000.0650.0550.01850.010.02500.01000.0450.040.060.0350.02750.02250.0450.040.0550.05250.0350.03P5YP364DP3YP364DP364D200000000100000000400000002000000001000000001false--12-31FY20182018-12-310000004977YesfalseLarge Accelerated FilerfalsefalseNoYesAFL7059400000011630000007300700000012090000000.830.871.040.100.100.100.10190000000019000000001900000000190000000013457620001347540000are generally entitled to one vote per share until they have been held by the same beneficial owner for a continuous period of 48 months, at which time they become entitled to 10 votes per share.37400000037400000014800000014800000000000.00600.00750.00200.00352027-10-23600000000006000000000050000000002500000000060000000000600000000005000000000250000000001520000000029300000000890000000060000000000600000000005000000000250000000001520000000029300000000890000000060000000000600000000005000000000250000000000.040.040.009320.06450.0690.036250.036250.03250.028750.0240.021080.00320.00470.040.040.009320.06450.06900.036250.036250.03250.028750.0240.021080.00320.00470.04750.040.040.014880.011590.01750.009320.06450.0690.036250.036250.03250.028750.021080.00320.00470.04750.040.040.014880.011590.01750.009320.06450.06900.036250.036250.03250.028750.021080.00320.0047bears an interest rate per annum equal to the Tokyo interbank market rate (TIBOR), or alternate TIBOR, if applicable, plus the applicable TIBOR margin and has a five-year maturity. The applicable margin ranges between .20% and .60%, depending on the Parent Company's debt ratings as of the date of determination. bears an interest rate per annum equal to TIBOR, or alternate TIBOR, if applicable, plus the applicable TIBOR margin and has a seven-year maturity. The applicable margin ranges between .35% and .75%, depending on the Parent Company's debt ratings as of the date of determination. The debentures bear interest at an initial rate of 2.108% per annum through October 22, 2027, or earlier redemption. Thereafter, the rate of the interest of the debentures will be reset every five years at a rate of interest equal to the then-current JPY 5-year Swap Offered Rate plus 205 basis points.The debentures are redeemable (i) at any time, in whole but not in part, upon the occurrence of certain tax events or certain rating agency events, as specified in the indenture governing the terms of the debentures or (ii) on or after October?23, 2027, in whole or in part, at a redemption price equal to their principal amount plus accrued and unpaid interest to, but excluding, the date of redemption.P30YP30YP10YP10YP10YP10YP5YP30YP10YP5YP7YP10YP30YP30YP15YP12YP20YP30YP15YP12YP20YP3MP3MP3MP3M0.060.500.00850.00260.02540.02400.00850.00260.02540.02400.00900.00090.49650.46330.37240.00250.00710.00180.02840.02750.00710.00180.02840.02750.01200.00190.00850.00260.02540.02400.00850.00260.02540.02400.01570.00130.00710.00180.02840.02750.00710.00180.02840.02750.02110.00283100000031000000000038072000000367220000000.070.0650.01850.010.02500.0100.0450.040.060.0350.02750.0270.0450.040.06750.05250.0350.030000000.002250.00500.000850.00305500000000050000000500000000001000000000001000000002500000004P20Y000
 
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
FORM 10-K
(Mark One)
ý
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018
or
¨
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from              to             
Commission File Number: 001-07434
aflaclogoa01a01a01a19.jpg
Aflac Incorporated
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Georgia
 
58-1167100
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
 
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
 
 
 
1932 Wynnton Road, Columbus, Georgia
 
31999
(Address of principal executive offices)
 
(ZIP Code)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: 706.323.3431
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class
 
Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Stock, $.10 Par Value
 
New York Stock Exchange
 
 
Tokyo Stock Exchange
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:    None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    þ Yes    ¨  No
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.    ¨  Yes    þ  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.            þ  Yes  ¨  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (Section 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    þ  Yes  ¨  No
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (Section 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
  Large accelerated filer
þ
 
 
Accelerated filer
¨
  Non-accelerated filer
¨
 
 
Smaller reporting company  
¨
 
 
 
 
Emerging growth company
¨
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ¨ 
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). ¨  Yes    þ  No
The aggregate market value of the voting common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant as of June 30, 2018, was $33,002,565,252.
The number of shares of the registrant’s common stock outstanding at February 12, 2019, with $.10 par value, was 750,332,375.
 
 
Documents Incorporated By Reference
Certain information contained in the Notice and Proxy Statement for the Company’s 2019 Annual Meeting of Shareholders is incorporated by reference into Part III hereof.
 



Aflac Incorporated
Annual Report on Form 10-K
For the Year Ended December 31, 2018
Table of Contents
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
PART I
 
 
Page
 
 
 
 
 
Item 1.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 1A.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 1B.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 2.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 3.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 4.
 
 
 
 
PART II
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Item 5.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 6.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 7.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 7A.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 8.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 9.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 9A.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 9B.
 
 
 
 
PART III
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Item 10.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 11.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 12.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 13.
 
 
 
 
 
Item 14.
 
 
 
 
PART IV
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Item 15.
 


 

i


Item 1. Business




PART I
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Aflac Incorporated (the Parent Company) and its subsidiaries (collectively, the Company) prepare financial statements in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). This report includes certain forward-looking information that is based on current expectations and is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties. For details on forward-looking information, see Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations (MD&A), Part II, Item 7, of this report.
Aflac Incorporated qualifies as a large accelerated filer within the meaning of Rule 12b-2 under the U.S. Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as amended (the Exchange Act). The Company's Internet address is aflac.com. The information on the Company's website is not incorporated by reference in this annual report on Form 10-K. The Company makes available, free of charge on the Investors portion of its website, the Company's annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments thereto as soon as reasonably practicable after those forms have been electronically filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

General Description
Aflac Incorporated was incorporated in 1973 under the laws of the state of Georgia. Aflac Incorporated is a general business holding company and acts as a management company, overseeing the operations of its subsidiaries by providing management services and making capital available. Its principal business is voluntary supplemental and life insurance, which is marketed and administered through American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus (Aflac) in the United States (Aflac U.S.) and, effective April 1, 2018, through Aflac Life Insurance Japan Ltd. in Japan (Aflac Japan). Prior to April 1, 2018, the Company's insurance business was marketed in Japan as a branch of Aflac. American Family Life Assurance Company of New York (Aflac New York) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Aflac. Most of Aflac's policies are individually underwritten and marketed through independent agents. Additionally, Aflac U.S. markets and administers group products through Continental American Insurance Company (CAIC), branded as Aflac Group Insurance. The Company's insurance operations in the United States and Japan service the two markets for the Company's insurance business.
Effective April 1, 2018, the Company converted Aflac Japan from a branch to a subsidiary incorporated as a Japanese stock corporation. The transaction was accounted for as tax-neutral and did not have a material impact on the daily operations of either Aflac Japan or Aflac U.S. In addition, the Company obtained and expects to continue to obtain enhanced flexibility in capital management and business development as a result of the conversion.

The Company offers voluntary insurance policies in Japan and the United States that provide a layer of financial protection against income and asset loss. The Company continues to diversify its product offerings in both Japan and the United States. Aflac Japan sells voluntary supplemental insurance products, including cancer plans, general medical indemnity plans, medical/sickness riders, care plans, living benefit life plans, ordinary life insurance plans and annuities. Aflac U.S. sells voluntary supplemental insurance products including products designed to protect individuals from depletion of assets (accident, cancer, critical illness/care, hospital indemnity, fixed-benefit dental, and vision care plans) and loss-of-income products (life and short-term disability plans).

The Company is authorized to conduct insurance business in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, several U.S. territories and Japan.

Reporting Segments

The Company's insurance business consists of two reporting segments: Aflac Japan and Aflac U.S. Aflac Japan is the principal contributor to the Parent Company’s consolidated earnings. Aflac Japan's revenues, including realized gains and losses on its investment portfolio, accounted for 70% of the Company's total revenues in 2018, compared with 70% in 2017 and 71% in 2016. The percentage of the Company's total assets attributable to Aflac Japan was 84% and 83% at December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively. The conversion of Aflac Japan to a subsidiary structure did not affect the Company's segment reporting structure.

For information on the Company's results of operations and financial information by segment, see MD&A and Note 2 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements in this report.

1


Item 1. Business



Certain Performance Measures
The Company evaluates its premium growth and sales efforts using the following performance measures:
Annualized premiums in force is defined as the amount of gross premium that a policyholder must pay over a full year in order to keep coverage. The growth of net premiums (defined below) is directly affected by the change in premiums in force and by the change in weighted-average yen/dollar exchange rates.
New annualized premium sales (sometimes referred to as new sales or sales) is an operating measure that is not reflected on the Company's financial statements. New annualized premium sales generally represents annual premiums on policies the Company sold and incremental increases from policy conversions, collected over a 12-month period, assuming the policies remain in force. For Aflac Japan, new annualized premium sales are determined by applications submitted during the reporting period. For Aflac U.S., new annualized premium sales are determined by applications that are issued during the reporting period. Conversions are defined as the positive difference in the annualized premium when a policy upgrades in the current reporting period.
Net premiums (sometimes referred to as net premium income or net earned premiums) is a financial measure that appears on the Company's Consolidated Statements of Earnings and in its segment reporting. This measure reflects collected or due premiums that have been earned ratably on policies in force during the reporting period, reduced by premiums that have been ceded to third parties and increased by premiums assumed through reinsurance.

Foreign Currency Translation

Aflac Japan’s premiums and approximately half of its investment income are received in yen. Claims and most expenses are paid in yen, and the Company purchases yen-denominated assets and U.S. dollar-denominated assets, which may be hedged to yen, to support yen-denominated policy liabilities. These and other yen-denominated financial statement items are, however, translated into U.S. dollars for financial reporting purposes. For information regarding the effect of currency fluctuations on the Company's business, see the Hedging Activities subsection within the Analysis of Financial Condition section of MD&A, the Currency Risk subsection within Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk, and Notes 1 and 2 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements in this report. For information regarding how the Company’s investment strategy supports management of foreign currency risk, refer to the Investments subsection below.

Insurance Products(1) 
 
 
Aflac Japan
 
Aflac U.S.
 
 
Third Sector Insurance
 
 
 
Accident
 
 
 
Cancer
 
 
 
Short-Term Disability
 
 
 
Medical
 
 
 
Critical Care (2)
 
 
 
Income Support
 
 
 
Hospital Indemnity
 
 
First Sector Insurance
 
 
 
Dental
 
 
 
Life
 
 
 
Vision
 
 
 
 
Protection
 
 
 
Life (Term and Whole)
 
 
 
 
 
Term
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Whole
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Savings
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
WAYS
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Child Endowment
 
 
 
 
 
(1) Actively marketed as of December 31, 2018
(2) Includes cancer, critical illness, and hospital intensive care products

Japan
Aflac Japan's insurance products are designed to help consumers pay for medical and nonmedical costs that are not reimbursed under Japan's national health insurance system. Changes in Japan's economy and an aging population have put increasing pressure on Japan's national health care system. As a result, more costs have been shifted to Japanese

2


Item 1. Business



consumers, who in turn have become increasingly interested in insurance products that help them manage those costs. Aflac Japan has responded to this consumer need by enhancing existing products and developing new products.
The foundation of Aflac Japan's product portfolio has been, and continues to be, its third sector products, which include cancer, medical and income support insurance products. Aflac pioneered the cancer insurance market in Japan in 1974, and remains the number one provider of cancer insurance in Japan today. Over the years, Aflac Japan has customized its cancer insurance product to respond to, and anticipate, the needs of its consumers and the advances in medical treatments. The cancer insurance plans the Company offers in Japan provide a lump-sum benefit upon initial diagnosis of internal cancer and benefits for treatment received due to internal cancer such as fixed daily benefits for hospitalization, outpatient services and convalescent care, surgical benefits, and outpatient treatments. Aflac Japan has a unique Aflac-branded cancer insurance product for Japan's postal system, Japan Post (see the Distribution - Japan section for background information). In April 2018, Aflac Japan introduced a new cancer insurance product, DAYS 1, with enhanced cancer benefits. In addition to providing benefits for hospitalization, outpatient treatment, surgery, radiation therapy and anti-cancer drug treatment, this product was designed to provide benefits to improve quality of life and to cover out-of-pocket expenses not directly related to medical treatment. At the same time, Aflac Japan introduced DAYS 1 Plus to provide existing holders with up-to-date coverage. As the number one provider of cancer insurance in Japan, the Company believes these products further strengthen its brand, and most importantly, provide valuable benefits to consumers who are looking for solutions to manage cancer-related costs.

Aflac Japan's EVER product is a stand-alone, whole-life medical insurance product which offers a basic level of hospitalization coverage with an affordable premium. The current version of this product includes riders to be associated with three critical illnesses (cancer, heart attack, and stroke) to better respond to consumers' needs for coverage of serious illnesses. These riders provide policyholders with a benefit upon the diagnosis for those three critical illnesses, waiver of premium payment thereafter and unlimited hospital days for such critical illnesses. Since its initial introduction, Aflac Japan has expanded its suite of EVER product offerings to appeal to specific types of Japanese consumers and achieve greater market penetration. In 2017, Aflac Japan revised the EVER product by introducing riders for lump-sum hospitalization benefits and surgeries for female-specific diseases as well as strengthening outpatient benefits and reducing premiums centered on the young- to middle-aged market segments. This product also offers a short-pay premium period to policyholders. Gentle EVER, Aflac Japan's non-standard medical insurance product, was designed to meet the needs of certain consumers who cannot qualify for the base EVER plan.

In October 2018, Aflac Japan launched a new type of medical product referred to as Health Promotion Medical Insurance where a policyholder is entitled to a partial refund of the premium if the policyholders' “health age” measured by certain health check items is lower than his or her actual age. This product is marketed exclusively online and targeted at younger generations.

The Company believes that the affordable cancer and medical insurance products Aflac Japan provides will continue to be an important part of its product portfolio. Nevertheless, as the Company continues its long history of product innovation, Aflac Japan's product portfolio has expanded beyond traditional health-related products.

Aflac Japan's Income Support Insurance provides fixed-benefit amounts in the event that a policyholder is unable to work due to significant illness or injury and was developed to supplement the disability coverage within Japan’s social security system. This product targets young to middle-aged consumers, and by focusing efforts on this demographic, Aflac Japan believes it is building relationships that lay the groundwork for the sale of its cancer and medical insurance later in life to the Income Support policyholders.

Beginning in 2013, Aflac Japan began to curtail sales of first sector savings-type products, such as WAYS, child endowment and fixed annuities, due to persistent low interest rates in Japan and, in particular, the relatively large capital commitment required by such products and their lower profitability, in such an environment. Aflac Japan continues to sell first sector protection-type products, which include term and whole life, to provide Aflac Japan’s traditional sales channels with a more comprehensive product portfolio to continue to cross-sell with third sector products. In July 2018, Aflac Japan introduced a first sector protection whole life product with low cash surrender value, which offers non-smoking policyholders further discounted premiums.

For additional information on Aflac Japan's products and composition of sales, see the Aflac Japan Segment subsection of MD&A in this report.


3


Item 1. Business



U.S.
The Company designs its U.S. insurance products to provide supplemental coverage for people who already have major medical or primary insurance coverage. Most of Aflac's U.S. policies are individually underwritten and marketed through independent agents. Additionally, Aflac U.S. started to market and administer group insurance products in 2009.

Aflac U.S. insurance policies pay benefits regardless of other insurance. Most of the Aflac U.S. insurance benefits are paid in cash directly to policyholders; therefore, customers have the opportunity to use this cash to help with expenses of their choosing.

Aflac U.S. offers accident coverage on both an individual and group basis. These policies pay cash benefits in the event of a covered injury. The accident portion of the policy includes lump-sum benefits for accidental death, dismemberment and specific injuries as well as fixed benefits for hospital confinement. Additional benefits are also available for home modifications, wellness and increased benefits for injuries related to participations in an organized sporting activity.

Aflac U.S. offers short-term disability benefits on both an individual and group basis. The individual short-term disability product has an Aflac Value Rider that pays a benefit, less claims, for every consecutive five-year term that the policy is in force.

Aflac U.S. offers coverage for critical care on both an individual and group basis. These policies are designed to pay cash benefits in the event of critical illnesses such as heart attack, stroke, or cancer. On an individually underwritten basis, Aflac U.S. offers cancer plans, critical illness plans, and critical care and recovery plans (formerly called specified health event). On a group basis Aflac U.S. offers critical illness plans.

Aflac U.S. offers hospital indemnity coverage on both an individual and group basis. Hospital indemnity products provide policyholders fixed dollar benefits triggered by hospitalization due to accident or sickness, or just sickness alone. Indemnity benefits for inpatient and outpatient surgeries, as well as various other diagnostic events, are also available. Aflac U.S. also offers a lump sum rider that can be added to its individual accident, short-term disability and hospital indemnity products. This rider, where available, provides a lump sum payment for a range of critical illness events including traumatic brain injury, Type 1 diabetes, advanced Alzheimer’s disease and many more. In January 2016, a new group hospital indemnity plan was introduced that includes 11 new benefits, including telemedicine and health screening. This plan provides flexibility, allowing the Company's clients to personalize their plan designs to complement the underlying medical coverage that is offered to employees.

Aflac U.S. offers additional coverages to those listed above, including dental, vision and life policies. Aflac U.S. offers fixed-benefit dental coverage on both an individual and group basis. Aflac U.S. offers Vision NowSM, an individually issued policy which provides benefits for serious eye health conditions and loss of sight as well as coverage for corrective eye materials and exam benefits. Aflac U.S. also offers term- and whole-life policies on both an individual and group basis.

For additional information on Aflac's U.S. products and composition of sales, see the Aflac U.S. Segment subsection of MD&A in this report.

Distribution Channels
 
Aflac Japan
 
Aflac U.S.
 
 
Individual/ Independent Corporate Agencies

 
Independent Associates


 
 
Affiliated Corporate Agencies
 
Brokers
 
 
Banks
 
 
 

Japan

The traditional channels through which Aflac Japan has sold its products consist of individual agents/agencies, independent corporate agencies, and affiliated corporate agencies. The individual agencies and independent corporate agencies that sell Aflac Japan's products give better access to workers at a vast number of small businesses in Japan. Agents' activities are primarily focused on insurance sales, with customer service support provided by the Aflac Contact Center. Affiliated corporate agencies are initially formed when companies establish subsidiary businesses to sell Aflac Japan's insurance products to employees as part of a benefit package, and in some cases expand to sell Aflac Japan products to other parties such as suppliers and customers.These agencies help Aflac Japan reach employees at large

4


Item 1. Business



worksites, and some of them are also successful in approaching customers outside their business groups. The Company believes that new agencies will continue to be attracted to Aflac Japan's competitive commissions, attractive products, superior customer service and strong brand image.

