A bordereau is a written note or memorandum that sets forth information in detail for its reader. It generally contains information such as a complete listing of documents or accounts related to a particular subject. Probably the most common use of this document is within the insurance industry, in which an insurance company may develop a one describing an insurance policy in some manner. The main goal of this type of document is to provide information to another party, which is usually another insurance company or a client for whom the insurance company has issued the policy, whether it be an individual or a company.
The term is derived from the French and probably comes from the French word bord, meaning edge. Perhaps the most famous reference to the term bordereau in its traditional sense is its involvement in the Dreyfus Affair, a notable event in French and European history. In 1894, a French spy discovered a bordereau that dealt with French military secrets in the garbage can of the German Embassy in Paris, and contained a list of secret French military documents that the writer potentially could obtain. Suspicion immediately fell on Alfred Dreyfus, a young French officer. Following a very public investigation, arrest, and judicial inquiry, public opinion largely condemned Dreyfus, although his possible motives remained unclear, at best, and some questioned his guilt.
Today, insurance companies all over the world use a bordereau to illustrate certain transactions or aspects of its policies or insurance premiums to its reinsurer. For instance, it may list insurance premiums or losses that reinsurance affects in some way. Insurance companies usually use these documents in the context of pro rata reinsurance agreements. Some insurance companies issue them periodically to their clients regarding all pending and completed claims. The content of a particular document depends on the needs and wishes of the client, and it can either be a simple list of basic facts or can contain a great deal of detailed information about different aspects of the policy.
Bordereaux can also be used to reinsurance agreements. For example, the insurer can utilize a bordereau for the purposes of passing reinsurance on to another insurer or for passing information to various insurers on particular policies. Insurance companies often use the information in a bordereau to justify its reinsurance premium costs or to explain its computation of the risk involved in the particular insurance policy.