The Wall Street Journal: Catastrophe bonds shake up insurance industry

Catastrophe bonds were invented in the early 1990s to help insurance companies mitigate the risk of disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Today, like the very storms they protect against, catastrophe bonds are upending the insurance business.

The oddball securities have exploded in popularity, driven by pension plans, sovereign-wealth funds and wealthy families seeking better returns. Investment banks and insurers’ own securities-brokerage operations churn out billions of dollars a year in catastrophe bonds.

There are “cat bonds” that pay off if too many people die in a pandemic. Others cover the opposite problem of people living beyond their expected lifetimes. An American International Group Inc.

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