The Company has sold products to employees of banks since its entry into Japan in 1974. However, December 2007 marked the first time it was permissible for banks to sell Aflac Japan's type of insurance products to their customers. By the end of 2018, Aflac Japan had agreements with approximately 90% of the total number of banks in Japan, to sell its products. The Company believes Aflac Japan has more banks selling its supplemental health insurance products than any of its competitors. Japanese consumers rely on banks to provide traditional bank services, and also to provide insurance solutions and other services. The Company believes Aflac Japan's long-standing and strong relationships within the Japanese banking sector, along with its strategic preparations, have proven to be an advantage, particularly starting when this channel opened up for its products. Aflac Japan's partnerships throughout the banking sector provide Aflac Japan with a wider demographic of potential customers than it would otherwise have been able to reach, and it also allows banks to expand their product and service offerings to consumers.
In 2005, legislation aimed at privatizing Japan's postal system (Japan Post) was enacted into law. The privatization laws split Japan Post into four operating entities that began operating in October 2007. In 2007, one of these entities selected Aflac Japan as its provider of cancer insurance to be sold through its post offices, and, in 2008, Aflac Japan began selling cancer insurance through these post offices. Japan Post has historically been a popular place for consumers to purchase insurance products. Legislation to reform the postal system passed Japan’s legislature, the Diet, in April 2012 and resulted in the merger of two of the postal operating entities (the one that delivers the mail and the one that runs the post offices) in October 2012. In July 2013, Aflac Japan entered into a new agreement with Japan Post Holdings to further expand the partnership that was established in 2008. In June 2014, Japan Post Insurance (Kampo) received approval from Japan’s primary insurance regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), to enter into an agency contract with Aflac Japan. Under this contract, Aflac Japan currently distributes its cancer insurance products through 76 of Kampo's directly managed sales offices. Aflac Japan has developed a unique Aflac-branded cancer insurance product for Japan Post and Kampo that was introduced in October 2014. In 2015, Japan Post expanded the number of post offices that offer Aflac's cancer insurance products to more than 20,000 postal outlets.
The Company believes this alliance with Japan Post, which is included in Aflac Japan's affiliated corporate agencies distribution channel, has benefited and will continue to benefit Aflac Japan's cancer insurance sales. For example, sales of cancer insurance policies by Japan Post constituted approximately 25% of Aflac Japan's third sector sales during the 2018 calendar year. In December 2018, the Company announced that in a further strengthening of this alliance. Japan Post Holdings Co., Ltd, a Japanese corporation, (Japan Post Holdings) plans to purchase approximately 7% of the Parent Company's outstanding common shares through a trust using open market and private block purchases. Like all common shares in the Parent Company, the shares purchased by the trust will be eligible for 10-for-1 voting rights after being held for 48 consecutive months. In connection with this announcement, on December 19, 2018, the Parent Company and Aflac Japan entered into a Basic Agreement regarding the "Strategic Alliance Based on Capital Relationship" with Japan Post Holdings (Basic Agreement), and the Parent Company entered into a letter agreement with Japan Post Holdings (Letter Agreement). Under the Letter Agreement, Japan Post Holdings agreed (i) to establish and fund a voting trust in accordance with a trust agreement (Trust Agreement) by no later than February 28, 2019, (ii) upon establishment of the trust, to instruct the trustee and the sole shareholder of the trust to enter into, and to itself enter into, a shareholders agreement with the Parent Company (Shareholders Agreement) providing for, among other things, a cap on share ownership, a minimum holding period and a standstill provision and voting restrictions that effectively limit the trustee's voting rights to no more than 20% of the voting rights of the Parent Company and further restrict the trustee's voting rights with respect to certain change in control transactions. The terms of the investment do not provide Japan Post Holdings with a right to a board seat on the Parent Company's board of directors or with any other rights to control, manage or intervene in the management of the Parent Company. This strategic investment is subject to certain regulatory approvals in Japan, and the U.S. The Company anticipates that regulatory approvals will be received in the second half of 2019. The foregoing summary is subject to and qualified in its entirety by reference to the full text of the Basic Agreement and Letter Agreement, including the forms of Trust Agreement and Shareholders Agreement attached to the Letter Agreement, copies of which are included as Exhibits 10.47 and 10.48 attached hereto and the terms of which are incorporated herein by reference.

For additional information on Aflac Japan's distribution, see the Aflac Japan Segment subsection of MD&A in this report.

5


Item 1. Business



U.S.
As of December 31, 2018, the U.S. sales force was composed of sales associates and brokers who are licensed to sell accident and health insurance. Many are also licensed to sell life insurance. Aflac U.S. utilizes dual-channel distribution to market its insurance products to businesses of all sizes. The career agent channel focuses on marketing Aflac to the small business market, which consists of employers with less than 100 employees. As such, Aflac U.S. has aligned its recruiting, training, compensation, marketing and incentives for its career agents to encourage specific activity and sales of individual policies in this market. The broker channel focuses on selling to the mid- and large-case market, which is comprised of employers with more than 100 employees and typically an average size of 1,000 employees or more. Since regional and national brokers have traditionally served the mid- and large-case market, the sales professionals in the broker channel are assigned a geographic market to strengthen relationships with the top brokers and sell Aflac products to their clients. As a result, Aflac U.S. is represented on 160 benefit administration platforms, sometimes referred to as exchanges, of various brokers.

Sales associates and brokers are independent contractors and are paid commissions based on first-year and renewal premiums from their sales of insurance products. In addition to receiving commissions on personal production, district and regional sales coordinators may also receive override commissions and incentive bonuses.

Aflac U.S. has continued to evolve its career and broker management infrastructure to drive growth in sales. In 2017, Aflac hired a Chief Distribution Officer to align the strategies of career and broker channels and to further expand U.S. distribution. All Aflac U.S. sales channels are now within the organizational structure of the Chief Distribution Officer. Prior to this change, the broker and career channels were part of separate organizational structures. Aflac U.S. believes the addition of this role will enhance performance management and augment its long-term sales strategy.

Aflac U.S. concentrates on marketing its insurance products at the worksite. This method offers policies to individuals through employment, trade and other associations. Historically, Aflac U.S. policies have been individually underwritten, however over the past several years, guaranteed issue options have become available. Premiums are generally paid by the employee. Additionally, Aflac's individual policies are portable, meaning that individuals may retain their full insurance coverage upon separation from employment or such affiliation, generally at the same premium. Individual policies are typically guaranteed-renewable for the lifetime of the policyholder (to age 75 for short-term disability policies). Aflac U.S. collects a major portion of premiums on such sales through payroll deduction or other forms of centralized billing. With Aflac U.S. brokerage sales expansion and CAIC, branded as Aflac Group Insurance, Aflac U.S. offers group voluntary insurance products desired by many large employers. These products are sold on a group basis and often have some element of guaranteed issue. Worksite marketing enables sales associates and brokers to reach a greater number of prospective policyholders and lowers distribution costs, compared with individually marketed business.

For additional information on Aflac's U.S. distribution, see the Aflac U.S. Segment subsection of MD&A in this report.
Competition
Japan
In 1974, Aflac was granted an operating license to sell life insurance in Japan, making Aflac the second non-Japanese life insurance company to gain direct access to the Japanese insurance market. Through 1981, Aflac Japan faced limited competition for cancer insurance policy sales. However, Japan has experienced two periods of deregulation since Aflac Japan entered the market. The first came in the early 1980s, when nine mid-sized insurers, including domestic and foreign companies, were allowed to sell cancer insurance products for the first time. The second period began in 2001 when all life and non-life insurers were allowed to sell stand-alone cancer and medical insurance products as well as other stand-alone health insurance products. As a result, the number of insurance companies offering stand-alone cancer and medical insurance has more than doubled since the market was deregulated in 2001. However, based on Aflac Japan's growth of annualized premiums in force and diversified distribution network, the Company does not believe that Aflac Japan's market-leading position has been significantly impacted by increased competition. Furthermore, the Company believes the continued development and maintenance of operating efficiencies will allow Aflac Japan to offer affordable products that appeal to consumers. Aflac Japan is the largest life insurer in Japan in terms of cancer and medical policies in force. As of December 31, 2018, Aflac Japan exceeded 24 million individual policies in force in Japan.

Aflac Japan has experienced substantial success selling cancer policies in Japan, with more than 15 million cancer policies in force as of December 31, 2018. Aflac Japan continued to be the number one seller of cancer insurance policies in Japan throughout 2018. The Company believes Aflac Japan will remain a leading provider of cancer insurance

6


Item 1. Business



coverage in Japan, principally due to its experience in the market, well-known brand, low-cost operations, expansive marketing system and product expertise. Further, the Company believes that its alliance with Japan Post will continue to benefit Aflac Japan's sales of cancer insurance in Japan. (See Distribution-Japan above for more information on Aflac Japan's marketing system and its alliance with Japan Post.)

Aflac Japan has also experienced substantial success selling medical insurance in Japan. While other companies have recognized the opportunities that Aflac Japan has seen in the medical insurance market and are frequently offering new products, Aflac Japan endeavors to keep its products attractive to consumers by revising benefits of medical insurance products more frequently than cancer insurance.

U.S.
Aflac U.S. competes against several voluntary supplemental insurance carriers on a national and regional basis. Aflac U.S. believes its policies, premium rates, platforms, value-added services and sales commissions are competitive by product type. Moreover, Aflac U.S. believes that its products are distinct from competitive offerings given its product focus (including features, benefits, and its claims service model), distribution capabilities, and brand awareness. For many companies with which Aflac U.S. competes, voluntary supplemental insurance products are sold as a secondary business. A growing number of major medical and life insurance carriers are also entering into the voluntary supplemental insurance market. For Aflac U.S., supplemental insurance products are its primary business and are sold via a distribution network of independent sales associates and brokers (see U.S. Distribution above). In addition, the Company believes that advertising campaigns for Aflac U.S. have increased name awareness and understanding among consumers and businesses of the value its products provide.

Both private and publicly-traded insurers offer major medical insurance for hospitalization and medical expenses. Much of this insurance is sold on a group basis to accounts that are both fully and self-insured. The federal and state governments also pay substantial costs of medical treatment through various programs. Major medical insurance generally covers a substantial portion of the medical expenses incurred by an insured. Aflac policies are designed to provide coverage that supplements major medical insurance by paying cash directly to the policyholder to use for expenses their major medical insurance is not designed to cover, or for any other uses that the policyholder chooses. Thus, Aflac U.S. does not compete directly with major medical insurers except those who sell supplemental insurance products as a secondary business. Any reduction of coverage, increase in employee participation costs, or increased deductibles and copayments by major medical commercial or government insurance carriers could favorably affect Aflac U.S. business opportunities. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) beginning in 2010, some employers have shifted a larger burden of the cost of care to their employees, primarily through increases in premiums, copays, and/or deductibles, such as through the use of high-deductible health plans. In addition, the Company believes that some employers have made increasing use of supplemental insurance product offerings in order to improve their competitiveness in employee recruitment and retention.

Since Aflac products provide an additional level of financial protection for policyholders, the Company believes the increased financial exposure some employees may face creates a favorable opportunity for Aflac U.S. products. However, given the profitability erosion some major medical carriers are facing in their core lines of business, the Company has seen a more competitive landscape as they seek entry into Aflac's supplemental product segments and leverage their core benefit offerings by bundling and discounting products in order to gain voluntary market share.

One Day PaySM is a claims initiative that Aflac U.S. introduced in 2015 to process, approve and pay eligible claims in just one day. The Company believes that along with its brand and relevant products, this claims practice has helped Aflac stand out from competitors.

Investments

Effective January 1, 2018, investments of Aflac U.S. as well as certain sub-advised assets of Aflac Japan, are managed by the Company’s U.S. asset management subsidiary, Aflac Asset Management LLC (AAM), and investments of Aflac Japan are managed pursuant to an investment advisory agreement between Aflac Japan and the Company's asset management subsidiary in Japan, Aflac Asset Management Japan Ltd. (AAMJ). AAMJ is licensed as a discretionary asset manager under the Japan Financial Instruments and Exchange Act and is subject to rules of the Japan Investment Advisors Association, a self-regulatory organization with mandatory membership for Japan investment managers. Beginning with the first quarter of 2018, AAM and AAMJ are reported in the "Corporate and other segment" category; however, the assets that they manage will be reported in the respective Aflac Japan and Aflac U.S. business segments.


7


Item 1. Business



Japan

The Company’s investment strategy with respect to Aflac Japan utilizes disciplined asset and liability management while seeking diversification, long-term risk-adjusted investment returns and the delivery of stable income within regulatory and capital objectives, as well as preserving shareholder value in the Aflac Japan business.

In attempting to optimally balance these objectives, the Company seeks to maintain on behalf of Aflac Japan a diversified portfolio of yen-denominated investment assets, U.S. dollar-denominated investment portfolio hedged back to yen and a portfolio of unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated assets. Each of these portfolios presents unique benefits and risks to the Company.

Yen-denominated investments included in Aflac Japan’s portfolio primarily consist of Japan Government Bonds (JGB), other public bonds and private placement fixed income instruments. The Company attempts to match both the duration and currency of these assets with Aflac Japan’s liabilities. This poses a difficulty in Aflac Japan due to the lack of suitable long-dated yen-denominated fixed income instruments. In 2012, the Company initiated a strategic approach to include U.S. dollar-denominated investments in Aflac Japan’s portfolio with the initial intent that they would be coupled with foreign exchange hedges. Today, this hedged U.S. dollar-denominated investment portfolio is mainly invested in long-term fixed and floating-rate loans and long-term investment-grade fixed income securities. The primary goals of the yen-denominated and hedged U.S. dollar portfolios are to provide sufficient yen cash flows to support the insurance liabilities and other yen-denominated obligations of Aflac Japan, and to seek appropriate long-term risk-adjusted investment returns supportive of solvency margin ratio (SMR) levels that provide sufficient dividend flows to the Parent Company. The hedges supporting this portion of the U.S. dollar portfolio pose derivative rollover risk that could amplify hedge costs in unfavorable market conditions, risk of counterparty default, and may require the Company to post collateral. In a declining yen environment, these hedges could result in negative cash settlements that may significantly increase liquidity requirements, thereby shifting funds away from other capital management opportunities including loss of investment income. If the combined yen-denominated and hedged U.S. dollar-denominated portfolios are larger than Aflac Japan's yen obligations, the economic value of these portfolios may be eroded under a long-term scenario of weakening yen due to foreign currency translation risk, one result of which may be to reduce the Company's dividend capacity.

The Company also maintains an unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated investment portfolio with the objectives of generating enhanced investment returns and mitigating certain of the risks posed by the yen and hedged U.S. dollar-denominated portfolios as outlined above. Further, the Company has determined that the unhedged portfolio acts as a natural economic currency hedge of a portion of the Company’s investment in Aflac Japan against erosion of economic value. However, the unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated investment portfolio creates an unmatched foreign currency exposure and subjects Aflac Japan to volatility in regulatory capital and earnings, which may adversely impact Aflac Japan’s ability to pay dividends to the Parent Company. The Company’s approach to sizing the unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated investment portfolio seeks to balance the unique risks presented by each of the three portfolios outlined above, but the overall investment strategy in Aflac Japan is guided primarily by the objective of securing the long-term financial strength of Aflac Japan and funding of yen liabilities. As a result, the Company has historically maintained and currently maintains the size of the unhedged portfolio at levels below the stressed economic surplus in Aflac Japan.

The determination of stressed economic surplus in Aflac Japan involves multiple models using multiple statistical approaches and assuming various economic and operating scenarios that are stressed to arrive at a range of potential outcomes. This range does not account for all economic scenarios, some of which may result in values outside of the range. The Company periodically assesses the stressed economic surplus in Aflac Japan, which fluctuates over time, and adjusts the size of the unhedged portfolio accordingly. The portfolio may include medium-term and long-term fixed-rate government and corporate (investment-grade and high-yield) bonds, floating-rate loans, public equities, and alternative asset classes. In determining the composition of the portfolio, the Company also considers diversification, hedge cost, investment returns relative to yen-denominated investment yields, and Aflac Japan capital requirements. At December 31, 2018, this unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated portfolio was approximately $14.4 billion, compared with approximately $13.0 billion at December 31, 2017. For additional discussion of business and market risks associated with the Company’s investment strategy in Japan, refer to the Risk Factors and Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk sections.

U.S.

The Company’s investment strategy with respect to Aflac U.S. utilizes disciplined asset and liability management while seeking long-term risk-adjusted investment returns and the delivery of stable income within regulatory and capital objectives. As part of the Company's portfolio management and asset allocation process, Aflac U.S. invests in fixed-maturity investments and growth assets, including public equities and alternative investments in limited partnerships.

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Item 1. Business



Aflac U.S. has been investing in both publicly traded and privately originated investment-grade and below-investment-grade fixed maturity securities and loans.

For further information on the Company's investments and investment results, see the Insurance Operations and Analysis of Financial Condition sections of MD&A and Notes 3, 4 and 5 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements in this report.

Regulation

Japan

The financial and business affairs of Aflac Japan are subject to examination by Japan's FSA. Aflac Japan files annual reports and financial statements for the Japanese insurance operations based on a March 31 fiscal year end, prepared in accordance with Japanese regulatory accounting practices prescribed or permitted by the FSA. Japanese regulatory basis earnings are determined using accounting principles that differ materially from U.S. GAAP. For example, under Japanese regulatory accounting practices, policy acquisition costs are expensed immediately; policy benefit and claim reserving methods and assumptions are different; premium income is recognized on a cash basis; different consolidation criteria apply to variable interest entities (VIEs); different accounting applies to reinsurance; and investments can have a separate accounting classification and treatment referred to as policy reserve matching bonds (PRM), which are recorded at amortized cost. Capital and surplus of Aflac Japan, based on Japanese regulatory accounting practices, was $6.4 billion at December 31, 2018, compared with $6.7 billion at December 31, 2017.

The FSA maintains a solvency standard, which is used by Japanese regulators to monitor the financial strength of insurance companies. As of December 31, 2018, Aflac Japan's SMR was 965%, compared with 1,064% at December 31, 2017. Aflac Japan's SMR is sensitive to interest rate, credit spread and foreign exchange rate changes. See the Capital Resources and Liquidity Section of MD&A for a discussion of measures the Company has taken to mitigate the sensitivity of Aflac Japan's SMR.

Prior to April 1, 2018, Aflac Japan repatriated a portion of its accumulated earnings, as determined on a Japanese regulatory accounting basis, to Aflac U.S. provided that Aflac Japan has determined that it adequately protected policyholders' interests as measured by its SMR. Starting in the fourth quarter of 2018, Aflac Japan distributes dividends to the Parent Company. Such dividends are subject to permitted dividend capacity under the Japan Company Law.

