hays’ clients following the transaction; the post-transaction performance of the operations acquired from Hays combined with Brown & Brown’s operations; material adverse changes in the business and financial condition of Hays, Brown & Brown, or both, and their respective clients; material adverse changes in economic conditions in the markets Brown & Brown serves and in the general economy; management’s decisions after the transaction regarding employment positions with Brown & Brown; the inability of certain individuals to fill certain positions with Brown & Brown after the transaction; changes to management’s strategy, including the future strategic decisions regarding its insurance carrier relationships and/or the products and services it offers its distribution partners; future regulatory actions and conditions in the states in which Brown & Brown conducts its business; competition from others in the insurance agency, wholesale brokerage, insurance programs and service business.  Further information concerning Brown & Brown and its business, including factors that potentially could materially affect Brown & Brown’s financial results and condition, as well as its other achievements, is contained in Brown & Brown’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  All forward-looking statements made herein are made only as of the date of this release, and Brown & Brown does not undertake any obligation to publicly update or correct any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances that subsequently occur or of which Brown & Brown hereafter becomes aware.

Abby Ferri Joins Hays Companies As Vice President

Abbi Ferri headshotHays Companies announced Abby Ferri has joined its Minneapolis operations as Vice President. She will be responsible for helping build the national construction practice through her experience and expertise in safety and risk management.

“We are excited to have Abby join our growing construction division at Hays,” said Tim Boberg, President of Property and Casualty-Minneapolis. “She brings valuable risk control experience, entrepreneurship and leadership to her new role.”

Ferri has more than 15 years of experience in construction risk management. In 2012, she founded The Ferri Group, LLC where she provided risk control, program development, training and regulatory compliance for her clients.

Abby is an adjunct professor in the Construction Management Program at Dunwoody College of Technology. She is also President-elect of the Northwest Chapter of American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and Administrator of the Women in Safety Excellence common interest group of the ASSP.

“I feel that my experiences have led me directly to my new position at Hays. I love working with construction companies and general contractors, and I aim to ensure the industry thinks of Hays first for their risk management needs,” said Ferri.

Ferri can be contacted via phone at 612-486-4796 or email at aferri@hayscompanies.com.

ABOUT HAYS COMPANIES

Hays Companies is one of the fastest growing risk management, insurance and employee benefits advisors in the country. Our philosophy of delivering the highest-quality, customer-focused service has led to significant growth for 20 years. Today, the company includes 700+ experienced professionals in more than 30 locations throughout the United States. For more information, contact Andrea Field (afield@hayscompanies.com) or visit our website at hayscompanies.com.

Hays Companies Named “2018 Elite Agency”

Circle of stars with Elite Agency 2018 text in centerHays Companies is delighted to announce that we have been named a 2018 Elite Agency by Insurance Business America (IBA). This is the second consecutive year we have received the honor.

The Elite Agency designation is awarded to the Top 35 brokerage firms across the country, who in 2017 achieved at least $25 million in revenue and indicated by the end of Q2 2018 that they will once again accomplish year-over-year growth.

Per IBA, this award goes beyond transactions to reflect the depth and excellence of the organization’s producer training initiatives, mentorship programs and community outreach efforts. In short, being named an IBA Elite Agency is synonymous with being the best in business.

For our teammates, this award is especially reflective of the entrepreneurial spirit that we have worked so hard to build and maintain. We’re proud to be recognized amongst our peers and extend our congratulations to the other awardees. To view the complete list, please click here.

About IBA

International Business America is an independent industry publication, targeted towards commercial agents and advice professionals.

Hays Companies Enters into Agreement to Join Brown & Brown, Inc.

(Minneapolis, MN)  Jim Hays, Chief Executive Officer of Hays Companies, and J. Scott Penny, Chief Acquisitions Officer of Brown & Brown, Inc. (NYSE:BRO), today announced that Brown & Brown, Inc. (Brown & Brown) has entered into an agreement to acquire selected assets of the Hays Companies insurance operations.  The transaction is expected to close in November 2018, subject to certain closing conditions.

Hays Companies will operate as a region inside Brown & Brown Retail.  The operations will continue to be led by Jim Hays, as Chief Executive Officer, and Mike Egan as President/COO of the Hays Companies.  Following completion of the transaction, Jim will join Brown & Brown, Inc. as Vice Chairman and will serve on the board of directors, and Mike will become a Regional President of the Brown & Brown Retail Division.  Mike will continue reporting to Jim and Jim will report up to Powell Brown, Chief Executive Officer of Brown & Brown.

