Nick Thorpe takes a look back at the top stories from 2006.

Given the turbulent events of 2005, the industry could be forgiven for being a little apprehensive at the start of 2006. But the eye of the storm seems to be upon us, allowing the industry a chance to shore up the balance sheets and take stock.

Despite a benign catastrophe year, 2006 has seen a flurry of activity, from major mergers and acquisitions, such as the Swiss Re/GEIS deal, to a number of high profile failures as Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma's legacy continued to be felt. The retrocession market was brought to its knees and rate increases of up to 400% were witnessed on some lines by the mid year, and capacity was constrained across peak catastrophe zones. Suddenly, "sidecar" was the word on everyone's lips as much-needed capacity was brought in from the capital markets. And just as the non-eventful hurricane season ended and we were getting ready to sit back and take a breather, Warren Buffett opened his wallet to provide the shock of the year by bailing out Equitas and all those Lloyd's names. As these stories prove, a lack of catastrophes does not equate to a dearth of juicy headlines.

January

3 January - JLT Re commences trading as a separate and dedicated reinsurance broker, wholly owned by the Jardine Lloyd Thompson group.

4 January - Takaful Re is licensed to operate from the Dubai International Financial Centre.

13 January - Everest Re increases its pre-tax loss estimates for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma by $200m to $1.2bn.

13 January - John Welch joins XL Reinsurance America as president and CEO, reporting to chairman James Veghte.

18 January - Swiss Re announces that the acquisition of GE Insurance Solutions will result in 1,700 redundancies.

24 January - Lloyd's confirms the demise of technology platform Kinnect after five years and more than £70m.

31 January - AM Best downgrades Alea to "B" from "B " following costly run-off charges and catastrophe losses in 2005.

February

3 February - Gen Re and AIG executives are accused of fraud by the SEC after sham reinsurance transactions are exposed.

3 February - Lloyd's announces legal proceedings against Benfield and Aon in relation to their involvement in the Lloyd's Central Fund.

6 February - White Mountains names Tom Hutton as CEO, overseeing the company's global reinsurance operations.

9 February - AIG resolves an accounting litigation case with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Justice with a $1.6bn settlement.

22 February - IPCRe reports a net loss for 2005 of $623.4m, compared to net income of $138.6m in 2004.

24 February - S&P lowers its rating on PXRE two notches to "BBB-" after the company announces further increases to the group's 2005 hurricane losses.

25 February - John Gillespie, Kamil Salame and William Spiegel announce their intention to resign from Montpelier Re's board of directors.

March

2 March - AM Best downgrades Quanta Capital Holdings to "B " from "A-".

7 March - Richard Ward is named new chief executive officer of Lloyd's.

13 March - Aon confirms there could be up to 1,800 job losses at the firm as a result of restructuring.

17 March - Odyssey Re is placed on negative watch after restating its results and a delay in filing its annual report.

21 March - Zurich announces a $171.7m settlement with nine state attorneys following industry-wide investigations into broker compensation and insurance placement practices.

21 March - The Financial Services Authority (FSA) decides to put on hold its work to develop rules to bring about contract certainty in the insurance market.

27 March - Following significant catastrophe losses in 2005, Olympus Re is downgraded from "B+" to "B-" by AM Best.

28 March - Max Re launches an internal review of three finite risk retrocessional contracts to determine whether the company properly accounted for them.

April

3 April - Newly formed Bermudian insurer Omega gains a financial strength rating of "A-" from AM Best.

6 April - The Lloyd's market reveals losses of £103m for 2005 and reports that storm claims have reached £3.3bn.

7 April - Tropical Storm Risk forecasts an active hurricane season in 2006 with US landfalling tropical cyclone activity predicted to be 50% above the 1950-2005 norm.

12 April - White Mountains sells its subsidiary Sirius America to an investor group for approximately $139m.

18 April - Roger Paschke steps down as chief financial officer of OIL due to personal illness.

19 April - Dan Jones, former vice chairman of Marsh, is appointed as non-executive director to the Beazley board.

27 April - ACE pays $80m in penalties following allegations by Eliot Spitzer of bid-rigging and improper finite reinsurance transactions.

May

4 May - Wellington is downgraded to "A2" from "A1" by Moody's, reflecting the impact of the syndicate's $997m US hurricane losses in 2005.

5 May - A class action lawsuit is filed against PXRE, Jeffrey Radke and John Modin for violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

6 May - Eliot Spitzer files a lawsuit against Liberty Mutual alleging that the firm participated in a pervasive bid-rigging scheme.