The Japanese insurance industry has a policyholder protection corporation that provides funds for the policyholders of insolvent insurers. For additional information regarding the policyholder protection fund, see the Policyholder Protection subsection of MD&A in this report.
In June 2013, a revision to the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act established a post-funded Orderly Resolution Regime for financial institutions to prevent a financial crisis in the event of a financial institution’s failure. This regime came into effect in March 2014 and has not had, and is not expected to have, a material impact on the Company's operations in Japan.

For additional information regarding Aflac Japan's operations and regulations, see the Aflac Japan Segment subsection of MD&A and Notes 2 and 13 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements in this report.

U.S.
General
The Parent Company and its U.S. insurance subsidiaries, Aflac (a Nebraska-domiciled insurance company), American Family Life Assurance Company of New York (Aflac New York, a New York-domiciled insurance company), CAIC (redomiciled from South Carolina to Nebraska effective December 2016) and Tier One Insurance Company (TOIC, an Oklahoma-domiciled shell insurance company acquired by the Parent Company in 2017 with no operations) are subject to state regulations in the United States as an insurance holding company system. Such regulations generally provide that transactions between companies within the holding company system must be fair and equitable. In addition, transfers of assets among such affiliated companies, certain dividend payments from insurance subsidiaries, and material transactions between companies within the system, including management fees, loans and advances are subject to prior notice to, or approval by, state regulatory authorities. These laws generally require, among other things, the insurance holding company and each insurance company directly owned by the holding company to register with the insurance departments of their respective domiciliary states and to furnish annually financial and other information about the

9


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operations of companies within the holding company system.
Like all U.S. insurance companies, Aflac, Aflac New York, CAIC and TOIC are subject to regulation and supervision in the jurisdictions in which they do business. In general, the insurance laws of the various jurisdictions establish supervisory agencies with broad administrative powers relating to, among other things:
granting and revoking licenses to transact business
regulating trade and claims practices
licensing of insurance agents and brokers
approval of policy forms and premium rates
standards of solvency and maintenance of specified policy benefit reserves and minimum loss ratio requirements
capital requirements
limitations on dividends to shareholders
the nature of and limitations on investments
deposits of securities for the benefit of policyholders
filing of financial statements prepared in accordance with statutory insurance accounting practices prescribed or permitted by regulatory authorities
periodic examinations of the market conduct, financial, and other affairs of insurance companies
The insurance laws of Nebraska that govern Aflac's activities provide that the acquisition or change of “control” of a domestic insurer or of any person that controls a domestic insurer cannot be consummated without the prior approval of the Nebraska Department of Insurance. A person seeking to acquire control, directly or indirectly, of a domestic insurance company or of any person controlling a domestic insurance company (in the case of Aflac, the Parent Company) must generally file with the Nebraska Department of Insurance (NDOI) an application for change of control containing certain information required by statute and published regulations and provide a copy to Aflac. In Nebraska, control is generally presumed to exist if any person, directly or indirectly, acquires 10% or more of an insurance company or of any other person or entity controlling the insurance company. The 10% presumption is not conclusive and control may be found to exist at less than 10%. Similar laws apply in New York, the domiciliary jurisdiction of Aflac's New York insurance subsidiary.
State insurance departments conduct periodic examinations of the books and records, financial reporting, policy filings and market conduct of insurance companies domiciled in their states, generally once every three to five years. Examinations are generally carried out in cooperation with the insurance departments of other states under guidelines promulgated by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). In 2016, full-scope, risk-focused financial examinations were conducted by the NDOI, New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), and the South Carolina Department of Insurance (SCDOI) on their state domiciled insurance entities American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus, American Family Life Assurance Company of New York, and Continental American Insurance Company, respectively. The NDOI and NYDFS exams covered a four-year period ending December 31, 2015, whereas the SCDOI exam covered a five-year period ending December 31, 2015. There were no material findings contained in the NDOI, NYDFS and SCDOI final exam reports. 

The NAIC continually reviews regulatory matters, such as risk-based capital (RBC) modernization, group capital calculations, liquidity risk assessment and principle-based reserving. The NAIC has adopted a valuation manual containing a principle-based approach to calculation of life insurance reserves. The valuation manual became effective January 1, 2017. There is a three-year transition period, beginning January 1, 2017, during which companies can choose on a product by product basis to implement principle-based reserving for new business. The Company anticipates that the adoption of this manual will not cause a material impact on the statutory reserves of Aflac, Aflac New York or CAIC. The NAIC uses an RBC formula relating to insurance risk, business risk, asset risk and interest rate risk to facilitate identification by insurance regulators of inadequately capitalized insurance companies based upon the types and mix of risk inherent in the insurer's operations. The formulas for determining the amount of RBC specify various weighting factors that are applied to financial balances or various levels of activity based on the perceived degree of risk. Regulatory compliance is determined by a ratio of a company's regulatory total adjusted capital to its authorized control level RBC as defined by the NAIC. Companies below specific trigger points or ratios are classified within certain levels, each of which requires specified corrective action. The levels are company action, regulatory action, authorized control, and mandatory control. As of December 31, 2018, based on year-end statutory accounting results, Aflac's company action level RBC ratio was 560%. The 2018 RBC as filed is lower than Aflac U.S. stand-alone RBC due to the inclusion of Aflac Japan for the first quarter of 2018. The RBC charge reflects the business risk without any total adjusted capital (TAC). Aflac's NAIC RBC ratio remains high and reflects a very strong capital and surplus position.

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Under state insurance guaranty association laws and similar laws in international jurisdictions, the Company is subject to assessments, based on the share of business the Company writes in the relevant jurisdiction, for certain obligations of insolvent insurance companies to policyholders and claimants. In the United States, some states permit member insurers to recover assessments paid through full or partial premium tax offsets. The Company's policy is to accrue assessments when the entity for which the insolvency relates has met its state of domicile's statutory definition of insolvency, the amount of the loss is reasonably estimable and the related premium upon which the assessment is based is written. In most states, the definition is met with a declaration of financial insolvency by a court of competent jurisdiction. For additional information regarding state insurance guaranty assessments, see the U.S. Regulatory Environment subsection of MD&A in this report.

Healthcare Reform Legislation

Federal legislation and administrative policies in several areas, including health care reform legislation, financial services reform legislation, securities regulation, pension regulation, privacy, tort reform legislation and taxation, can significantly and adversely affect insurance companies. For example, the ACA, federal health care reform legislation, gave the U.S. federal government direct regulatory authority over the business of health insurance. The reform included major changes to the U.S. health care insurance marketplace. Among other changes, the reform legislation included an individual medical insurance coverage mandate (which has since been repealed effective 2019 by the Tax Act, discussed below), provided for penalties on certain employers for failing to provide adequate coverage, created health insurance exchanges, and addressed coverage and exclusions as well as medical loss ratios. It also imposed an excise tax on certain high cost plans, known as the “Cadillac tax,” that is currently scheduled to begin in 2022. The legislation also included changes in government reimbursements and tax credits for individuals and employers and altered federal and state regulation of health insurers. The ACA, as enacted, does not require material changes in the design of the Company's insurance products. However, indirect consequences of the legislation and regulations could present challenges that could potentially have an impact on the Company's sales model, financial condition and results of operations. The United States Congress has considered and may continue to consider legislation that would repeal and replace key provisions of the ACA. There can be no assurance that any legislation affecting the ACA will be passed by Congress, nor as to the ultimate timing or provisions of any such legislation, nor as to the effect of any such legislation on the design or marketability of the Company's insurance products. Further, certain provisions of the ACA have been and may continue to be subject to challenge through litigation, the ultimate effects of which on the ACA are uncertain.

Tax Reform Legislation

A budget reconciliation act commonly referred to as the Tax Cuts and Job Act (Tax Act) was signed into law on December 22, 2017. Among other things, effective January 1, 2018, the Tax Act reduced the U.S. federal statutory corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%, eliminated or reduced certain deductions and credits, and limited the deductibility of interest expense and executive compensation.

The Tax Act also transitions international corporate taxation from a worldwide system to a modified territorial system, which in light of the current tax treatment of Aflac Japan has the effect of subjecting the earnings of Aflac Japan to Japan taxation and subjecting the Company’s other earnings, including the consolidated earnings of the Parent Company, to U.S. taxation.

These changes were effective on January 1, 2018. Because changes to tax rates are accounted for in the period of enactment, during the period ended December 31, 2017, the Company revalued its deferred tax assets and liabilities and recorded, as the Company’s reasonable estimate, a net deferred tax liability reduction of $1.9 billion as of that date. As of the fourth quarter of 2018, the Company recorded an immaterial adjustment to the provisional amount of deferred tax liabilities (DTLs) related to the Japan tax computation and no valuation allowance adjustment related to anticipatory foreign tax credit asset, rendering final values for the Company's deferred tax liability. See Note 10 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements presented in this report. For information on the conversion of Aflac Japan from a branch to a subsidiary, see General Business under this Business section, above.


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Dodd-Frank Act

Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank) and regulations issued thereunder, in particular rules to require central clearing for certain types of derivatives, may have an impact on Aflac's derivative activity, including activity on behalf of Aflac Japan. In addition, in 2015 and 2016, six U.S. financial regulators, including the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), issued final rules regarding the exchange of initial margin (IM) and variation margin (VM) for uncleared swaps that impose greater obligations on swap dealers regarding uncleared swaps with certain counterparties, such as Aflac. The requirements of such rules with respect to VM, as well as similar regulations in Europe, became effective on March 1, 2017. Full compliance with respect to all counterparties was required by September 1, 2017. The requirements of such rules with respect to IM are currently being phased in and will be fully implemented by September 1, 2020. In October of 2017, the CFTC and the European Commission each finalized comparability determinations that permit certain swap dealers who are subject to both regulatory margin regimes to take advantage of substituted compliance by complying with one set of margin requirements. The margin requirements are expected to result in more stringent collateral requirements and to affect other aspects of Aflac's derivatives activity.

The Dodd-Frank Act also established a Federal Insurance Office (FIO) under the U.S. Treasury Department to monitor all aspects of the insurance industry and of business lines other than certain health insurance, certain long-term care insurance and crop insurance. Traditionally, U.S. insurance companies have been regulated primarily by state insurance departments. The FIO does not directly regulate the insurance industry, but under Dodd-Frank it has the power to preempt state insurance regulations that are inconsistent with international agreements reached by the federal government, subject to certain requirements and restrictions. The FIO and certain federal agencies must achieve consensus positions with the state insurance regulators when taking positions on insurance proposals by certain international forums. In December 2013, the FIO released a report entitled "How To Modernize And Improve The System Of Insurance Regulation In The United States." The report was required by the Dodd-Frank Act, and included 18 recommended areas of near-term reform for the states, including addressing capital adequacy and safety/soundness issues, reform of insurer resolution practices, and reform of marketplace regulation. The report also listed nine recommended areas for direct federal involvement in insurance regulation. Some of the recommendations outlined in the FIO report released in December 2013 have been implemented. The National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers Reform Act, signed into law in January 2015, simplifies the agent and broker licensing process across state lines. The FIO has also engaged with the supervisory colleges to monitor financial stability and identify regulatory gaps for large national and internationally active insurers.

The current U.S. presidential administration and Congress have made recent attempts to reform or repeal certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, some of which have been implemented. For example, in 2018, President Trump signed into law the “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.” Members of Congress have also introduced multiple bills that would impact or eliminate the FIO. The Federal Reserve is developing a rulemaking regarding the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s (the Council) ability to designate nonbank financial companies as Systemically Important Financial Institutions, and, pursuant to an Executive Order, the Treasury Department released a report on the Council’s designation authority. The Company cannot predict with any degree of certainty what impact, if any, such proposals will have on Aflac's business, financial condition, or results of operations.

Further Information

For further information concerning Aflac U.S. operations, regulation, change of control and dividend restrictions, see the Aflac U.S. Segment subsection of MD&A and Notes 2 and 13 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements in this report.

Privacy and Cybersecurity

The collection, maintenance, use, protection, disclosure and disposal of individually identifiable data by the Company's businesses are regulated at the international, federal and state levels. These laws and rules are subject to change by legislation or administrative or judicial interpretation. Various state laws address the unauthorized access and acquisition of personal information and the use and disclosure of individually identifiable health data to the extent they are more restrictive than those contained in the privacy and security provisions in the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 (GLBA) and in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). For example, in June 2018, California passed a data privacy law, scheduled to become effective January 2020, that requires businesses to provide California consumers rights to access, delete, and restrict certain uses of their personal information. HIPAA also requires that the Company imposes privacy and security requirements on its business associates (as such term is defined in the HIPAA regulations). With regard to personal information obtained from policyholders, the insured, or others, Aflac Japan is

12


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regulated in Japan by the Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI) and guidelines issued by FSA and other governmental authorities. The FSA updated its guidelines regarding cybersecurity in October 2018.

Cybersecurity also continues to be an area of evolving focus for U.S. legislation and regulatory activity. In March 2017, new cybersecurity regulation issued by the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) went into effect that requires covered entities, including Aflac New York, to maintain an information security program meeting certain security, data disposal, audit, activity monitoring, and data encryption requirements. In October 2017, the NAIC adopted an Insurance Data Security Model Law that may be adopted in whole or in part by U.S. states in which the Company’s subsidiaries are licensed. Other states have adopted and, the Company expects, will continue to pass legislation and issue regulations related to cybersecurity. The Company anticipates, assesses, and if necessary modifies its information security program to accommodate such changes.

The Company’s Board of Directors has adopted an information security policy directing management to establish and operate an information security program with the goal of ensuring that the Company’s information assets and data, and the data of its customers, are appropriately protected. The Board has delegated oversight of the Company’s information security program to the Audit and Risk Committee. The Company’s senior officers, including its Global Security and Chief Information Security Officer, are responsible for the operation of the information security program and regularly communicate with the Audit and Risk Committee on the program, including with respect to the state of the program, compliance with applicable regulations, current and evolving threats, and recommendations for changes in the information security program. The information security program also includes a cybersecurity incident response plan that is designed to provide a management framework across Company functions for a coordinated assessment and response to potential security incidents. This framework establishes a protocol to report certain incidents to the Global Security and Chief Information Security Officer and other senior officers, with the goal of timely assessing such incidents, determining applicable disclosure requirements and communicating with the Audit and Risk Committee. The incident response plan directs the executive officers to report certain incidents immediately and directly to the Lead Non-Management Director.

Other Operations
The Company's other operations include the Parent Company, results of reinsurance retrocession activities, and a printing subsidiary. For additional information on the Company's other operations, see the Corporate and Other subsection of MD&A and Note 8 in the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Employees
As of December 31, 2018, Aflac Japan had 6,121 employees, Aflac U.S. had 4,712 employees, and the Company's other operations had 557 employees.

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Executive Officers of the Registrant
NAME
PRINCIPAL OCCUPATION(1)
AGE
Daniel P. Amos
Chairman, Aflac Incorporated and Aflac, since 2001; Chief Executive Officer, Aflac Incorporated and Aflac, since 1990
67

 
 
 
Koji Ariyoshi
Executive Vice President, Director of Sales and Marketing, Aflac Japan, since 2012
65

 
 
 
Max K. Broden
Senior Vice President and Treasurer, Aflac Incorporated, since 2017; Senior Portfolio Manager, Norges Bank, from 2007 until 2017
40

 
 
 
Frederick J. Crawford
Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, Aflac Incorporated, since 2015; Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, CNO Financial Group from 2012 until 2015; Executive Vice President, Head of Investment and Corporate Development, Lincoln Financial Group from 2010 until 2012
55

 
 
 
J. Todd Daniels
Executive Vice President and Principal Financial Officer, Aflac Japan, since 2018; Executive Vice President, Global Chief Risk Officer and Chief Actuary, Aflac, from 2016 until 2018; Senior Vice President, Global Chief Risk Officer and Chief Actuary, Aflac, from 2015 until 2016; Senior Vice President, Deputy Corporate Actuary and Global Chief Risk Officer, Aflac, from 2014 until 2015; Senior Vice President, Deputy Corporate Actuary, Aflac, from 2012 until 2014; Vice President, Financial Planning and Analysis, Aflac, from 2011 until 2012
48

 
 
 
June Howard
Chief Accounting Officer, Aflac Incorporated and Aflac, since 2010; Senior Vice President, Financial Services, Aflac Incorporated and Aflac, since 2010; Treasurer, Aflac, from 2011 until 2015
52

 
 
 
Eric M. Kirsch
Executive Vice President, Global Chief Investment Officer, Aflac, since 2012; President, Aflac Asset Management LLC, since 2017; First Senior Vice President, Global Chief Investment Officer, Aflac, from 2011 until 2012
58

 
 
 
Masatoshi Koide
President and Chief Operating Officer, Aflac Japan since 2017; Deputy President, Aflac Japan from 2016 until 2017; Executive Vice President, Aflac Japan from 2015 until 2016; First Senior Vice President, Aflac Japan from 2013 until 2015; Senior Vice President, Aflac Japan from 2012 until 2013
58

 
 
 
Charles D. Lake, II
President, Aflac International, since 2014; Chairman, Aflac Japan, since 2008
57

 
 
 
Albert A. Riggieri
Senior Vice President, Global Chief Risk Officer and Chief Actuary, Aflac, since 2018; Senior Vice President, Corporate Actuary, Aflac, from 2016 until 2018; Group Chief Actuary, Unum Group, until 2016
63

 
 
 
Audrey B. Tillman
Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Aflac Incorporated and Aflac, since 2014; Executive Vice President, Corporate Services, Aflac Incorporated, from 2008 until 2014
54

 
 
 
Teresa L. White
President, Aflac U.S., since 2014; Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Aflac, from 2013 until 2014; Executive Vice President, Chief Service Officer, Aflac, from 2012 until 2013; Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, Aflac, from 2008 until 2013
52

 
 
 
Richard L. Williams Jr.
Executive Vice President and Chief Distribution Officer, Aflac since 2017; Senior Vice President and General Manager, Stop Loss, Unum, U.S. in 2017; Senior Vice President, Growth Markets, Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company from 2013 until 2017
47

(1)Unless specifically noted, the respective executive officer has held the occupation(s) set forth in the table for at least the last five years. Each executive officer is appointed annually by the board of directors and serves until his or her successor is chosen and qualified, or until his or her death, resignation or removal.