Jim Hays stated, “After 24 years as an independent insurance broker, we feel the time is now to partner with an industry leader who shares our cultural values.  Brown & Brown has the same client-focused attitude that our clients have come to expect from the Hays Companies team. This partnership enhances our ability to provide expanded solutions for our clients and new opportunities for our employees.  Because the Hays Companies name, our executive group, and our account teams will not change, we expect a smooth transition.  As far as we are concerned, it is business as usual.  This is a new era for Hays Companies.  I am very excited about the future as a part of the Brown & Brown family.”

Powell Brown stated, “For the past several years, Jim and I have gotten to know one another both professionally and personally.  It became clear to me over that time that our organizations share a common sales, service, entrepreneurial and teammate focused culture which delivers results and that joining the Hays Companies team with Brown & Brown will be mutually beneficial to our collective clients, teammates and carrier partners.  We are excited to have the experience and client-focused team of Hays Companies join with us under the leadership of Jim and Mike.”

You may view this video of Jim Hays and Powell Brown discussing Hays Companies joining the Brown & Brown team.

Jim Hays formed the Hays Companies in 1994. Since formation, Jim, along with Mike Egan, Steve Lerum, and Bill Mershon, have successfully grown Hays Companies to number 22 on Business Insurance Magazine’s list of 100 largest U.S. brokers, with annualized revenue of approximately $200 million. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Hays Companies is comprised of over 700 risk management and employee benefits professionals in 32 locations across 21 states. The Hays Companies focuses on risk management and commercial insurance, employee benefits, consulting services, specialty programs and private client services.  Hays Companies’ current operations can be reviewed at www.hayscompanies.com.

Brown & Brown, Inc., through its subsidiaries, offers a broad range of insurance products and related services. Additionally, certain Brown & Brown subsidiaries offer a variety of risk management, third-party administration, and other services. Serving business, public entity, individual, trade and professional association clients nationwide, Brown & Brown is ranked by Business Insurance magazine as the United States’ sixth largest independent insurance intermediary. For more information on Brown & Brown, visit www.bbinsurance.com.

For press inquiries please contact Andrea Field, Hays Companies National Director of Marketing & Strategy, at 612-387-0952 or afield@hayscompanies.com.

Hays Intern Selected as The Council Foundation Scholarship Recipient

The Council Foundation LogoKatie O’Keefe, a student at Drake University and a summer intern in the Hays Marketing Department, has been selected as a recipient of a $5,000 academic scholarship for the 2018-19 year academic year, as announced by The Council Foundation.

The Council Foundation has maintained a competitive scholarship program for over ten years, for which top interns are eligible to be nominated for a $5,000 scholarship, as part of their mission to bring fresh, diverse talent into the brokerage sector. O’Keefe is one of 75 college students across the country who received a Council Foundation scholarship this year.

Of her experience with Hays, O’Keefe stated:

I was initially attracted to Hays’ entrepreneurial work ethic and environment, but my overall experience greatly exceeded my expectations. From the first day with my team, I was treated as a valued team member, and my suggestions were never discounted because of my age or experience. I was given real projects to manage and advance, which pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped to expand my professional skill set.

As a result of my experience with Hays, I have more confidence in myself and a clearer vision for my career path. I look forward to applying the skills I developed to classwork and team projects in my final semester at Drake and beyond.

Here at Hays, a robust internship program has always been a vital part of our identity. We have a long-standing internship program, which last year gave 9 students the opportunity to experience our unique entrepreneurial culture. Our highly-developed program allows students to make meaningful contributions to our corporate identity by collaborating on a summer project that is implemented company-wide at the end of the summer.

At the same time, students are paired with a mentor in their department for the duration of their internship and given real deliverables to contribute to existing timelines as opposed to more basic “intern duties.”  They also enjoy access to high-level company executives and operate in an environment where they are treated as more than “just the intern.”

Hays has long understood that if an internship is successful, the intern in question is more likely to accept or pursue a full-time offer upon graduation. According to an article by The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, studies have demonstrated that “internships are the insurance brokerage industry’s most successful tool in the recruitment of college students.”  It is one of the many ways that we have continued to stay ahead of the curve when looking for and attracting the best young talent.

Hays Headquarters Named Largest Insurance Brokerage in Minneapolis

Hays Companies is pleased to announce that our Minneapolis office, which is also the location of our corporate Headquarters, was named the largest insurance brokerage in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area (also known as the Twin Cities) by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

The publication, which is amongst the most prestigious business news outlets in the state of Minnesota, surveyed offices located within the 24-county metro area. For businesses that are headquartered in the Twin Cities, such as ours, results were based on companywide revenue for all operations as well as the number of employees.

We’re especially honored by this recognition as it not only reflective of our growth as an organization, but also the continued support of the community in which we were founded.

To view the complete list, please click here.