8 May - Liberty Mutual decline the settlement demands from Eliot Spitzer, describing them as "excessive" and "unreasonable".

15 May - Validus Re sets up collateralised quota share retrocessional sidecar agreement with Petrel Re.

19 May - ACE announces that Brian Duperreault, chairman of the board, will retire from the company in June but will continue to serve in the role of non-executive chairman.

24 May - The first ever Part VII transfer in the Lloyd's insurance market takes place between Spectrum Syndicate Management and Sterling Life Limited.

25 May - Bruce Carnegie-Brown leaves Marsh and is replaced by Alex Moczarskis, president & CEO of an expanded Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

26 May - Quanta ceases underwriting or seeking new business and places most specialty reinsurance lines into orderly run-off.

26 May - ACE names Brian Dowd as chief executive of the company's North American division and promotes John Lupica to the position of chief executive officer, ACE USA.

June

6 June - AXA signs over its reinsurance arm, AXA Re, to Paris Re, a newly-created company sponsored by a consortium of international investors.

8 June - Peter Hearn, a 28-year veteran of the reinsurance industry, is promoted to CEO of Willis Re.

9 June - General Re is served with a A$400m lawsuit accusing the company of contributing to the collapse of defunct Australian insurance operation HIH.

10 June - Founding president and former CEO of PartnerRe, Herbert Haag, joins the board of directors of XL Capital.

13 June - Tropical Storm Alberto is upgraded to a category 1 hurricane with winds of up to 95mph, marking the first storm of the 2006 season.

14 June - Winterthur is acquired by AXA from Credit Suisse for CHF12.3bn (EUR7.9bn), including the refinancing of EUR1.0bn worth of outstanding debt.

22 June - Corporate restructuring and modernisation of business processes at Allianz and Dresdner Bank will see 7,500 job losses.

23 June - Aon UK announces that it will move to a full electronic trading capability during 2006 for its specialist insurance and reinsurance businesses.

July

11 July - Swiss Re says it will cut as many as 2,000 jobs, 300 more than previously announced, in order to save labour costs following the purchase of GE Insurance Solutions.

12 July - AWAC launches its initial public offering of 8,800,000 common shares at $34 per share.

14 July - Irish insurers and reinsurers welcome the early adoption of the EU Reinsurance Directive.

20 July - The Financial Services Authority and Australian Prudential Regulation Authority ban former Gen Re executive John Byrne for five years for false finite transfers.

26 July - New Bermudian reinsurer Aeolus Re opens shop with an initial capitalisation of $500m and investors including Warburg Pincus and Arch Capital.

31 July - Scott Willkomm resigns from his position as president and chief executive officer of Scottish Re.

August

2 August - XL Re establishes a new European platform for its reinsurance business in Dublin.

3 August - Scottish Re loses its "A" rating after S&P downgrades the life reinsurer following "negative perceptions in the marketplace".

7 August - Axis founder John Charman is ordered to pay his wife a record £48m in Britain's largest divorce settlement.

7 August - Aspen announces the appointment of Stuart Sinclair, its new president and chief operating officer.

14 August - A year after Katrina, Rita and Wilma reinsurers are still battling to manage their catastrophe exposures, according to AM Best.

25 August - AM Best assigns a financial strength rating of "A-" to Cayman-based start-up Greenlight Re.

September

1 September - Lloyd's confirms the creation of Thunderbird Re, a sidecar based in the Cayman Islands.

8 September - Rate increases in the US and Mexico average 76% and 129% respectively at the mid-year renewals, according to Guy Carpenter.

9 September - Jardine Lloyd Thompson sells its US-based property and casualty businesses to Alliant Insurance Services.

10 September - Benfield CEO Grahame Chilton rejects suggestions that retrocession has all but disappeared in 2006.

10 September - Lloyd's director of worldwide markets Julian James says there is an "unhealthy focus on hurricane risk in the US" during an interview at the Rendez-Vous de Septembre.

11 September - On the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Fitch calls for an alternative to the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

11 September - "This is not a time for petty rivalries", says Catlin Group CEO Stephen Catlin at a breakfast briefing in Monte Carlo, in reference to competition between the London and Bermuda markets.

12 September - The retrocession capacity squeeze is disrupting the property cat industry, finds S&P.

12 September - The Cayman Islands is becoming a cat securitisation centre finds Appleby Hunter Bailhache.

12 September - "It is too incestuous". Swiss Re's European head Martin Albers explains why the reinsurer will not be continuing GE Insurance Solution's retrocession business.