14


Item 1A. Risk Factors

ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
The Company faces a wide range of risks, and its continued success depends on its ability to identify, prioritize and appropriately manage enterprise risk exposures. Readers should carefully consider each of the following risks and all of the other information set forth in this Form 10-K. These risks and other factors may affect forward-looking statements, including those in this document or made by the Company elsewhere, such as in earnings release webcasts, investor conference presentations or press releases. The risks and uncertainties described herein may not be the only ones facing the Company. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to the Company or that the Company currently believes to be immaterial may also adversely affect its business. If any of the following risks and uncertainties develops into actual events, there could be a material impact on the Company.
Difficult conditions in global capital markets and the economy could have a material adverse effect on the Company's investments, capital position, revenue, profitability, and liquidity and harm the Company's business.
The Company's results of operations are materially affected by conditions in the global capital markets and the global economy generally, including in its two primary operating markets of the United States and Japan. Weak global financial markets impact the value of the Company's existing investment portfolio, influence opportunities for new investments, and may contribute to generally weak economic fundamentals, which can have a negative impact on its operating activities.

In recent years, global capital markets have been severely impacted by several major events. The financial crisis that began in the latter part of 2008 saw dramatic declines in investment values and weak economic conditions as the global financial system came under extreme pressure. Although U.S. markets began recovering in late 2009 and 2010, Europe continued to struggle under a severely weakened banking system and investor concerns with sovereign debt levels. Following a period of unprecedented intervention by governments and central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank (ECB), financial conditions improved from the dire conditions of the global financial crisis, global recession, and European debt crisis. More recently, global markets have experienced bouts of volatility due to uncertainty surrounding a British exit from the European Union, Japan’s continued recovery amidst assorted policy changes, volatility in global commodity prices including oil, divergent monetary policies in the United States versus many other developed economies, heightened concerns surrounding the Chinese economy and increasing protectionism in U.S. foreign trade policy. While capital and market conditions have been generally favorable in the last year, volatility increased in the fourth quarter and the prospect for increased volatility remains.

A recent shift in the global trading policies by the U.S. and subsequent trade conflict with China has raised concerns about a slowdown of the Chinese economy. In addition, the U.S. and Japan are engaged in discussions regarding changes to tariffs and trade agreements. While it is not expected that the Company's products would be directly impacted by tariff, any resulting economic downturn could adversely affect the Company.

Activity by the government of North Korea in 2018 was the subject of increasing focus for a number of other governments, including those of the United States and Japan. Although hostile rhetoric has decreased, such North Korean activity and related geopolitical risk could have a significant impact on financial market conditions across the world. Under certain circumstances, government actions taken in response to the North Korean situation could have a material impact on the Company's Japan and U.S. operations and financial performance, including the indirect impact of potentially severe and prolonged capital market volatility and disruption.

As the Company holds a significant amount of fixed maturity securities issued by borrowers located in many different parts of the world, including a large portion issued by banks and financial institutions, sovereigns, and other corporate borrowers in the United States and Europe, its financial results are directly influenced by global financial markets. A retrenchment of the recent strength of the capital markets could adversely affect the Company's financial condition, including its capital position and overall profitability. Market volatility and recessionary pressures could result in significant realized or unrealized losses due to severe price declines driven by increases in interest rates or credit spreads, defaults in payment of principal or interest, or credit rating downgrades.

Following the election of Shinzo Abe as Prime Minister of Japan in December 2012, the new administration adopted a new set of financial measures to stimulate the Japanese economy, including imposing negative interest rates on excess bank reserves. In December 2014 and October 2017 snap-elections, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won decisive victories further strengthening Mr. Abe's ability to continue with economic reforms and address key policy challenges. In September 2018, Mr. Abe won reelection to another three-year term as president of the LDP. Most recently, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) signaled to hold its policy rate at zero and to continue yield curve control to maintain a targeted

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

yield on the 10-year Japan Government Bond (JGB). Prime Minister Abe’s election victories may result in the continuation of current monetary policy, but there can be no guarantee that this is the case.

Japan is the largest market for the Company's products, and the Company owns substantial holdings in JGBs. Government actions to stimulate the economy affect the value of the Company's existing holdings, its reinvestment rate on new investments in JGBs or other yen-denominated assets, and consumer behavior relative to the Company's suite of products. The additional government debt from fiscal stimulus actions could adversely impact the Japan sovereign credit profile, which could in turn lead to volatility in Japanese capital and currency markets.

The Company's investment portfolio has sizeable credit positions in many other geographic areas of the world including the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and other emerging markets. Deterioration in their underlying economies, sovereign credit worthiness, or financial market conditions could negatively impact the Company's financial position.

While the Company has continued to add floating rate investments to its investment portfolio, most of its investment portfolio holdings are income-producing bonds that provide a fixed level of income. Many of the Company's investments were made at the relatively low level of interest rates prevailing over the last decade. Any increase in the market yields of the Company's holdings due to an increase in interest rates could create substantial unrealized losses in the Company's portfolio, as discussed further in a separate risk factor in this section of the Form 10-K.

The Company needs liquidity to pay its operating expenses, dividends on its common stock, interest on its debt, and liabilities. For a further description of the Company's liquidity needs, including maturing indebtedness, see the Capital Resources and Liquidity section of MD&A in this report. In the event the Company's current resources do not meet its needs, the Company may need to seek additional financing. The Company's access to additional funding will depend on a variety of factors such as market conditions, the general availability of credit to the financial services industry and its credit rating.

Should investors become concerned with any of the Company's investment holdings, including the concentration in JGBs, its access to market sources of funding could be negatively impacted. There is a possibility that lenders or debt investors may also become concerned if the Company incurs large investment losses or if the level of the Company's business activity decreases due to a market downturn or there are further adverse economic trends in the United States or Japan, specifically, or generally in developed markets. Similarly, the Company's access to funds may be impaired if regulatory authorities or rating agencies take negative actions. See more information on recent rating actions later in this Risk Factors section.

Broad economic factors such as consumer spending, business investment, government spending, the volatility and strength of the capital markets, and inflation all affect the business and economic environment and, indirectly, the amount and profitability of the Company's business. In an economic downturn characterized by higher unemployment, lower family income, lower corporate earnings, lower business investment and lower consumer spending, the demand for financial and insurance products could be adversely affected. This adverse effect could be particularly significant for companies such as Aflac that distribute supplemental, discretionary insurance products primarily through the worksite in the event that economic conditions result in a decrease in the number of new hires and total employees. Adverse changes in the economy could potentially lead the Company's customers to be less inclined to purchase supplemental insurance coverage or to decide to cancel or modify existing insurance coverage, which could adversely affect the Company's premium revenue, results of operations and financial condition. The Company is unable to predict the course of the global financial markets or the recurrence, duration or severity of disruptions in such markets.

The Company is exposed to significant interest rate risk, which may adversely affect its results of operations, financial condition and liquidity.
The Company has substantial investment portfolios that support its policy liabilities. Low levels of interest rates on investments experienced in Japan and the United States over the last decade have reduced the level of investment income earned by the Company. The Company's overall level of investment income will be negatively impacted in a persistent low-interest-rate environment. While the Company generally seeks to maintain a diversified portfolio of fixed-income investments that reflects the cash flow and duration characteristics of the liabilities it supports, the Company may not be able to fully mitigate the interest rate risk of its assets relative to its liabilities. The Company's exposure to interest rate risk relates primarily to the ability to invest future cash flows to support the interest rate assumption made at the time the Company's products were priced and the related reserving assumptions were established. A sustained decline in interest rates could hinder the Company's ability to earn the returns assumed in the pricing and the reserving for its products at the time they were sold and issued. Due to low interest rates, the Company's ability to earn the returns it expects may also influence the Company's ability to develop and price attractive new products and could impact its overall

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

sales levels. The Company's first sector products are more interest rate sensitive than third sector products. As discussed in Item 1. Business, beginning in 2013, Aflac Japan began to curtail sales of first sector savings-type products due to persistent low interest rates in Japan. The continuing negative interest rate imposed by the BoJ on excess bank reserves could continue to have a negative impact on the distribution and pricing of these products.
A rise in interest rates could improve the Company's ability to earn higher rates of return on future investments, as well as floating rate investments held in its investment portfolio. However, an increase in the differential of short-term U.S. and Japan interest rates would increase the cost of hedging a portion of the U.S. dollar-denominated assets in the Aflac Japan segment into yen, which could have a material adverse effect on the Company's business, results of operations or financial condition. The Company’s floating rate investments typically bear interest based on the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Regulatory and industry initiatives to eliminate LIBOR as an interest rate benchmark may create uncertainty in the valuation of LIBOR-based loans, as well as for other LIBOR-based derivatives and assets. This may adversely impact both pricing and liquidity in such instruments. The Company is unable to predict with certainty how LIBOR elimination may impact markets, pricing, liquidity and other factors or the Company's activities.
Changes in interest rates impact unrealized gains and losses of fixed income securities in the Company's investment portfolio; however, they do not have a direct impact on the related valuation of the corresponding liabilities. Prolonged periods of low interest rates, as have been experienced in recent years, heighten the risk of future increases in interest rates because an increasing proportion of the Company's investment portfolio includes investments that bear lower rates of return than the embedded book yield of the investment portfolio. A rise in interest rates could decrease the fair value of the Company's debt securities. Some of the insurance products that Aflac sells in the United States and Japan provide cash surrender values. A rise in interest rates could trigger significant policy surrenders, which might require the Company to sell investment assets and recognize unrealized losses. This situation is commonly referred to as disintermediation risk. The Company generally invests its assets to match the duration and cash flow characteristics of its policy liabilities, and therefore would not expect to realize most of these gains or losses, however, the Company's risk is that unforeseen events or economic conditions, such as changes in interest rates resulting from governmental monetary policies, domestic and international economic and political conditions, and other factors beyond the Company's control will reduce the effectiveness of this strategy. These events or economic conditions could either cause the Company to dispose of some or all of these investments prior to their maturity, or increase the risk that the issuers of these securities may default or may require impairment, which could result in the Company having to recognize such gains or losses.
Rising interest rates also negatively impact the SMR since unrealized losses on the available-for-sale investment portfolio factor into the ratio. For regulatory accounting purposes for Aflac Japan, there are certain requirements for realizing impairments that could be triggered by rising interest rates, negatively impacting Aflac Japan's earnings and corresponding dividends and capital deployment.
Further, interest rate risk is still an inherent portfolio, business and capital risk for the Company, and significant changes in interest rates could have a material adverse effect on the Company's consolidated results of operations, financial condition or cash flows through realized losses, impairments, changes in unrealized positions, and liquidity.

For more information regarding interest rate risk, see the Interest Rate Risk subsection within the Market Risks of Financial Instruments section of MD&A in this report.

The Company's concentration of business in Japan poses risks to its operations.
The Company's operations in Japan, including realized gains and losses on Aflac Japan's investment portfolio, accounted for 70% of the Company's total revenues for both 2018 and 2017, compared with 71% in 2016. The Japanese operations accounted for 84% of the Company's total assets at December 31, 2018, compared with 83% at December 31, 2017.

Further, because of the concentration of the Company's business in Japan and its need for long-dated yen-denominated assets, the Company has a substantial concentration of JGBs in its investment portfolio. As such the Company has material exposure to the Japanese economy, geo-political climate, political regime, and other factors that generally determine a country's creditworthiness. Specifically, the nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSROs, or "rating agencies"), credit rating agencies registered with the SEC, have placed increased scrutiny on JGBs, which are a significant component of the Company’s overall investment portfolio, resulting in downgrades as discussed later in this Risk Factors section. 

The Company seeks to match investment currency and interest rate risk to its yen liabilities. The low level of interest rates available on yen-denominated securities has a negative effect on overall net investment income. A large portion of

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

the cash available for reinvestment each year is deployed in yen-denominated instruments and subject to the low level of yen interest rates.

Any potential deterioration in Japan's credit quality, market access, the overall economy of Japan, or Japanese market volatility could adversely impact the business of Aflac in general and specifically Aflac Japan and its related results of operations and financial condition.

The Company is exposed to foreign currency fluctuations in the yen/dollar exchange rate.

Due to the size of Aflac Japan, where functional currency is the Japanese yen, fluctuations in the rate of exchange between the yen and the U.S. dollar can have a significant effect on the Company's reported financial position and results of operations. Aflac Japan's premiums and approximately half of its investment income are received in yen, and its claims and most expenses are paid in yen. Aflac Japan purchases yen-denominated assets and U.S. dollar-denominated assets, which may be hedged to yen, to support yen-denominated policy liabilities. These and other yen-denominated financial statement items are, however, translated into U.S. dollars for financial reporting purposes. Accordingly, fluctuations in the yen/dollar exchange rate can have a significant effect on the Company's reported financial position and results of operations. In periods when yen weakens, translating yen into U.S. dollars causes fewer U.S. dollars to be reported. When yen strengthens, translating yen into U.S. dollars causes more U.S. dollars to be reported. Any unrealized foreign currency translation adjustments are reported in accumulated other comprehensive income. As a result, yen weakening has the effect of suppressing current year results in relation to the prior year, while yen strengthening has the effect of magnifying current year results in relation to the prior year. In addition, the weakening of the yen relative to the U.S. dollar will generally adversely affect the value of the Company's yen-denominated investments in U.S. dollar terms.

The Company engages in certain foreign currency hedging activities for the purpose of hedging the yen exposure to its net investment in operations in Japan. These hedging activities are limited in scope, and the Company cannot provide assurance that these activities will be effective.

Unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated securities held by Aflac Japan are exposed to foreign exchange fluctuations, which impact SMR. In periods of yen strengthening, the unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated investments will experience unrealized foreign exchange losses, negatively impacting SMR. This impact increases when the size of the unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated portfolio increases, which can occur due to the purchase of additional unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated investments, or through termination or expiration of existing hedges. Unrealized currency gains and losses on unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated securities are monetized (or, in other words, are economically realized) only upon converting the proceeds from the sale, maturity or redemption of these securities to yen, which primarily occurs when yen are needed to satisfy policyholder obligations or other business expenses of Aflac Japan. To mitigate exposure to the foreign exchange risk from U.S. dollar-denominated investments and to reduce SMR volatility, the Company engages in certain currency hedging activities. However, these hedging activities are limited in scope and the Company cannot provide assurance that its hedging strategies will be effective. As a result, periods of unusually volatile currency exchange rates could result in limitations on dividends available to the Parent Company.

As indicated in the Item 1, Business, the Company has determined that the unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated investment portfolio acts as a natural economic currency hedge of a portion of the Company’s investment in Aflac Japan against erosion of economic value. However, the unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated investment portfolio at the same time creates an unmatched foreign currency exposure and subjects Aflac Japan to volatility in regulatory capital and earnings, which may adversely impact Aflac Japan’s ability to pay dividends to the Parent Company. The overall investment strategy in Aflac Japan is guided primarily by the objective of securing the long-term financial strength of Aflac Japan and funding of yen liabilities. As a result, the Company has historically maintained and currently maintains the size of the unhedged portfolio at levels below the stressed economic surplus in Aflac Japan. However, there can be no assurance that this strategy will be successful.

Furthermore, for regulatory accounting purposes, there are certain requirements for realizing impairments that could be triggered by changes in the rate of exchange between the yen and U.S. dollar and could negatively impact Aflac Japan's earnings and the corresponding dividends and capital deployment.

Additionally, the Company is exposed to currency risk when yen cash flows are converted into U.S. dollars, resulting in an increase or decrease in the Company's U.S. dollar-denominated cash flows and earnings when exchange gains or losses, respectively, are realized. This primarily occurs when the Company dividends funds from Aflac Japan to the Parent Company, but it also has an impact when cash in the form of yen is converted to U.S. dollars for investment into U.S. dollar-denominated assets. The exchange rates prevailing at the time of dividend payment may differ from the exchange rates prevailing at the time the yen profits were earned. In 2018, the Parent Company entered into forward contracts to

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

accomplish a dual objective of hedging foreign currency exchange rate risk related to dividend payments by Aflac Japan, and reducing enterprise-wide hedge costs. If the markets experience a significant strengthening of yen, this could cause cash strain at the Parent Company as a result of cash collateral and potentially cash settlement requirements. Based on the timing and severity of exchange rate fluctuations combined with the level of outstanding activity in this program, the cash strain at the Parent Company could be significant. 

For more information regarding unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated securities, see the risk factor below entitled, “Lack of availability of acceptable yen-denominated investments could adversely affect the Company’s results of operations, financial position or liquidity”. For more information regarding foreign currency risk, see the Currency Risk subsection within the Market Risks of Financial Instruments section of MD&A.

Lack of availability of acceptable yen-denominated investments could adversely affect the Company's results of operations, financial position or liquidity.
The Company attempts to match both the duration and currency of its assets with its liabilities. This is very difficult for Aflac Japan due to the lack of available long-dated yen-denominated fixed income instruments beyond JGBs.

Prior to the onset of the financial crisis of 2008, the Company was focused on investing cash flows in JGBs, which had relatively low yields, and utilizing private placement and perpetual securities to gain additional yield, extend the duration of the investment portfolio, and maintain yen exposure. Given call activity with respect to certain of the Company's legacy private placement investments, the Company has added a modest amount of yen-denominated private placements to its investment portfolio in recent periods. The investment in private placements carries risk associated with illiquidity, which is managed and monitored by the Company.

Starting in 2012, Aflac Japan augmented its investment strategy to include U.S. dollar-denominated investments, some of which could then be hedged back to yen. Initially this program focused on public investment-grade bonds but has evolved over time to include U.S. dollar-denominated investment-grade commercial mortgage loans, infrastructure debt, as well as other loan types, high yield bonds and U.S. equity securities. The Company plans to continue adding other instruments denominated in U.S. dollars, including floating rate investments, to improve the portfolio diversification and/or return profile. Some of the U.S. dollar-denominated asset classes that the Company has added, and anticipates continuing to add, have less liquidity than investment-grade corporate bonds. These strategies will continue to increase the Company's exposure to U.S. interest rates, credit spreads and other risks. The Company has increased foreign exchange risk exposure as the comprehensive hedging program may not always correlate to the underlying U.S. dollar-denominated assets, thereby increasing earnings volatility. These risks can significantly impact the Company's consolidated results of operations, financial position or liquidity.

Investing in U.S. dollar-denominated investments in Aflac Japan also creates an unmatched foreign currency exposure and related SMR volatility, as Aflac Japan’s insurance liabilities are yen-denominated. Although the Company engages in certain foreign exchange hedging activities to partially mitigate this risk, and such hedged assets may be used to satisfy yen-denominated insurance liabilities and other business obligations, important risks remain.

