Executives trying to predicting how the soft market will playout for the excess and surplus lines industry have absolutely nopoint of reference based on past experience to guide them, anE&S executive said recently.

“You have to consider that the surplus lines industry as a wholeis experiencing a historic decline in premium volume,” said ThomasMulligan, president and chief executive officer of Western WorldInsurance Group in Franklin Lakes, N.J.

Mr. Mulligan was referring to the fact that 2009 marked the third consecutive year for which U.S. directwritten E&S premium declined, and the prospect that the E&Swill see a fourth straight year of decline when the books areclosed on 2010.

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