12 September - "There is a 29% chance Tokyo could experience a $1trn cat loss in the next 30 years," says Professor Bill McGuire at the Rendez-Vous de Septembre.

13 September - There could be a "Class of 2006" due to high demand for capacity in peak zones predicts Aspen CEO Chris O'Kane.

18 September - Omega outlines its plans to redomicile to Bermuda, a week after Hiscox announces similar plans.

27 September - RenaissanceRe's former CEO James Stanard and former controller Martin Merritt are charged with fraud by the SEC.

October

6 October - Willis names Don Bailey as CEO, Tom Ealy, chief operating officer, Joe Gunn, executive vice president and national partner and Eric Joost, client advocacy leader for Willis North America.

6 October - John Tiner, CEO of the Financial Services Authority calls for greater broker transparency.

11 October - Moody's predicts takaful insurance premiums will treble to over $7bn by 2015.

12 October - A new report by Allianz Group and the World Wildlife Fund says insurers should do more to address the growing impact of climate change-induced damages.

16 October - Benfield issues a profit warning after mass resignations from its facultative reinsurance business, including head of the division Elliot Richardson.

16 October - Willis makes an informal approach to acquire Marsh & McLennan, according to reports.

16 October - Swiss Re announces it will acquire GE Life for £465m.

18 October - S&P says Converium is likely to regain its "A" rating following the sale of its North American operations.

19 October - Swiss Re wins its case against the World Trade Center Properties with the jury agreeing 9/11 was a single-occurrence event.

19 October - Catlin expresses dismay over AM Best's decision to place its ratings under review with negative implications.

20 October - Equitas announces a $7bn reinsurance deal with Berkshire Hathaway's National Indemnity Company.

23 October - Hiscox details its corporate reorganisation and relocation to Bermuda, including tax benefits, in a circular to shareholders.

24 October - Wellington confirms it is in talks with fellow Lloyd's insurer Catlin over a possible takeover bid.

25 October - Flagstone Reinsurance files with the SEC to raise up to $175m in an initial public offering.

30 October - Max Re announces the resignation of Robert Cooney, chairman and CEO and appoints W Marston Becket as his interim replacement.

November

3 November - Paddy Jago is named chief executive officer of Willis Re in the US, succeeding Peter Hearn, who was promoted to CEO of Willis Re globally in June 2006.

7 November - As its profits double in the third quarter of 2006 to EUR2,861m (compared to the same period in 2005) Munich Re says it will buy back EUR1bn shares.

8 November - Lloyd's Names lose their action against the Treasury in a case alleging failure to implement a European Directive relating to insurance.

9 November - XL Capital says it will restate its cash-flow statements going back to 2003 to correct foreign exchange rate charges.

13 November - Moody's assigns ratings to new Hiscox sidecar Panther Re Bermuda.

13 November - In the first deal of its kind, Swiss Re places $442m of securities covering catastrophic mortality experience in France, Japan and the US on behalf of AXA cessions.

14 November - Guy Carpenter and MMC Securities complete a multi-peril catastrophe bond transaction, on which it has advised Catlin.

15 November - Reinsurers are continuing to reassess their catastrophe exposures despite a benign hurricane season, finds S&P.

22 November - The FSA fines General Reinsurance UK £1.2m for arranging two improper reinsurance transactions.

23 November - AM Best puts Aspen on negative outlook due to volatility derived from its catastrophe exposure.

28 November - AM Best revises Aspen's outlook to stable as a result of improvements made to its enterprise risk management approach.

28 November - Scottish Re gets back on track with a positive outlook from S&P following its announcement of a $300m deal with Mass Mutual Capital Partners.

December

4 December - James Sardeson, president and chief executive of Lloyd's Japan, joins Heritage Underwriting as underwriting director and board member.

4 December - Martin South, former CEO of international business at Zurich Financial Services, is appointed CEO of Marsh's UK operations.

5 December - Enterprise risk management has "become integral to insurers' business processes around the world", finds a Tillinghast study.

6 December - Catlin Bermuda unveils an inurance and reinsurance product that provides coverage for acts of nuclear, chemical, biological or radiological terrorism.

7 December - Advent Capital announces plans to launch a new Bermuda platform, Advent Re, to write retrocessional business.

13 December - QBE agrees to buy the Praetorian Financial Group, a US subsidiary of Hannover Re, for $800m.