Foreign exchange derivatives used for hedging are periodically settled, which results in cash receipt or payment at maturity or early termination. The Company’s foreign exchange derivatives are typically shorter-dated than the underlying U.S. dollar-denominated investments being hedged, which creates roll-over risks within the hedging program that could increase the cost of such derivatives. If the Company reduces the notional amount of foreign exchange derivatives prior to the maturity of the hedged U.S. dollar-denominated investments, the foreign exchange gains or losses on the U.S. dollar-denominated investments remain economically unrealized. These gains or losses are only economically realized, or monetized, through sale, maturity or redemption of the investments and concurrent conversion to yen. However, the Company may not realize the benefit of offsetting adverse cash settlements on hedging derivatives with cash receipts on the U.S. dollar-denominated investments if the currency exchange rates move in an adverse direction before the investments are converted to yen, or if the investments are never converted to yen. As an example of the latter, if the Company’s actual insurance risk experience in Japan is as expected or more favorable than expected, the need for yen to pay expenses and claims would correspondingly remain at or below expected levels, thereby diminishing operational requirements to convert U.S. dollar-denominated investments to yen. Since 2012, the cumulative net cash settlements on derivatives hedging currency exposure of Aflac Japan’s U.S. dollar-denominated investments were an outflow of $3.9 billion as of December 31, 2018. These outflows or cumulative net negative settlements are associated with foreign exchange derivatives on existing U.S. dollar-denominated investments and hedged investments that have since been sold, matured or redeemed and may or may have not been converted to yen. Furthermore, the settlements include instances where the initial foreign exchange derivative notional amounts were reduced prior to the maturity of the hedged

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

investments. The settlement of the foreign exchange derivatives is reported in the investing activities section of the Company’s consolidated statements of cash flows in the line item “Settlement of derivatives, net.”

For more information regarding unhedged U.S. dollar-denominated securities, see the risk factor above entitled, “The Company is exposed to foreign currency fluctuations in the yen/dollar exchange rate.” For more information regarding Aflac Japan's U.S. dollar-denominated investments and hedging activities, see the Hedging Activities subsection within the Item 7. MD&A section in this report, and for more information regarding foreign currency risk, see the Currency Risk subsection within the Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk section in this report.

U.S. tax audit risk related to conversion of the Japan branch to a subsidiary could adversely impact the Company's financial position.

The conversion of the Japan branch to a legal subsidiary, which the Company executed in the second quarter of 2018, was a complex, tax-free transaction that is conditioned on the continued validity of a private letter ruling the Company received from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Notwithstanding the receipt of the private letter ruling, the IRS could determine that the Japan branch conversion should be treated as a taxable transaction. For example, the IRS could conclude that the representations, assumptions and covenants on which the private letter ruling is based are untrue, not accurate, or have not been fulfilled. If the IRS made such a conclusion, the Company could incur significant U.S. federal income tax liabilities or litigation costs to defend the tax-free treatment of the transaction outlined by the private letter ruling. Such liabilities or costs could have a material adverse effect on the Company's business, results of operations and financial condition.

If future policy benefits, claims or expenses exceed those anticipated in establishing premiums and reserves, the Company's financial results would be adversely affected.

The Company establishes premiums for many of its policies on assumptions for morbidity, mortality, longevity and persistency. The Company also establishes and carries, as a liability, reserves based on estimates of how much will be required to pay for future benefits and claims on its policies. The Company calculates these reserves using various assumptions and estimates, including premiums the Company will receive over the assumed life of the policy; the timing, frequency and severity of the events covered by the insurance policy; and the investment returns on the assets the Company purchases with a portion of its net cash flow from operations.

The assumptions and estimates that the Company uses in establishing premiums and reserves depend on the Company's judgment regarding the likelihood of future events and are inherently uncertain. Many factors can cause actual outcomes to deviate from these assumptions and estimates, such as changes in economic conditions, changes in government healthcare policy, advances in medical technology, changes in treatment patterns, and changes in average lifespan. Accordingly, the Company cannot determine with precision the ultimate amounts that it will pay for, or the timing of payment of, actual benefits and claims or whether the assets supporting the policy liabilities will grow to the level the Company assumes prior to payment of benefits or claims. If the Company's actual experience is different from its assumptions or estimates, the Company's reserves may prove inadequate. As a result, the Company would incur a charge to earnings in the period in which it determines such a shortfall exists, which could have a material adverse effect on the Company's business, results of operations and financial condition.

Generally, lower mortality decreases the profitability of third sector products in Japan, as more policyholders will survive into ages where they have a higher rate of claim incidence. This assumption can impact pricing and reserving.  For instance, Japan FSA periodically requires updates to their Standard mortality tables for FSA reserves. An update to the Standard mortality tables was performed in April 2018 applicable to all business issued after that date. For business that is inforce prior to the update, the change in mortality table would not have an impact. For new issues, the updated mortality tables would be included in our reserve assumptions, and slow the emergence of FSA earnings for third sector products and therefore will have an impact on pricing returns. The Company adjusts pricing assumptions as new products are developed to adjust for these mortality assumptions. 

The success of the Company's business depends in part on effective information technology systems and on continuing to develop and implement improvements in technology.

The Company's business depends in large part on its technology systems for interacting with employers, policyholders, sales associates, and brokers, and the Company's business strategy involves providing customers with easy-to-use products to meet their needs and ensuring employees have the technology in place to support those needs. Some of the Company's information technology systems and software are older, legacy-type systems that are less efficient and require an ongoing commitment of significant resources to maintain or upgrade to current standards including

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

adequate business continuity procedures. The Company is in a continual state of upgrading and enhancing its business systems; however, these changes tend to challenge the Company's complex integrated environment. The Company's success is dependent in large part on maintaining or improving the effectiveness of existing systems and continuing to develop and enhance information systems that support its business processes in a cost-efficient manner. If the Company does not maintain the effectiveness of its systems, the Company's operations and reputation could be adversely affected and it could be exposed to litigation as well as to regulatory proceedings and fines or penalties.

Competition could adversely affect the Company's ability to increase or maintain its market share or profitability.

The Company operates in a competitive environment and in an industry that is subject to ongoing changes from market pressures brought about by customer demands, legislative reform, marketing practices and changes to health care and health insurance delivery. These factors require the Company to anticipate market trends and make changes to differentiate the Company's products and services from those of its competitors. The Company also faces the potential of competition from existing or new companies in the United States and Japan that have not historically been active in the supplemental health insurance industry, but some of which have greater financial, marketing and management resources than the Company does. Failure to anticipate market trends and/or to differentiate the Company's products and services can affect the Company's ability to retain or grow profitable lines of business.

Further, as employers and brokers are increasingly requesting a full-suite of products from one insurance provider, a failure to react and adapt to these demands could result in decreased sales or market share. Similarly, a failure to meet evolving customer demands through innovative product development, effective distribution channels, and continuous investment in the Company's technology could result in lower revenues and less favorable policy terms and conditions, which could adversely affect the Company's operating results.

Events, including those external to the Company's operations, could damage the Company's reputation.

The Company has made significant investments in the Aflac brand over a long period of time. Because insurance products are intangible, the Company's ability to compete for and maintain policyholders relies to a large extent on consumer trust in the Company's business. The perception of unfavorable business practices or financial weakness could create doubt regarding the Company's ability to honor the commitments it has made to its policyholders. Maintaining the Company's stature as a trustworthy insurer and responsible corporate citizen, which helps support the strength of the Company's brand, is critical to the Company's reputation and the failure or perceived failure to do so could adversely affect the Company's brand value, financial condition and results of operations. For example, negative publicity or allegations of unfavorable business practices or poor governance can be rapidly and widely shared over social or traditional media or other means, and could reduce demand for the Company's insurance products, reduce the Company's ability to recruit and retain employees, or lead to greater regulatory scrutiny of the Company's operations.

Sales of the Company's products and services are dependent on its ability to attract, retain and support a network of qualified sales associates, brokers and employees in the United States and sales associates and other distribution partners in Japan.

The Company's sales could be adversely affected if its sales networks deteriorate or if the Company does not adequately provide support, training and education for its existing network. In the United States, competition exists for sales associates and brokers with demonstrated ability. In Japan, the Company's sales results are dependent upon its relationship with sales associates and other distribution partners, including its alliance partner, Japan Post, which in recent periods has accounted for approximately 25% of Aflac Japan's third sector sales. The Company competes with other insurers and financial institutions primarily on the basis of its products, compensation, support services and financial rating. The Company's inability to attract and retain qualified sales associates, brokers and other distribution partners, including its alliance partners in Japan, could have a material adverse effect on the Company's sales, results of operations and financial condition.

The Company's sales associates and brokers are independent contractors and may sell products of its competitors. If the Company's competitors offer products that are more attractive, or pay higher commissions than the Company does, any or all of these distribution partners may concentrate their efforts on selling the Company's competitors' products instead of the Company's. In addition to the Company's commissioned sales force in the United States, Aflac has expanded its sales leadership team to include a salaried sales force of over 200 market directors and broker sales professionals. The Company's ability to attract and retain top talent in these salaried roles has a material impact on its sales success.


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Item 1A. Risk Factors

Additionally, as the Japan and U.S. employment markets continue to evolve, there is risk that the Company's practices regarding attracting, developing, and retaining employees may not be fully effective. Failure to successfully meet and maintain sufficient levels of employees may diminish the Company's ability to achieve its financial and compliance objectives, both of which are time consuming and personnel-intensive.

Interruption in telecommunication, information technology and other operational systems, or a failure to maintain the security, confidentiality, integrity or privacy of sensitive data residing on such systems, could harm the Company's business.

The Company stores confidential policyholder, employee, agent, and other proprietary information on its information technology systems. In addition, the Company depends heavily on its telecommunication, information technology and other operational systems and on the integrity and timeliness of data it uses to run its businesses and service its customers. These systems may fail to operate properly or become disabled as a result of events or circumstances wholly or partly beyond the Company's control. Additionally, design flaws may exist in certain systems, processes, software, or configurations that in turn may result in system failure, data corruption, or compromise. Despite the Company's implementation of a variety of security measures to defend against threats incurred on a daily basis, its information technology and other systems, as well as those of third party providers and participants in the Company’s distribution channels, have been and will likely continue to be subject to physical or electronic break-ins, unauthorized tampering, security breaches or other cyber-attacks, that may result in the failure to adequately maintain the security, confidentiality, integrity, or privacy of sensitive data, including personal information relating to customers and prospective customers, or in the misappropriation of the Company's intellectual property or proprietary information.

From time to time, the Company, its third party providers and participants in the Company’s distribution channels have experienced and will likely continue to experience such events. Although the minor data leakage issues the Company has experienced to date have not had a material effect on its business, there is no assurance that the Company's security systems or processes will prevent or mitigate future break-ins, tampering, security breaches or other cyber-attacks. Interruption in telecommunication, information technology and other operational systems, or a failure to maintain the security, confidentiality or privacy of sensitive data residing on such systems, whether due to actions by the Company or others, including third party providers and participants in the company’s distribution channels, could delay or disrupt the Company's ability to do business and service its customers, seriously harm the Company's brand and reputation as well as the Company's ability to compete effectively, subject it to regulatory sanctions and other claims, lead to a loss of customers and revenues and otherwise adversely affect the Company's business. In addition, the costs to address or remediate system interruptions or security threats and vulnerabilities, whether before or after an incident, could be significant.

While the Company continues to invest in the infrastructure of its data security programs, the Company, as well as its third party providers and participants in the Company’s distribution channels, have been, and will likely continue to be, the target of unauthorized access, social engineering, phishing, cyber-attacks, web application attacks, computer viruses or other malicious codes, or other computer-related penetrations. Although the Company attempts to manage its exposure to such events through the purchase of cyber liability insurance, such events are inherently unpredictable and insurance may not be sufficient to protect the Company against all losses. As a result, events such as these could adversely affect the Company's financial condition or results of operation.

If the Company fails to comply with restrictions on customer privacy and information security, including taking steps to ensure that its third-party service providers and business associates who access, store, process or transmit sensitive customer information maintain its security, integrity, confidentiality and availability, the Company's reputation and business operations could be materially adversely affected.

The collection, maintenance, use, protection, disclosure and disposal of individually identifiable data by the Company's businesses are regulated at the international, federal and state levels. These laws and rules are subject to change by legislation or administrative or judicial interpretation. Various state laws address the unauthorized access and acquisition of personal information and the use and disclosure of individually identifiable health data to the extent they are more restrictive than those contained in the privacy and security provisions in the federal GLBA and in the HIPAA. HIPAA also requires that the Company imposes privacy and security requirements on its business associates (as such term is defined in the HIPAA regulations). With regard to personal information obtained from policyholders, the insured, or others, Aflac Japan is regulated in Japan by the APPI and guidelines issued by FSA and other governmental authorities.

The Company relies on third parties, and in some cases subcontractors, to provide information technology and data services. It also relies on various parties in its distribution channels including agencies, banks and Japan Post in Japan, as well as sales associates and brokers in the United States, to provide services to prospective and existing customers.

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

Although the Company provides for appropriate protections through its contracts and performs information security risk assessments of its third-party service providers and business associates, the Company still has limited control over their actions and practices. In addition, despite the security measures the Company has in place to ensure compliance with applicable laws and rules, the Company's facilities and systems, and those of the Company's third-party providers and participants in its distribution channels may be vulnerable to security breaches, acts of vandalism or theft, computer viruses, misplaced or lost data, programming and/or human errors or other similar events. From time to time, the Company, its third party providers and participants in the Company’s distribution channels have experienced and will likely continue to experience such events. In such cases, notification to affected individuals, state and federal regulators, state attorneys general and media may be required, depending upon the number of affected individuals and whether personal information including health or financial data was subject to unauthorized access.

The U.S. Congress and many states are considering new privacy and security requirements that would apply to the Company's business. Compliance with new privacy and security laws, requirements, and new regulations may result in cost increases due to necessary systems changes, new limitations or constraints on the Company's business models, the development of new administrative processes, and the effects of potential noncompliance by the Company's business associates. They also may impose further restrictions on the Company's collection, disclosure and use of customer identifiable data that are housed in one or more of the Company's administrative databases. Noncompliance with any privacy laws or any security breach involving the misappropriation, loss, theft or other unauthorized disclosure of sensitive or confidential customer information, whether by the Company or by one of its third parties, could have a material adverse effect on the Company's business, reputation, brand and results of operations, including: material fines and penalties; compensatory, special, punitive and statutory damages; consent orders regarding the Company's privacy and security practices; adverse actions against the Company's licenses to do business; and injunctive relief.

In addition, under Japanese laws and regulations, including the APPI, if a leak or loss of personal information by Aflac Japan or its business associates should occur, depending on factors such as the volume of personal data involved and the likelihood of other secondary damage, Aflac Japan may be required to file reports to the FSA; issue public releases explaining such incident to the public; or become subject to an FSA business improvement order, which could pose a risk to the Company's reputation.

Extensive regulation and changes in legislation can impact profitability and growth.

Aflac's insurance subsidiaries are subject to complex laws and regulations that are administered and enforced by a number of governmental authorities, including the FSA and Ministry of Finance (MOF) in Japan, and state insurance regulators, the SEC, the NAIC, the FIO, the U.S. Department of Justice, state attorneys general, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the U.S. Treasury, including the IRS, in the United States, each of which exercises a degree of interpretive latitude. In addition, proposals regarding the global regulation of insurance are under discussion, and changes to corporate form that attend the conversion of Aflac Japan to a subsidiary may introduce new forms of regulation compared to those with which the Company has historically been subject. For example, AAMJ is licensed as a discretionary asset manager under the Japan Financial Instruments and Exchange Act and is subject to rules of the Japan Investment Advisors Association, a self-regulatory organization with mandatory membership for Japan investment managers. Consequently, the Company is subject to the risk that compliance with any particular regulator's or enforcement authority's interpretation of a legal or regulatory issue may not result in compliance with another regulator's or enforcement authority's interpretation of the same issue, particularly when compliance is judged in hindsight. There is also a risk that any particular regulator's or enforcement authority's interpretation of a legal or regulatory issue may change over time to the Company's detriment. In addition, changes in the overall legal or regulatory environment may, even absent any particular regulator's or enforcement authority's interpretation of an issue changing, cause us to change the Company's views regarding the actions the Company needs to take from a legal or regulatory risk management perspective, thus necessitating changes to the Company's practices that may, in some cases, limit its ability to grow or otherwise negatively impact the profitability of the Company's business.

The primary purpose of insurance company regulatory supervision is the protection of insurance policyholders, rather than investors. The extent of regulation varies, but generally is governed by state statutes in the United States and by the FSA and the MOF in Japan. These systems of supervision and regulation cover, among other things:

standards of establishing and setting premium rates and the approval thereof
standards of minimum capital and reserve requirements and solvency margins, including RBC measures
restrictions on, limitations on and required approval of certain transactions between the Company's insurance subsidiaries and their affiliates, including management fee arrangements
restrictions on the nature, quality and concentration of investments

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

restrictions on the types of terms and conditions that the Company can include in the insurance policies offered by its primary insurance operations
limitations on the amount of dividends that insurance subsidiaries can pay
the existence and licensing status of a company under circumstances where it is not writing new or renewal business
certain required methods of accounting
reserves for unearned premiums, losses and other purposes
assignment of residual market business and potential assessments for the provision of funds necessary for the settlement of covered claims under certain policies provided by impaired, insolvent or failed insurance companies
administrative practices requirements
imposition of fines and other sanctions
Regulatory authorities periodically re-examine existing laws and regulations applicable to insurance companies and their products. Changes in these laws and regulations, or in interpretations thereof, could have a material adverse effect on the Company's financial condition and results of operations. If the Company's subsidiaries fail to meet the minimum capital or operational requirements established by its respective regulators, they could be subject to examination or corrective action, or the Company's financial strength ratings could be downgraded, or both.

Various forms of federal oversight and regulation of insurance were signed into law by the prior U.S. presidential administration. For example, the ACA gave the U.S. federal government direct regulatory authority over the business of health insurance and made significant changes to the U.S. health care insurance marketplace, including the imposition of an individual medical insurance coverage mandate (which has since been repealed effective 2019 by the Tax Act), penalties on certain employers for failing to provide adequate coverage, the creation of health insurance exchanges, and proscriptions regarding coverage and exclusions as well as medical loss ratios. The legislation also includes changes in government reimbursements and tax credits for individuals and employers and alters federal and state regulation of health insurers. The ACA, as enacted, does not require material changes in the design of the Company's insurance products. However, indirect consequences of the legislation and regulations could present challenges that could potentially have an impact on the Company's sales model, financial condition and results of operations. The United States Congress may continue to consider legislation that would repeal and replace key provisions of the ACA. There can be no assurance that any legislation affecting the ACA will be passed by Congress, nor as to the ultimate timing or provisions of any such legislation, nor as to the effect of any such legislation on the design or marketability of the Company's insurance products.

In addition, Dodd-Frank intended to reduce risk of a financial crisis, contains multiple provisions that could impact the Company's business as rules are finalized and implemented. While it is difficult to isolate the impact of Dodd Frank from other government and central bank actions and general market conditions since the financial crisis, the Company believes that the Dodd-Frank Act, in particular bank capital requirements, limits on proprietary trading and derivatives regulation, has affected the value of its holdings in banks and other financial institutions, and impacted pricing, liquidity, and the Company's general ability to conduct financial and capital market transactions. Dodd Frank is expansive in scope and, among other things, requires the adoption of extensive regulations and numerous regulating decisions, many of which have been adopted. The presidential administration in the United States and Congress have stated proposals to reform or repeal certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, some of which have been implemented. The Company cannot predict with any degree of certainty the ultimate effects (if any) that Dodd Frank, or subsequent implementation of regulations and decisions, will have on its U.S. business, financial condition, or results of operations.

