Mr. Fleming's Riposte
The column took note that a number of state officials relaxed their call for an outright ban on contingency commissions to agents and brokers from insurers on existing business for three years.
I questioned the wisdom of that decision and I decried the absence of response from the major producer organizations.
RIMS did respond, I wrote, but once again its "stand" on this critical constituent issue, if one can use so strong a word, was tepid.
The column irritated Mr. Fleming, who wrote a letter of complaint to the Editor.
Here's what the irate Mr. Fleming had to say:
I would like to address some inaccuracies in your article titled
'Contingency Redux,' most notably the suggestion that RIMS has not taken a strong position against contingency fees. RIMS has opposed contingency fees for several years. RIMS' Position Statement on Industry Compensation and Placement Practices was issued on May 20, 2007, a copy of which can be found at www.rims.org.
Last month, RIMS President Janice Ochenkowski testified before the New York Insurance Commissioner's office, calling for an end to contingency fees.
I would also like to clarify some of my comments
on phasing out contingency fees, which were taken out of context. The comments used in the column referred to the purchase of a regional agency by one of the three big brokers. The agency had contracts in place that included contingency fees. The broker indicated that they would honor existing contracts, but would move to eliminate contingency fee arrangements as soon as they could. My comment applauded the action of the broker, but called for complete transparency in the meantime. I hope that in the future, comments are quoted entirely, rather than selectively.
RIMS has taken the lead in calling for an end to contingency fees in the buyer-broker arrangement. We have done so forcefully and consistently, and as the preeminent representative of the commercial insurance buyer, we will continue to do so.
Finally, I would appreciate a bit more attention to detail, at least when it comes to my name, which you misspelled.
My apologies for misspelling Mr. Fleming's name.
First off, it was not inaccurate for me to intimate that RIMS's history on the whole scandal over bid-rigging and double-dipping by brokers has been spotty and shockingly weak for "the pre-eminent representative of the commercial insurance buyer," as Mr. Fleming rightly characterizes his organization.
By his own admission, the society did not respond for three years to what I rightly called in the column in question "as monumental and damaging an issue as has challenged the American brokerage system [and risk managers in equal measure] in generations."
Eliot Spitzer, then New York's attorney general, barred the practice in 2004. RIMS remained mute on the matter until the spring of 2007. President Ochenkowski's testimony came four years late. This hardly casts RIMS in a leadership role in calling "forcefully and consistently" for an end to contingencies, as Mr. Fleming contends.
THOMAS J. SLATTERY,
a writer on industry affairs, is managing director of Slattery-Esterkamp Communications, Baldwin, N.Y.
October 15, 2008
Copyright 2008© LRP Publications