Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company
The Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company is a mutual insurance company which offers personal, marine, commercial property, and casualty insurance. It is part of the Atlantic Mutual Companies, which includes Centennial Insurance Company. Its corporate headquarters are at 140 Broadway, a block from the World Trade Center.
The company was founded in 1838 as the Atlantic Insurance Company. Originally a joint-stock company, it became a mutual company in 1842. Its first chairman was Walter Restored Jones, a member of a prominent upper-class family of attorneys in New York City. The Jones family ran the company for decades.
By the 1850s, Atlantic Mutual was the largest marine and general insurance firm in North America and the only marine insurance firm in New York state. During the 1850s, it made exceedingly high profits. In 1852, the company began keeping a clipping service of newspaper accounts of shipwrecks and sinkings known as Vessel Disasters, a work which became famous as the best source of information on maritime disasters in the North Atlantic. During the Civil War, Atlantic Mutual was the primary insurer of most Union shipping.
Atlantic Mutual built the existing building at 45 Wall Street in 1959, which served as the company's headquarters until the mid-1970s. Vacant and deteriorating for more than 20 years, it was sold in 1996 and converted to apartments.
Atlantic Mutual was involved in a significant tax law case which reached the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1990s. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 altered the formula under which insurance companies could deduct additions to their financial reserves. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) determined that Atlantic Mutual had strengthened its reserves, but the company countered that it had merely engaged in a computational change. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court upheld the IRS' interpretation of the law.
After the construction of the World Trade Center, Atlantic Mutual moved its headquarters from 45 Wall Street to 140 Broadway. The company was one of many which insured buildings in and around the World Trade Center, and the firm suffered significant losses after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Since Atlantic Mutual is more than 100 years old, the company is a member of The Hundred Year Association of New York.
In 2010, New York state insurance regulators revoked Atlantic Mutual’s insurance licenses because it had a negative surplus. On April 27, 2011, Atlantic Mutual was placed into liquidation after the company was swamped with workers' compensation insurance claims.
Famous shipwrecks insured by Atlantic Mutual
As the largest marine insurance firm in the United States for many years, Atlantic Mutual became involved in some of the most famous shipwrecks in American history.
- SS Central America - The company insured the SS Central America, a sidwheel steamship laden with gold which sank in a hurricane in September 1857. When the wreck was rediscovered by the Columbus-American Discovery Group, Inc. on September 11, 1987, Atlantic Mutual and 38 other insurance companies filed suit against the treasure-hunting firm, claiming that because they paid damages for the lost gold they had the right to it. In a precedent-setting court case on telepossession, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Atlantic Mutual and the other insurance companies and awarded 92 percent of the gold to the Columbus-American Group.
- Mary Celeste - Atlantic Mutual was also one of the insurers of the Mary Celeste, an American brigantine sailing out of Staten Island, New York. In December 1872, a month after leaving Staten Island for Italy, the ship was seen adrift and without her crew and no explanation for the "ghost ship" has ever successfully explained why the ship was abandoned. Atlantic Mutual established a small museum dedicated to the mystery of the Mary Celeste at its corporate headquarters, which included a model of the ship and the captain's lap desk.
- RMS Titanic - The Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company also helped to insure the RMS Titanic. The ship was insured for $140,000, of which $100,000 was held by Atlantic Mutual. The largest passenger steamship in the world at the time, the Titanic struck an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912, during her maiden voyage and sank with more than 1,500 people still aboard two hours and forty minutes later.
Notable presidents, chairman and directors of the Atlantic Mutual
The Atlantic Mutual Insurance Co. has been led by a number of prominent New Yorkers as well as leading American business people. Among them are:
- Atlantic Mutual Companies, Meeting the Challenges of Our Time: 2001 Annual Report, 2001.
- Clayton and Nelson, History of Bergen and Passaic Counties, New Jersey: With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, 1882.
- Weil, A History of New York, 2004.
- Jaher, The Urban Establishment: Upper Strata in Boston, New York, Charleston, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1982.
- Hunt, Lives of American Merchants, vol. 1, 1857.
- Rousmaniere, After the Storm: True Stories of Disaster and Recovery at Sea, 2002; "Steam on the Atlantic," New York Times, December 10, 1882.
- Jones and DeLancey, History of New York During the Revolutionary War, 1879.
- As of 2008.
- Bagli, "45 Wall St. Is Renting Again Where Tower Deal Failed," New York Times, February 8, 2003.
- Atlantic Mutual Ins. Co. v. IRS, 523 U.S. 582 (1998).
- Barr, Alistair. "Titanic Insurer Atlantic Mutual Sinks." MarketWatch. May 6, 2011.
- Kinder, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea, 1998.
- Columbus-American Discovery Group Inc. v. Atlantic Mutual Ins. Co., 974 F.2d 450 (4th Cir., 1992).
- Fay, The Story of the "Mary Celeste", 1988.
- Godwin, This Baffling World, 1968.
- Eaton and Haas, Titanic: A Journey Through Time, 1999.
- Atlantic Mutual Companies. Meeting the Challenges of Our Time: 2001 Annual Report. New York: Atlantic Mutual Companies, 2001.
- Bagli, Charles V. "45 Wall St. Is Renting Again Where Tower Deal Failed." New York Times. February 8, 2003.
- Clayton, W. Woodford and Nelson, William. History of Bergen and Passaic Counties, New Jersey: With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men. Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1882.
- Eaton, John P. and Haas, Charles A. Titanic: A Journey Through Time. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999. ISBN 0-393-04782-2
- Fay, Charles Edey. The Story of the "Mary Celeste". Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1988. ISBN 0-486-25730-4
- Godwin, John, This Baffling World. New York: Hart Publishing, 1968.
- Hunt, Freeman. Lives of American Merchants. Vol. 1. New York: H.W. Derby, 1857.
- Jaher, Frederic Cople. The Urban Establishment: Upper Strata in Boston, New York, Charleston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1982. ISBN 0-252-00932-0
- Jones, Thomas and DeLancey, Edward Floyd. History of New York During the Revolutionary War: And of the Leading Events in the Other Colonies at that Period. New York: New York Historical Society, 1879.
- Kinder, Gary. Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea. New York: Vintage Books, 1998. ISBN 0-87113-717-8
- Rousmaniere, John. After the Storm: True Stories of Disaster and Recovery at Sea. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2002. ISBN 0-07-137795-6
- "Steam on the Atlantic." New York Times. December 10, 1882.
- Weil, François. A History of New York. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-231-12935-1
- Cosgrove, John. Gray Days and Gold: A Character Sketch of the Atlantic Mutual Insurance Co. New York: Atlantic Mutual Companies, 1967.