Compliance with applicable laws and regulations is time consuming and personnel-intensive, and changes in these laws and regulations may materially increase the Company's direct and indirect compliance and other expenses of doing business, thus having a material adverse effect on the Company's financial condition and results of operations.

Tax rates applicable to the Company may change.

The Company is subject to taxation in Japan, and in the U.S. under federal and numerous state and local tax jurisdictions. In preparing the Company's financial statements, the Company estimates the amount of tax that will become payable, but the Company's effective tax rate may be different than estimates due to numerous factors including accounting for income taxes, the mix of earnings from Japan and the U.S., the results of tax audits, adjustments to the value of uncertain tax positions, changes to estimates and other factors. Further, changes in U.S. or Japan tax laws or interpretations of such laws could increase the Company's corporate taxes and reduce earnings.


24


Item 1A. Risk Factors

The Tax Act was signed into law on December 22, 2017. Among other things, effective January 1, 2018 the Tax Act reduced the U.S. federal statutory corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%, eliminated or reduced certain deductions and credits, and limited the deductibility of interest expense and executive compensation.

The Tax Act also transitions international corporate taxation from a worldwide system to a modified territorial system, which in light of the current tax treatment of Aflac Japan has the effect of subjecting the earnings of Aflac Japan to Japan taxation and subjecting the Company’s other earnings, including the consolidated earnings of the Parent Company, to U.S. taxation.

These changes became effective on January 1, 2018. Because changes to tax rates are accounted for in the period of enactment, during the period ended December 31, 2017, the Company revalued its deferred tax assets and liabilities and recorded a net deferred tax liability reduction of $1.9 billion benefit in 2017. During the fourth quarter of 2018, the Company recorded an immaterial adjustment to the provisional amount of deferred tax liabilities (DTLs) related to the Japan tax computation and no valuation allowance adjustment related to anticipatory foreign tax credit asset, rendering final values for the Company's deferred tax liability. The impact of the Tax Act, including the preliminary estimate for the change in tax rate that was recorded during the fourth quarter of 2017, adjustments booked during the fourth quarter of 2018 which rendered final values related to the tax rate, and the Company's combined U.S. and Japanese effective income tax rate, may be adjusted in future periods, possibly materially, due to, among other things, changes in interpretations and assumptions the Company has made, tax guidance that may be issued and actions the Company make take as a result of the Tax Act. Without limiting the foregoing, additional forthcoming guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and/or the U.S. IRS related to the Tax Act could significantly impact the level of valuation allowance respecting the amount of foreign tax credits claimed by the Company with regard to the operations of Aflac Japan.

In addition, it remains difficult to predict the timing and effect that future tax law changes could have on the Company's earnings both in the U.S. and in foreign jurisdictions. Any of these factors could cause the Company to experience an effective tax rate significantly different from previous periods or our current estimates. If the Company's effective tax rate were to increase, the Company's financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.

Defaults, downgrades, widening credit spreads or other events impairing the value of the fixed maturity securities and loan receivables in the Company's investment portfolio may reduce the Company's earnings and capital position.
The Company is subject to the risk that the issuers and/or guarantors of fixed maturity securities and loan receivables the Company owns may default on principal or interest. A significant portion of the Company's portfolio represents an unsecured obligation of the issuer, including some that may be subordinated to other debt in the issuer’s capital structure. In these cases, many factors can influence the overall creditworthiness of the issuer and ultimately its ability to service and repay the Company's holdings. This can include changes in the global economy, the company's assets, strategy, or management, shifts in the dynamics of the industries in which they compete, their access to additional funding, and the overall health of the credit markets. Factors unique to the Company's securities including contractual protections such as financial covenants or relative position in the issuer's capital structure also influence the value of the Company's holdings.

Most of the Company's investments carry a rating by one or more of the NRSROs. Any change in the rating agencies' approach to evaluating credit and assigning an opinion could negatively impact the fair value of the Company's portfolio. The Company employs a team of credit analysts to monitor the creditworthiness of the issuers in its portfolio. Any credit-related declines in the fair value of positions held in the Company's portfolio believed to be not temporary in nature will negatively impact the Company's net income and capital position through impairment and other credit related losses. These losses would also affect the Company's solvency ratios in the United States and Japan. Aflac Japan has certain regulatory accounting requirements for realizing impairments that could be triggered by credit-related losses, which may be different from U.S. GAAP and statutory requirements. These impairment losses could negatively impact Aflac Japan's earnings, and the corresponding dividends and capital deployment.

The Company is also subject to the risk that any collateral providing credit enhancement to the Company's positions could deteriorate. These instruments may include senior secured first lien loans, such as commercial mortgage loans, bank loans, middle market loans, and loan-backed securities where the underlying loan or collateral notes may default on principal, interest, or other payments, causing an adverse change in cash flows to the positions held in the Company's investment portfolio.

The Company is exposed to sovereign credit risk through instruments issued directly by governments and government entities as well as banks and other institutions that rely in part on the strength of the underlying government

25


Item 1A. Risk Factors

for their credit quality. In addition to the United States and Japan, many governments, especially in Europe, have been subject to rating downgrades due to the need for fiscal and budgetary remediation and structural reforms, reduced economic activity, and investment needed to support banks or other systemically important entities. Additional downgrades or default of the Company's sovereign issuers will have a negative impact on its portfolio and could reduce the Company's earnings and capital.

In addition to the Company's exposure to the underlying fundamental credit strength of the issuers of its fixed maturity securities and the underlying risk of default, the Company is also exposed to the general movement in credit market spreads. A widening of credit spreads could reduce the value of the Company's existing portfolio, create unrealized losses on its investment portfolio, and reduce the Company's adjusted capital position which is used in determining the SMR in Japan. This widening of credit spreads could, however, increase the net investment income on new credit investments. Conversely, a tightening of credit spreads could increase the value of the Company's existing portfolio and create unrealized gains on its investment portfolio. This tightening of credit spreads could also reduce the net investment income available to the Company on new credit investments. Increased market volatility also makes it difficult to value certain of the Company's investment holdings (see the Critical Accounting Estimates section in Item 7, Management's Discussion and Analysis, of this Form 10-K).

For more information regarding credit risk, see the Credit Risk subsection of Item 7A, Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk, of this Form 10-K.

A decline in the creditworthiness of other financial institutions could adversely affect the Company.

The Company has exposure to and routinely executes transactions with counterparties in the financial services industry, including broker dealers, derivative counterparties, commercial banks and other institutions.

The Company uses derivative instruments to mitigate various risks associated with its investment portfolio, notes payable, and subsidiary dividends. The Company enters into a variety of agreements involving assorted instruments including foreign currency forward contracts; foreign currency options; foreign currency swaps; and interest rate swaptions. The Company's use of derivatives results in financial exposure to derivative counterparties. If the Company's counterparties fail or refuse to honor their obligations under derivative instruments, the Company's hedges of the risks will be ineffective, and the Company's financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.

The Company engages in derivative transactions directly with unaffiliated third parties under International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA) agreements and other documentation. Most of the ISDA agreements also include Credit Support Annexes (CSAs) provisions, which generally provide for two-way collateral postings at the first dollar of exposure. The Company mitigates the risk that counterparties to transactions might be unable to fulfill their contractual obligations by monitoring counterparty credit exposure and collateral value while generally requiring that collateral be posted at the outset of the transaction. In addition, a significant portion of the derivative transactions have provisions that give the counterparty the right to terminate the transaction upon a downgrade of Aflac’s financial strength rating. The actual amount of payments that the Company could be required to make, depends on market conditions, the fair value of outstanding affected transactions, and other factors prevailing at and after the time of the downgrade. If the Company is required to post collateral to support derivative contracts and/or pay cash to settle the contracts at maturity, the Company's liquidity could be strained. In addition, the Company's cleared swaps result in counterparty exposure to clearing brokers and central clearinghouses; while this exposure is mitigated in part by clearinghouse and clearing broker capital and regulation, no assurance can be provided that these counterparties will fulfill their obligations. The Company also has exposure to counterparties to securities lending transactions in the event they fail to return loaned securities. The Company is also exposed to the risk that there may be a decline in value of securities posted as collateral for securities lending programs or a decline in value of investments made with cash posted as collateral for such programs.

Further, the Company has agreements with various financial institutions for the distribution of its insurance products. For example, at December 31, 2018, the Company had agreements with 371 banks to market Aflac's products in Japan. Sales through these banks represented 4.6% of Aflac Japan's new annualized premium sales in 2018. Any material adverse effect on these or other financial institutions could also have an adverse effect on the Company's sales.
The Company has entered into significant reinsurance transactions with large, highly rated counterparties. Negative events or developments affecting any one of these counterparties could have an adverse effect on the Company's financial position or results of operations.
All of these risks related to exposure to other financial institutions could adversely impact the Company's consolidated results of operations and financial condition.

26


Item 1A. Risk Factors


The determination of the amount of impairments taken on the Company's investments is based on significant valuation judgments and could materially impact its results of operations or financial position.
An investment in a fixed maturity security is impaired if the fair value falls below book value. The Company regularly reviews its entire investment portfolio for declines in value. The majority of the Company's investments are evaluated for other-than-temporary impairment using the Company's debt impairment model.
The Company's debt impairment model includes emphasis on the ultimate collection of the cash flows from its investments. The determination of the amount of impairments under this model is based upon the Company's periodic evaluation and assessment of known and inherent risks associated with the respective securities. Such evaluations and assessments are revised as conditions change and new information becomes available.
For the Company's fixed maturity securities reported in the available-for-sale portfolio, the Company reports the investments at fair value in the statement of financial condition and records any unrealized gain or loss in the value of the asset in accumulated other comprehensive income. For the Company's held-to-maturity securities portfolio, the Company reports the investments at amortized cost. Under the debt impairment model, the determination of whether an impairment in value is other than temporary is based largely on the Company's evaluation of the issuer's creditworthiness. The Company must apply considerable judgment in determining the likelihood of the security recovering in value while the Company owns it. Factors that may influence this include the Company's assessment of the issuer’s ability to continue making timely payments of interest and principal, the overall level of interest rates and credit spreads, and other factors. The Company also verifies whether it has the intent to sell or if it is more likely than not the Company would be required to sell the security prior to recovery of its amortized cost. If the Company determines it is unlikely to recover the book value of the instrument prior to disposal of the security, the Company will reduce the carrying value of the security to its fair value and recognize any associated impairment loss in the Company's consolidated statement of earnings or other comprehensive income, depending on the nature of the loss.
For regulatory accounting purposes for Aflac Japan, there are certain requirements for realizing impairments that could be triggered by rising interest rates, credit-related losses, or changes in foreign exchange, negatively impacting Aflac Japan's earnings and corresponding dividend and capital deployment.
The Company's management updates its evaluations regularly as conditions change and as new information becomes available and reflects impairment losses in the Company's income statement when considered necessary. Furthermore, additional impairments may need to be taken in the future. Historical trends may not be indicative of future impairments.

As a holding company, the Parent Company depends on the ability of its subsidiaries to transfer funds to it to meet its debt service and other obligations and to pay dividends on its common stock.
The Parent Company is a holding company and has no direct operations, and its most significant assets are the stock of its subsidiaries. Because the Parent Company conducts its operations through its operating subsidiaries, the Parent Company depends on those entities for dividends and other payments to generate the funds necessary to meet its debt service and other obligations, to pay dividends on and conduct repurchases of its common stock, and to make investments into its subsidiaries or external investment opportunities.
Aflac is domiciled in Nebraska and is subject to insurance regulations that impose certain limitations and restrictions on payments of dividends, management fees, loans and advances by Aflac to the Parent Company. The Nebraska insurance statutes require prior approval for dividend distributions that exceed the greater of the net income from operations, which excludes net realized investment gains, for the previous year determined under statutory accounting principles, or 10% of statutory capital and surplus as of the previous year-end. In addition, the Nebraska insurance department must approve service arrangements and other transactions within the affiliated group of companies. After the Japan branch conversion, the Nebraska insurance department and the FSA approved their respective domiciled insurance company service arrangements and transactions. The FSA does not allow dividends or other payments from Aflac Japan unless it meets certain financial criteria as governed by Japanese corporate law. Under these criteria, dividend capacity at the Japan subsidiary will be defined as retained earnings plus other capital reserve less net after-tax net unrealized losses on available-for-sale securities.
The ability of Aflac and Aflac Japan to pay dividends or make other payments to the Parent Company could also be constrained by the Company's dependency on financial strength ratings from independent rating agencies. The Company's ratings from these agencies depend to a large extent on Aflac's capitalization level. Any inability of Aflac to pay

27


Item 1A. Risk Factors

dividends or make other payments to the Parent Company could have a material adverse effect on the Company's financial condition and results of operations.
For the foregoing reasons, there is no assurance that the earnings from, or other available assets of, the Parent Company's operating subsidiaries will be sufficient to make distributions to enable the Company to operate.
Any decrease in the Company's financial strength or debt ratings may have an adverse effect on its competitive position and access to liquidity and capital.

Financial strength ratings can play an important role in establishing the competitive position of insurance companies. On an ongoing basis, NRSROs review the financial performance and condition of many insurers, including Aflac and its competitors. They may assign multiple ratings including a financial strength rating, reflecting their view of the insurer’s ability to pay claims on a timely basis, and ratings on an insurer’s senior and subordinated debt obligations, indicating their view of an insurer’s ability to make timely payments on their debt obligations.

NRSROs may change their ratings or outlook on an insurer's ratings due to a variety of factors including the NRSRO’s assessment of the insurer’s strength of operations and overall financial condition. Some factors that may influence ratings include competitive position; profitability; cash generation and other sources of liquidity; capital levels; quality of the investment portfolio; and perception of management capabilities. The ratings assigned to Aflac by the NRSROs are important factors in the Company's ability to access liquidity and capital from the bank market, debt capital markets or other available sources, such as reinsurance transactions. Downgrades to Aflac's credit ratings could give its derivative counterparties the right to require early termination of derivatives transactions or delivery of additional collateral, thereby adversely affecting the Company's liquidity.

In view of the difficulties experienced after the financial crisis by many financial institutions, including those in the insurance industry, the NRSROs have heightened the level of scrutiny that they apply to such institutions. Steps taken by the NRSROs include an increase in the frequency and scope of their reviews, additional information requests from the companies that they rate, including additional information regarding the valuation of investment securities held, and, in certain cases, an increase in the capital and other requirements employed in their models for maintenance of certain rating levels.

On September 16, 2015, S&P downgraded their credit rating of Japan’s sovereign debt. Following this action, they also downgraded several other foreign insurers, including Aflac. Although Aflac is a U.S.-based insurer, Aflac's significant operations in Japan and corresponding regulation by the Japanese FSA, combined with its significant exposure to JGBs as outlined above, resulted in S&P downgrading the financial strength rating of Aflac's core insurance operations to A+ and its senior debt rating to A-, both with a stable outlook. While S&P made no further downgrades to Aflac's ratings between 2016 and 2018, they have stated in the past that a downgrade of Japan's sovereign rating could lead to a downgrade of Aflac's financial strength rating. As a matter of policy, S&P rarely rates insurance companies above the sovereign long-term rating of the country of domicile because during times of stress, the sovereign’s regulatory and supervisory powers may restrict an insurer’s or financial system’s flexibility.

In addition to the impact on Aflac's access to liquidity, as mentioned above, a downgrade of Aflac's ratings could have a material adverse effect on agent recruiting and retention, sales, competitiveness and the marketability of its products which could negatively impact Aflac's liquidity, operating results and financial condition. Additionally, sales through the bank channel in Japan could be adversely affected as a result of their reliance and sensitivity to ratings levels.

The Company cannot predict what actions rating agencies may take, or what actions the Company may take in response to the actions of rating agencies, which could adversely affect Aflac's business. As with other companies in the financial services industry, Aflac's ratings could be downgraded at any time and without any notice by any NRSRO.


28


Item 1A. Risk Factors

The Company's risk management policies and procedures may prove to be ineffective and leave the Company exposed to unidentified or unanticipated risk, which could adversely affect the Company's businesses or result in losses.

The Company has developed an enterprise-wide risk management and governance framework to mitigate risk and loss to the Company. The Company maintains policies, procedures and controls intended to identify, measure, monitor, report and analyze the risks to which the Company is exposed.
However, there are inherent limitations to risk management strategies because risk may exist, or emerge in the future, that the Company has not appropriately anticipated or identified. If the Company's risk management framework proves ineffective, the Company may suffer unexpected losses and could be materially adversely affected. As the Company's businesses change and the markets in which it operates evolve, the Company's risk management framework may not evolve at the same pace as those changes. As a result, there is a risk that new products or new business strategies may present risks that are not appropriately identified, monitored or managed. In times of market stress, unanticipated market movements or unanticipated claims experience resulting from greater than expected morbidity, mortality, longevity, or persistency, the effectiveness of the Company's risk management strategies may be limited, resulting in losses to the Company. In addition, under difficult or less liquid market conditions, the Company's risk management strategies may not be effective because other market participants may be using the same or similar strategies to manage risk under the same challenging market conditions. In such circumstances, it may be difficult or more expensive for the Company to mitigate risk due to the activity of such other market participants.
Many of the Company's risk management strategies or techniques are based upon historical customer and market behavior and all such strategies and techniques are based to some degree on management’s subjective judgment. The Company cannot provide assurance that its risk management framework, including the underlying assumptions or strategies, will be accurate and effective.
Management of operational, legal and regulatory risks requires, among other things, policies, procedures and controls to record properly and verify a large number of transactions and events, and these policies, procedures and controls may not be fully effective. Models are utilized by the Company's businesses and corporate areas primarily to project future cash flows associated with pricing products, calculating reserves and valuing assets, as well as in evaluating risk and determining capital requirements, among other uses. These models are utilized under a risk management policy approved by the Company's executive risk management committees, however, the models may not operate properly and rely on assumptions and projections that are inherently uncertain. As the Company's businesses continue to grow and evolve, the number and complexity of models the Company utilizes expands, increasing the Company's exposure to error in the design, implementation or use of models, including the associated input data and assumptions.
Past or future misconduct by the Company's employees or employees of the Company's third parties (suppliers which are cost-based relationships and alliance partners which are revenue-generating relationships) could result in violations of law by the Company, regulatory sanctions and/or serious reputational or financial harm and the precautions the Company takes to prevent and detect this activity may not be effective in all cases. Despite the Company's published Supplier Code of Conduct, due diligence of the Company's alliance partners, and rigorous contracting procedures (including financial, legal, IT security, and risk reviews), there can be no assurance that controls and procedures that the Company employs, which are designed to assess third party viability and prevent the Company from taking excessive or inappropriate risks, will be effective. Additionally, the use of third parties also poses operational risks that could result in financial loss, operational disruption, brand damage, or compliance issues. Inadequate oversight of Aflac’s third party suppliers due to the lack of policies, procedures, training and governance may lead to financial loss or damage to the Aflac brand.
The concentration of the Company's investment portfolios in any particular single-issuer or sector of the economy may have an adverse effect on the Company's financial position or results of operations.
Negative events or developments affecting any particular single issuer, industry, group of related industries, asset class or geographic sector may have an adverse impact on a particular holding or set of holdings, which may increase risk of loss from defaults due to non-payment of interest or principal. The Company seeks to minimize this risk by maintaining an appropriate level of diversification. To the extent the Company has concentrated positions, it could have an adverse effect on the Company's results of operations and financial position. The Company's global investment guidelines establish concentration limits for its investment portfolios.


29


Item 1A. Risk Factors

For details on the concentrations within the Company's investment portfolios, see the Analysis of Financial Condition section of Item 7, MD&A, and the Credit Risk section of Item 7A, Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk, of this Form 10-K.

The valuation of the Company's investments and derivatives includes methodologies, estimations and assumptions which are subject to differing interpretations and could result in changes to investment valuations that may adversely affect the Company's results of operations or financial condition.
The Company reports a significant amount of its fixed maturity securities and other financial instruments at fair value. As such, valuations may include inputs and assumptions that are less observable or require greater estimation as well as valuation methods which are more sophisticated, thereby resulting in values which may be greater or less than the value at which the investments may be ultimately sold. Rapidly changing and unprecedented credit and equity market conditions could materially impact the valuation of securities as reported within the Company's consolidated financial statements and the period-to-period changes in value could vary significantly.

Valuations of the Company's derivatives fluctuate with changes in underlying market variables, such as interest rates and foreign currency exchange rates. During periods of market turbulence created by political instability, economic uncertainty, government interventions or other factors, the Company may experience significant changes in the volatility of its derivative valuations. Extreme market conditions can also affect the liquidity of such instruments creating marked differences in transaction levels and counterparty valuations. Depending on the severity and direction of the movements in its derivative valuations, the Company will face increases in the amount of collateral required to be posted with its counterparties. Liquidity stresses to the Company may also occur if the required collateral amounts increase significantly over a very short period of time. Conversely, the Company may be exposed to an increase in counterparty credit risk for short periods of time while calling collateral from its counterparties.

Elimination of LIBOR as an interest rate benchmark may create uncertainty in valuation of loans, derivatives and other assets where valuation and interest rates are based on LIBOR, and may create uncertainty in the pricing of such assets in markets for their sale and disposition.

For further discussion on investment and derivative valuations, see the Critical Accounting Estimates section in Item 7, Management's Discussion and Analysis, and Notes 1, 3, 4, and 5 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements in this Form 10-K.

Managing key executive succession is critical to the Company's success.
The Company would be adversely affected if it fails to adequately plan for succession of its senior management and other key executives. While the Company has succession plans and employment arrangements with certain key executives, these plans cannot guarantee that the services of these executives will be available to the Company, and its operations could be adversely affected if they are not.

Catastrophic events could adversely affect the Company's financial condition and results of operations as well as the availability of the Company’s infrastructure and systems.

The Company's insurance operations are exposed to the risk of catastrophic events including, but not necessarily limited to, epidemics, pandemics, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, war or other military action, and terrorism or other acts of violence. The extent of losses from a catastrophe is a function of both the total amount of insured exposure in the area affected by the event and the severity of the event. Certain events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and man-made catastrophes could cause substantial damage or loss of life in larger areas, especially those that are heavily populated. Claims resulting from natural or man−made catastrophic events could cause substantial volatility in the Company's financial results for any fiscal quarter or year and could materially reduce its profitability or harm the Company's financial condition, as well as affect its ability to write new business.

Additionally, the Company's business operations may be adversely affected by such catastrophic events to the extent they disrupt the Company's physical infrastructure and systems that support its businesses and customers. Although the Company has a global crisis management framework to minimize the business disruption from a catastrophic event, such framework may not be effective to avoid an adverse impact to the Company from such an event.


30


Item 1A. Risk Factors

Changes in accounting standards issued by the Financial Accounting Standard Boards (FASB) or other standard-setting bodies may adversely affect the Company's financial statements.
The Company's financial statements are subject to the application of U.S. GAAP, which is periodically revised and/or expanded. Accordingly, from time to time the Company is required to adopt new or revised accounting standards issued by recognized authoritative bodies, including the FASB. The impact of accounting pronouncements that have been issued but not yet implemented and are applicable to the Company is disclosed in Note 1 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements. The pronouncements expected to have the most significant impact on the Company's financial position or results of operations are outlined below.
In June 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-13, Financial Instruments - Credit Losses: Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments. The amendments in this update require a financial asset (or a group of financial assets) measured on an amortized cost basis to be presented net of an allowance for credit losses in order to reflect the amount expected to be collected on the financial asset(s). The Company currently expects loans and loan receivables and held-to-maturity fixed maturity securities to be the asset classes most significantly impacted upon adoption of the guidance. The amendments are effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019.
Additionally, in August 2018 the FASB issued ASU 2018-12, Financial Services - Insurance, Targeted Improvements to the Accounting for Long-Duration Contracts. The amendments in this update will significantly change how insurers account for long-duration contracts. Among the issues addressed in the amendments is the requirement to review and, if there is a change, update assumptions for liability for future policy benefits at least annually, and to update the discount rate assumption quarterly. The frequency of the reviews and updates varies according to the assumptions but will be at least annually in all cases. The Company anticipates that the requirement to review and update assumptions for liability for future policy benefits will have a significant impact on its results of operations, systems, processes, and controls, while the requirement to update the discount rate will have a significant impact on the other comprehensive income component of its equity. The amendments are effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2020.

The accounting treatment that the Company applies to its consolidated financial statements will change due to new standards and could have a material adverse effect on the Company's results of operations and financial condition. For information on new accounting pronouncements and the impact, if any, on the Company's financial position or results of operations, see Note 1 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements in this report.
Changes in the Company's discount rate, expected rate of return, life expectancy, health care cost and expected compensation increase assumptions for its pension and other postretirement benefit plans may result in increased expenses and reduce the Company's profitability.

The Company determines its pension and other postretirement benefit plan costs based on assumed discount rates, expected rates of return on plan assets, life expectancy of plan participants and expected increases in compensation levels and trends in health care costs. Changes in these assumptions, including from the impact of a sustained low interest rate environment, may result in increased expenses and reduce the Company's profitability.

The Company faces risks related to litigation, regulatory investigations and inquiry and other matters.

The Company is a defendant in various lawsuits considered to be in the normal course of business. The final results of any litigation cannot be predicted with certainty, and plaintiffs may seek very large amounts in class actions or other litigation. Although some of this litigation is pending in states where large punitive damages, bearing little relation to the actual damages sustained by plaintiffs, have been awarded in recent years, the Company believes the outcome of pending litigation will not have a material adverse effect on its financial position, results of operations, or cash flows. However, a substantial legal liability or a significant federal, state or other regulatory action against us, as well as regulatory inquiries or investigations, could harm our reputation, result in changes in operations, result in material fines or penalties, result in significant costs due to legal fees, settlements or judgments against the Company, or otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Without limiting the foregoing, the litigation and regulatory matters we are, have been, or may become, subject to include matters related to sales agent recruiting, policy sales practices, claim payments and procedures including denial or delay of benefits, material misstatements or omissions in our financial reports or other public statements, and/or corporate governance, corporate culture or business ethics matters. Further, the Company may be subject to claims of or litigation regarding sexual or other forms of harassment, or discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, or other bases, notwithstanding that our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics prohibits such harassment and discrimination by our employees, we have ongoing training programs and provide opportunities to report claims of noncompliant conduct, and

31


Item 1A. Risk Factors

we investigate and may take disciplinary action regarding alleged harassment or discrimination. Any violations of or deviation from laws, regulations, internal or external codes or standards of normative behavior, or perceptions of such violations or deviations, by our employees or by independent sales agents could adversely impact the Company's reputation and brand value, financial condition and results of operations.

Allegations or determinations of agent misclassification could adversely affect the Company’s results of operations, financial condition and liquidity.

A majority of our U.S. sales force is, and has historically been, comprised of independent agents. While we believe that we have properly classified such agents as independent contractors, we may be subject to claims, regulatory action by state or federal departments of labor or tax authorities or litigation asserting that such agents are employees. The laws and regulations governing the classification of workers in the United States may be changed or interpreted differently compared to past interpretations, including in states where the Company generates significant sales through independent agents. An allegation or determination that independent agents in the Company’s U.S. sales force have been misclassified as independent contractors could result in changes in the Company’s operations and U.S. business model, result in material fines or penalties, result in significant costs due to legal fees, settlements or judgments against the Company, or otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operation, financial condition and liquidity.


ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

Not applicable.

ITEM 2. PROPERTIES

In the United States, Aflac owns land and buildings that comprise two primary campuses located in Columbus, Georgia. These campuses include buildings that serve as the Company's worldwide headquarters and house administrative support and information technology functions for U.S. operations. Aflac leases office space in Columbia, South Carolina, which houses the Company's CAIC subsidiary (branded as Aflac Group Insurance). Aflac leases office space in New York that houses the Company's Global Investment division. Aflac leases administrative office space in Georgia, South Carolina, New York, Nebraska, and in 39 additional states throughout the United States, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
In Tokyo, Japan, Aflac has three primary campuses. The first campus includes a building, owned by Aflac, for the customer call center, the claims department, information technology departments, and training facility. It also includes a leased property, which houses Aflac Japan's policy administration and customer service departments. The second campus comprises leased space, which serves as Aflac Japan's headquarters and houses administrative and investment support functions. The third campus comprises leased space for the information technology departments. Aflac also leases additional office space in Tokyo, along with regional offices located throughout the country.

ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

On December 14, 2017, three former independent sales contractors filed a shareholders derivative complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York naming the Parent Company as nominal defendant and the Parent Company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, several of its directors, and a former officer and director as defendants. The complaint alleges breaches of fiduciary duty, misstatements and omissions in the Company’s public disclosures, and insider trading. The Company’s Board of Directors had previously established a special litigation committee (SLC) in July 2017 to investigate certain allegations underlying the derivative action. The SLC issued a report of its investigation in September 2017 and another report in February 2018, each of which determined that it was not in the best interests of the Company to pursue the action demanded by the shareholders. An amended complaint was filed on January 31, 2018. On February 12, 2018, this litigation was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. The SLC issued a third report of its investigation in May 2018 regarding certain additional allegations raised in the amended complaint, in which the SLC also determined that it was not in the best interests of the Company to pursue the action demanded by the shareholders. On August 31, 2018, the District Court granted the Company's motion and the amended complaint was dismissed. The plaintiffs have appealed the dismissal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The Company believes the outcome of this litigation will not have a material adverse effect on its financial position, results of operation or cash flows.

32


Item 3. Legal Proceedings


The Company is a defendant in various lawsuits considered to be in the normal course of business. Members of the Company's senior legal and financial management teams review litigation on a quarterly and annual basis. The final results of any litigation cannot be predicted with certainty. Although some of this litigation is pending in states where large punitive damages, bearing little relation to the actual damages sustained by plaintiffs, have been awarded in recent years, the Company believes the outcome of pending litigation will not have a material adverse effect on its financial position, results of operations, or cash flows.

ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
Not applicable.


33


Item 5. Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

PART II
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT'S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER
PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Market Information

Aflac Incorporated's common stock is principally traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. Aflac Incorporated's stock is also listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange under designator 8686.

Stock Split

On February 13, 2018, the Board of Directors of the Parent Company declared a two-for-one stock split of the Company’s common stock in the form of a 100% stock dividend payable on March 16, 2018 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 2, 2018. The stock split was payable in the form of one additional common stock share for every share of common stock held. All equity and share-based data, including the number of shares outstanding and per share amounts, have been adjusted to reflect the stock split for all periods presented in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

Holders

As of February 12, 2019, there were 86,621 holders of record of the Company's common stock.

34


Item 5. Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

Stock Performance Graph
The following graph compares the five-year performance of the Company's common stock to the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500) and the Standard & Poor's Life and Health Insurance Index (S&P Life and Health). The Standard & Poor's Life and Health Insurance Index includes: Aflac Incorporated, Brighthouse Financial Inc., Lincoln National Corporation, MetLife Inc., Principal Financial Group Inc., Prudential Financial Inc., Torchmark Corporation and Unum Group.

totalreturngrapha02.jpg
 

Performance Graphic Index
December 31,
 
2013

 
2014

 
2015

 
2016

 
2017

 
2018

Aflac Incorporated
100.00

 
93.72

 
94.20

 
112.20

 
144.74

 
153.73

S&P 500
100.00

 
113.69

 
115.26

 
129.05

 
157.22

 
150.33

S&P Life & Health Insurance
100.00

 
101.95

 
95.51

 
119.26

 
138.85

 
110.01

Copyright© 2019 Standard & Poor’s, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved.

35


Item 5. Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
During the year ended December 31, 2018, we repurchased shares of Aflac common stock as follows:
Period
Total
Number of
Shares
Purchased
 
Average
Price Paid
Per Share
 
Total
Number
of Shares
Purchased
as Part of
Publicly
Announced
Plans or
Programs
 
Maximum    
Number of    
Shares that    
May Yet Be    
Purchased    
Under the    
Plans or    
Programs    
 
January 1 - January 31
 
2,370,284

 
 
 
$
44.31

 
 
 
2,370,284

 
 
 
95,626,488

 
 
February 1 - February 28
 
2,349,600

 
 
 
44.70

 
 
 
2,349,600

 
 
 
93,276,888

 
 
March 1 - March 31
 
1,937,161

 
 
 
44.49

 
 
 
1,920,400

 
 
 
91,356,488

 
 
April 1 - April 30
 
2,082,500

 
 
 
44.62

 
 
 
2,082,500

 
 
 
89,273,988

 
 
May 1 - May 31
 
2,558,472

 
 
 
45.17

 
 
 
2,542,900

 
 
 
86,731,088

 
 
June 1  - June 30
 
2,175,100

 
 
 
44.99

 
 
 
2,175,100

 
 
 
84,555,988

 
 
July 1 - July 31
 
2,008,123

 
 
 
43.52

 
 
 
1,994,900

 
 
 
82,561,088

 
 
August 1 - August 31
 
2,358,317

 
 
 
46.64

 
 
 
2,352,500

 
 
 
80,208,588

 
 
September 1  - September 30
 
2,668,990

 
 
 
47.20

 
 
 
2,654,401

 
 
 
77,554,187

 
 
October 1 - October 31
 
2,817,600

 
 
 
44.78

 
 
 
2,817,600

 
 
 
74,736,587

 
 
November 1 - November 30
 
2,337,607

 
 
 
44.44

 
 
 
2,336,400

 
 
 
72,400,187

 
 
December 1  - December 31
 
3,382,043

 
 
 
44.03

 
 
 
3,352,300

 
 
 
69,047,887

 
 
Total
 
29,045,797

 
(1) 
 
$
44.93

 
 
 
28,948,885

 
 
 
69,047,887

 
 
(1)During the year ended December 31, 2018, 96,912 shares were purchased in connection with income tax withholding obligations related to the vesting of restricted-share-based awards during the period.

As of December 31, 2018, a remaining balance of 69.0 million shares of the Company's common stock was available for purchase under share repurchase authorizations by its Board of Directors.

36


Item 6. Selected Financial Data

ITEM 6.     SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

Aflac Incorporated and Subsidiaries
Years Ended December 31,
 
(In millions, except for share and per-share amounts)
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
2015
 
2014
Revenues:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net premiums, principally supplemental
health insurance
$
18,677

 
$
18,531

 
$
19,225

 
$
17,570

 
$
19,072

Net investment income
3,442

 
3,220

 
3,278

 
3,135

 
3,319

Realized investment gains (losses)
(430
)
 
(151
)
 
(14
)
 
106

 
282

Other income
69

 
67

 
70

 
61

 
55

Total revenues
21,758

 
21,667

 
22,559

 
20,872

 
22,728

Benefits and expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Benefits and claims, net
12,000

 
12,181

 
12,919

 
11,746

 
12,937

Expenses
5,775

 
5,468

 
5,573

 
5,264

 
5,300

Total benefits and expenses
17,775

 
17,649

 
18,492

 
17,010

 
18,237

Pretax earnings
3,983

 
4,018

 
4,067

 
3,862

 
4,491

Income taxes
1,063

 
(586
)
 
1,408

 
1,329

 
1,540

Net earnings
$
2,920

 
$
4,604

 
$
2,659

 
$
2,533

 
$
2,951

Share and Per-Share Amounts
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net earnings (basic)
$
3.79

 
$
5.81

 
$
3.23

 
$
2.94

 
$
3.27

Net earnings (diluted)
3.77

 
5.77

 
3.21

 
2.92

 
3.25

Cash dividends paid
1.04

 
.87

 
.83

 
.79

 
.75

Cash dividends declared
1.04

 
.87

 
.83

 
.79

 
.75

Weighted-average common shares used for basic
EPS (In thousands)
769,588

 
792,042

 
822,942

 
861,307

 
902,408

Weighted-average common shares used for diluted
EPS (In thousands)
774,650

 
797,861

 
827,841

 
866,344

 
907,999

Supplemental Data
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Yen/dollar exchange rate at year-end (yen)
111.00

 
113.00

 
116.49

 
120.61

 
120.55

Weighted-average yen/dollar exchange rate (yen)
110.39

 
112.16

 
108.70

 
120.99

 
105.46

Prior-year amounts have been adjusted for the two-for-one stock split of the Company’s common stock in March 2018.


37


Item 6. Selected Financial Data

Aflac Incorporated and Subsidiaries
December 31,
 
(In millions)
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
2015
 
2014
Assets:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Investments and cash
$
126,243

 
$
123,659

 
$
116,361

 
$
105,897

 
$
107,341

Other
14,163

 
13,558

 
13,458

 
12,359

 
12,386

Total assets
$
140,406

 
$
137,217

 
$
129,819

 
$
118,256

 
$
119,727

Liabilities and shareholders’ equity:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Policy liabilities
$
103,188

 
$
99,147

 
$
93,726

 
$
87,631

 
$
83,933

Income taxes
4,020

 
4,745

 
5,387

 
4,340

 
5,293

Notes payable
5,778

 
5,289

 
5,360

 
4,971

 
5,242

Other liabilities
3,958

 
3,438

 
4,864

 
3,606

 
6,912

Shareholders’ equity
23,462

 
24,598

 
20,482

 
17,708

 
18,347

Total liabilities and shareholders’ equity
$
140,406

 
$
137,217

 
$
129,819

 
$
118,256

 
$
119,727

Prior-year amounts have been adjusted for the adoption of accounting guidance on January 1, 2016 related to debt issuance costs.



38


Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

ITEM 7.     MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF
OPERATIONS
                              
FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION

The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides a “safe harbor” to encourage companies to provide prospective information, so long as those informational statements are identified as forward-looking and are accompanied by meaningful cautionary statements identifying important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those included in the forward-looking statements. The Company desires to take advantage of these provisions. This report contains cautionary statements identifying important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected herein, and in any other statements made by Company officials in communications with the financial community and contained in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Forward-looking statements are not based on historical information and relate to future operations, strategies, financial results or other developments. Furthermore, forward-looking information is subject to numerous assumptions, risks and uncertainties. In particular, statements containing words such as the following or similar words as well as specific projections of future results, generally qualify as forward-looking. Aflac undertakes no obligation to update such forward-looking statements.
• expect
• anticipate
• believe
• goal
• objective
• may
• should
• estimate
• intends
• projects
• will
• assumes
• potential
• target
• outlook

The Company cautions readers that the following factors, in addition to other factors mentioned from time to time, could cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated by the forward-looking statements:

difficult conditions in global capital markets and the economy
exposure to significant interest rate risk
concentration of business in Japan
foreign currency fluctuations in the yen/dollar exchange rate
limited availability of acceptable yen-denominated investments
U.S. tax audit risk related to conversion of the Japan branch to a subsidiary
deviations in actual experience from pricing and reserving assumptions
ability to continue to develop and implement improvements in information technology systems
competitive environment and ability to anticipate and respond to market trends
ability to protect the Aflac brand and the Company's reputation
ability to attract and retain qualified sales associates, brokers, employees, and distribution partners
interruption in telecommunication, information technology and other operational systems, or a failure to maintain the security, confidentiality or privacy of sensitive data residing on such systems
failure to comply with restrictions on patient privacy and information security
extensive regulation and changes in law or regulation by governmental authorities
tax rates applicable to the Company may change
defaults and credit downgrades of investments
decline in creditworthiness of other financial institutions
significant valuation judgments in determination of amount of impairments taken on the Company's investments
subsidiaries' ability to pay dividends to the Parent Company
decreases in the Company's financial strength or debt ratings
inherent limitations to risk management policies and procedures
concentration of the Company's investments in any particular single-issuer or sector
differing judgments applied to investment valuations
ability to effectively manage key executive succession
catastrophic events including, but not necessarily limited to, epidemics, pandemics, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, war or other military action, terrorism or other acts of violence, and damage incidental to such events
changes in accounting standards
increased expenses and reduced profitability resulting from changes in assumptions for pension and other postretirement benefit plans
level and outcome of litigation
allegations or determinations of worker misclassification in the United States



39


Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

MD&A OVERVIEW

Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations (MD&A) is intended to inform the reader about matters affecting the financial condition and results of operations of Aflac Incorporated and its subsidiaries for the three-year period ended December 31, 2018. As a result, the following discussion should be read in conjunction with the related consolidated financial statements and notes. This MD&A is divided into the following sections:
 
Page


THE COMPANY'S BUSINESS

Aflac Incorporated (the Parent Company) and its subsidiaries (collectively, the Company) primarily sell supplemental health and life insurance in the United States and Japan. The Company's insurance business is marketed and administered through American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus (Aflac) in the United States (Aflac U.S.) and, effective April 1, 2018, through Aflac Life Insurance Japan Ltd. in Japan (Aflac Japan). Prior to April 1, 2018, the Company's insurance business was marketed in Japan as a branch of Aflac. (For more information about the conversion of Aflac Japan to a legal subsidiary, see the Insurance Operations subsection of this MD&A). American Family Life Assurance Company of New York (Aflac New York) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Aflac. Most of Aflac's policies are individually underwritten and marketed through independent agents. Additionally, Aflac U.S. markets and administers group products through Continental American Insurance Company (CAIC), branded as Aflac Group Insurance. The Company's insurance operations in the United States and Japan service the two markets for the Company's insurance business.

For more information on the Company's business, see Business, Part I, Item 1 of this report.

PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS

Yen-denominated income statement accounts are translated to U.S. dollars using a weighted-average Japanese yen/U.S. dollar foreign exchange rate, while yen-denominated balance sheet accounts are translated to U.S. dollars using a spot Japanese yen/U.S. dollar foreign exchange rate(1). The spot yen/dollar exchange rate at December 31, 2018 was 111.00, or 1.8% stronger than the spot yen/dollar exchange rate of 113.00 at December 31, 2017. The weighted-average yen/dollar exchange rate for the year ended December 31, 2018 was 110.39, or 1.6% stronger than the weighted-average yen/dollar exchange rate of 112.16 for the same period in 2017.

Total revenues increased .4% to $21.8 billion in 2018, compared with $21.7 billion in 2017. Net earnings in 2018 were $2.9 billion, or $3.77 per diluted share, compared with $4.6 billion, or $5.77 per diluted share, in 2017. In 2017, net earnings and net earnings per diluted share included the impact of the estimated $1.9 billion, or $2.42 per diluted share, benefit as a result of the U.S. Tax Act. In the fourth quarter of 2018, the Company recorded an immaterial adjustment to the provisional Japan deferred tax balances and no valuation allowance adjustment related to anticipatory foreign tax credit asset, rendering final values for the Company's deferred tax liability.

Results for 2018 included pretax net realized investment losses of $430 million, compared with net realized investment losses of $151 million in 2017. Net investment losses in 2018 included $81 million of other-than-temporary impairment losses and changes in loan loss reserves and $234 million in net losses from derivatives and foreign currency gains or losses. Effective January 1, 2018 upon the adoption of new accounting guidance, changes in fair value of equity securities are recorded in earnings as a component of realized investment gains and losses. The Company reported net losses on equity securities of $131 million in 2018.


(1) Yen/ U.S dollar exchange rates are based on the published MUFG Bank, Ltd. telegraphic transfer middle rate (TTM)

40


Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

In October 2018, the Parent Company issued $550 million of senior notes and 53.4 billion yen of senior notes through public debt offerings under its U.S. shelf registration statement. In November 2018, the Parent Company used the net proceeds of the $550 million senior notes to redeem the Parent Company's 2.40% senior notes due in 2020. For further information regarding these transactions, see Note 9 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements and the Capital Resources and Liquidity section of this MD&A.

On February 13, 2018, the Board of Directors of the Parent Company declared a two-for-one stock split of the Company’s common stock in the form of a 100% stock dividend payable on March 16, 2018 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 2, 2018. The stock split was paid in the form of one additional common stock share for every share of common stock held. All equity and share-based data, including the number of shares outstanding and per share amounts, have been adjusted to reflect the stock split for all periods presented in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

The Company repurchased 28.9 million shares of its common stock in the open market for $1.3 billion under its share repurchase program in 2018, compared with the repurchase of 35.5 million shares for $1.35 billion in 2017.

Strategic Alliance with Japan Post Holdings

On December 19, 2018, the Parent Company and Aflac Japan entered into the Basic Agreement with Japan Post Holdings. Pursuant to the terms of the Basic Agreement, Japan Post Holdings agreed to form a capital relationship with the Parent Company, and Japan Post Holdings and Aflac Japan agreed to reconfirm existing initiatives regarding cancer insurance and to consider new joint initiatives, including leveraging digital technology in various processes, cooperation in new product development to promote customer-centric business management, cooperation in domestic and/or overseas business expansion and joint investment in third party entities and cooperation regarding asset management.

Pursuant to the terms of the Shareholders Agreement a voting trust established and funded by Japan Post Holdings (Trust) will use commercially reasonable efforts to acquire, through open market or private block purchases, ownership of approximately 7% of the outstanding shares of the Parent Company’s outstanding common stock within a year after the Trust begins acquiring such stock. The Trust has agreed not to own more than 10% of the Parent Company’s outstanding shares for a period expiring on the earlier of four years after the Trust acquires 7% of such shares, five years after it acquires 5% of such shares, or ten years after the Trust begins acquiring the Parent Company’s stock. After expiration of such period, the Trust has agreed not to own more than the greater of 10% of the Parent Company’s outstanding shares or such shares representing 22.5% of the voting rights in the Parent Company.

In light of the fact that the shares acquired by the Trust, like all Aflac Incorporated common shares, will be eligible for 10-for-1 voting rights after being held for 48 consecutive months, the Shareholders Agreement further provides for voting restrictions that effectively limit the trustee’s voting rights to no more than 20% of the voting rights in the Parent Company and further restrict the trustee’s voting rights with respect to certain change in control transactions. Japan Post Holdings will not have a Board seat on the Parent Company’s Board of Directors and will not have rights to control, manage or intervene in the management of the Parent Company.

This strategic investment is subject to certain regulatory approvals in Japan and the U.S. The Company anticipates that regulatory approvals will be received in the second half of 2019.

The foregoing summary is subject to and qualified in its entirety by reference to the full text of the Basic Agreement and Letter Agreement, including the forms of Trust Agreement and Shareholders Agreement attached to the Letter Agreement, copies of which are included as Exhibits 10.47 and 10.48 hereto and the terms of which are incorporated herein by reference.

As of December 31, 2018, the Trust owned no shares of the Parent Company’s outstanding stock.



41


Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

CRITICAL ACCOUNTING ESTIMATES

The Company prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP. These principles are established primarily by the FASB. In this MD&A, references to U.S. GAAP issued by the FASB are derived from the FASB Accounting Standards CodificationTM (ASC). The preparation of financial statements in conformity with U.S. GAAP requires the Company to make estimates based on currently available information when recording transactions resulting from business operations. The estimates that the Company deems to be most critical to an understanding of Aflac's results of operations and financial condition are those related to the valuation of investments and derivatives, deferred policy acquisition costs (DAC), liabilities for future policy benefits and unpaid policy claims, and income taxes. The preparation and evaluation of these critical accounting estimates involve the use of various assumptions developed from management's analyses and judgments. The application of these critical accounting estimates determines the values at which 94% of the Company's assets and 81% of its liabilities are reported as of December 31, 2018, and thus has a direct effect on net earnings and shareholders' equity. Subsequent experience or use of other assumptions could produce significantly different results.

Investments and Derivatives

Aflac's investments, primarily consisting of debt and equity securities, include both publicly issued and privately issued securities. For publicly issued securities, the Company determines the fair values from quoted market prices readily available from public exchange markets and price quotes and valuations from third party pricing vendors. For the majority of privately issued securities within the Company's investment portfolio, a third party pricing vendor has developed valuation models that the Company utilizes to determine fair values. For the remaining privately issued securities, the Company uses non-binding price quotes from outside brokers.

The Company estimates the fair values of its securities on a monthly basis. The Company monitors the estimated fair values obtained from its pricing vendors and brokers for consistency from month to month, while considering current market conditions. The Company also periodically discusses with its pricing brokers and vendors the pricing techniques they use to monitor the consistency of their approach and periodically assess the appropriateness of the valuation level assigned to the values obtained from them. If a fair value appears unreasonable, the Company will re-examine the inputs and assess the reasonableness of the pricing data with the vendor. Additionally, the Company may compare the inputs to relevant market indices and other performance measurements. Based on management's analysis, the valuation is confirmed or may be revised if there is evidence of a more appropriate estimate of fair value based on available market data. The Company has performed verification of the inputs and calculations in any valuation models to confirm that the valuations represent reasonable estimates of fair value.

The Company also routinely reviews its investments that have experienced declines in fair value to determine if the decline is other than temporary. The identification of distressed investments, the determination of fair value if not publicly traded and the assessment of whether a decline is other than temporary involve significant management judgment. The Company must apply considerable judgment in determining the likelihood of the security recovering in value while the Company owns it. Factors that may influence this include the Company's assessment of the issuer’s ability to continue making timely payments of interest and principal, the overall level of interest rates and credit spreads, and other factors. This process requires consideration of risks, which can be controlled to a certain extent, such as credit risk, and risks which cannot be controlled, such as interest rate risk. Management updates its evaluations regularly and reflects impairment losses in the Company's net earnings or other comprehensive income, depending on the nature of the loss, as such evaluations are revised.

The Company's derivative activities include foreign currency forwards and options used in hedging foreign exchange risk and interest rate swaps and options on interest rate swaps (or interest rate swaptions) used in hedging interest rate risk on U.S. dollar-denominated securities in Aflac Japan's portfolio; foreign currency forwards and options used to economically hedge certain portions of forecasted cash flows denominated in yen and hedge the Company's long term exposure to a weakening yen; foreign currency swaps associated with certain senior notes and subordinated debentures; and foreign currency and credit default swaps in variable interest entities (VIEs) that are consolidated. Inputs used to value derivatives include, but are not limited to, interest rates, credit spreads, foreign currency forward and spot rates, and interest volatility.

See Notes 1, 3, 4 and 5 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.

Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs and Policy Liabilities

Insurance premiums for most of the Company's health and life policies, including cancer, accident, hospital, critical illness, dental, vision, term life, whole life, long-term care and disability, are recognized as revenue over the premium-

42


Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

paying periods of the contracts when due from policyholders. When revenues are reported, the related amounts of benefits and expenses are charged against such revenues, so that profits are recognized in proportion to premium revenues during the period the policies are expected to remain in force. This association is accomplished by means of annual additions to the liability for future policy benefits and the deferral and subsequent amortization of policy acquisition costs.

Premiums from the Company's products with limited-pay features, including term life, whole life, WAYS, and child endowment, are collected over a significantly shorter period than the period over which benefits are provided. Premiums for these products are recognized as revenue over the premium-paying periods of the contracts when due from policyholders. Any gross premium in excess of the net premium is deferred and recorded in earnings, such that profits are recognized in a constant relationship with insurance in force. Benefits are recorded as an expense when they are incurred. A liability for future policy benefits is recorded when premiums are recognized using the net premium method.

Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs

The calculation of DAC and the liability for future policy benefits requires the use of estimates based on sound actuarial valuation techniques. For new policy issues, the Company reviews its actuarial assumptions and deferrable acquisition costs each year and revise them when necessary to more closely reflect recent experience and studies of actual acquisition costs. For policies in force, the Company evaluates DAC by major product groupings to determine that they are recoverable from future revenues, and any amounts determined not to be recoverable are charged against net earnings. See Note 6 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for a detail of the DAC activity for the past two years.

Policy Liabilities

The following table provides details of policy liabilities by segment and in total as of December 31.
Policy Liabilities
(In millions)
2018
 
2017
Japan segment:
 
 
 
Future policy benefits
$
77,812

 
$
73,661

Unpaid policy claims
2,857

 
2,692

Other policy liabilities
12,122

 
12,779

Total Japan policy liabilities
$
92,791

 
$
89,132

U.S. segment:
 
 
 
Future policy benefits
$
9,137

 
$
8,806

Unpaid policy claims
1,727

 
1,700

Other policy liabilities
117

 
119

Total U.S. policy liabilities
$
10,981

 
$
10,625

Consolidated:
 
 
 
Future policy benefits
$
86,368

 
$
81,857

Unpaid policy claims
4,584

 
4,392

Other policy liabilities
12,236

 
12,898

Total consolidated policy liabilities(1)
$
103,188

 
$
99,147

(1) The sum of the Japan and U.S. segments exceeds the total due to reinsurance and retrocession activity.

The Company's policy liabilities, which are determined in accordance with applicable guidelines as defined under U.S. GAAP and Actuarial Standards of Practice, include two components that involve analysis and judgment: future policy benefits and unpaid policy claims, which accounted for 84% and 4% of total policy liabilities as of December 31, 2018, respectively.

Future policy benefits provide for claims that will occur in the future and are generally calculated as the present value of future expected benefits to be incurred less the present value of future expected net benefit premiums. The Company calculates future policy benefits based on assumptions of morbidity, mortality, persistency and interest. These assumptions are generally established at the time a policy is issued. The assumptions used in the calculations are closely

43


Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

related to those used in developing the gross premiums for a policy. As required by U.S. GAAP, the Company also includes a provision for adverse deviation, which is intended to accommodate adverse fluctuations in actual experience.

Unpaid policy claims include those claims that have been incurred and are in the process of payment as well as an estimate of those claims that have been incurred but have not yet been reported to the Company. The Company computes unpaid policy claims on a non-discounted basis using statistical analyses of historical claims payments, adjusted for current trends and changed conditions. The Company updates the assumptions underlying the estimate of unpaid policy claims regularly and incorporates its historical experience as well as other data that provides information regarding the Company's outstanding liability.

The Company's insurance products provide fixed-benefit amounts per occurrence that are not subject to medical-cost inflation. Furthermore, the Company's business is widely dispersed in both the United States and Japan. This geographic dispersion and the nature of the Company's benefit structure mitigate the risk of a significant unexpected increase in claims payments due to epidemics and events of a catastrophic nature. Claims incurred under Aflac's policies are generally reported and paid in a relatively short time frame. The unpaid claims liability is sensitive to morbidity assumptions, in particular, severity and frequency of claims. Severity is the ultimate size of a claim, and frequency is the number of claims incurred. The Company's claims experience is primarily related to the demographics of its policyholders.

As a part of its established financial reporting and accounting practices and controls, the Company performs detailed annual actuarial reviews of its policyholder liabilities (gross premium valuation, GPV, analysis) and reflects the results of those reviews in its results of operations and financial condition as required by U.S. GAAP. For Aflac Japan, the Company's annual review in 2016 indicated that it needed to strengthen the liability associated with a block of care policies, primarily due to low investment yields. The Company strengthened its future policy benefits liability by $52 million in 2016 as a result of this review. Results of the Company’s annual review in 2018 and 2017 concluded that no further strengthening was required for these liabilities. For Aflac U.S., the Company's annual reviews in 2018, 2017 and 2016 indicated no need to strengthen liabilities associated with policies in the United States. In the U.S. and Japan, investment assumptions were reviewed in 2017 and the Company adopted expected forward rates in its GPV yield projections. In addition, in Japan, assets were allocated to blocks of business to align with yield and duration requirements of the businesses.

The table below reflects the growth of the future policy benefits liability for the years ended December 31.
Future Policy Benefits
(In millions of dollars and billions of yen)
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
Aflac U.S.
$
9,137

 
$
8,806

 
$
8,442

 
Growth rate
3.8
%

4.3
%

4.4
%

Aflac Japan
$
77,812

 
$
73,661

 
$
68,291

 
Growth rate
5.6
%

7.9
%

9.7
%

Consolidated
$
86,368

 
$
81,857

 
$
76,106

 
Growth rate
5.5
%