By ERIN GAZICA, associate editor
When it comes to understanding Tribal hospitality and gaming, tribal ordinances and insurance claims advocacy, invoking sovereign immunity, and Tribal judiciary advisory on state compacts, Jewell's got it down-Pat (pun intended).
He just spent the last 15 years at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, owner of Foxwoods, a massive six-casino complex unmatched in the world, covering 4.7 million square feet and hosting 40,000 visitors a day. The tribe employs 12,000 people in its operations overall. Jewell balanced his time between the risk management department and the Office of Legal Counsel.
Now, Jewell's been picked up by Beecher Carlson, which in July jumpstarted a subsidiary called Tribal Nation Insurance Services that provides exclusive risk management and insurance services tailored to the needs of Tribal Nations.
Sitting on the other side of the table, Jewell will serve as a trustworthy resource to potential clients who are often very cautious when picking an insurance broker. Jewell said that in the end it all comes down to relationships, to trust. He acknowledged the same could be said for any broker-client relationship, but that when dealing with Tribal Nations there's a cultural sensitivity that permeates that relationship.
"There's land issues, the treatment of elders," Jewell said. "There is a certain level of mistrust that you have to overcome. One of the things that we've done is bring to the table something different, acknowledging that we have a deep understanding of sovereignty. We may not know everything about their particular tribe, but we're willing to learn. That goes a long way."
Jewell said clients have been receptive, commenting, " 'You get this, you understand this. Tribes have diversified risk.' "
Part of the reason why clients say Jewell "gets it" is the knowledge he accumulated while working for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation for 15 years. His resume is impressive, having been around when the tribe removed itself from the state of Connecticut's workers' compensation law.
Jewell worked on the tribal ordinances, developing protocols for workers' compensation and tort claims. He provided guidance on the tribe's self-administered claims operation, created a workers' comp TPA on the reservation, managed the team and developed contract language to support sovereign immunity with off-site constituents. Eventually he became involved as a director of risk management, performing risk assessments became more complex as the tribe expanded and grew more economically diverse.
As a former client of Beecher Carlson's, Jewell is in the unique position of being able to offer advice for the beginning stages of Tribal Nation Insurance Services. He said what he hopes to accomplish is to fill in what competing brokerage firms serving this marketplace have lacked.
"What we find for the most part is that we're in this situation where for years the insurance industry just hasn't understood the unique nature of tribal nations and what their unique risk issues are," said Jewell.
Joe Siech, managing director at Tribal Nation Insurance Services, said Beecher Carlson has been working with the hospitality and gaming industry for nearly 30 years but that breaking into the Tribal Nations sector has been a more recent endeavor, with a particular focus on the issue of sovereignty when forming this new subsidiary.
"The goal was to identify a group within Beecher Carlson that would understand sovereignty and the unique aspects that each tribe has with state compacts and tribal issues," Siech said. "The commercial marketplace to date has not understood sovereignty. They don't understand each tribe's exposure to tort liability because it's due to their own laws and tribal court systems."
Compared to competing brokerage firms, Siech said Tribal Nation Insurance Services has true collaboration among its staff. Five dedicated producers, including Jewell, are based in different parts of the country but they all serve each tribe regardless of geography. That model allows more resources to be shared on every account.
"Probably our biggest strength is that it's truly a team effort," said Siech. "We have weekly calls to address emerging risk within Indian country because it is changing quickly. Other firms say they have a Native American risk management practice, but ours is totally collaborated."
There's been a lot of interest in the new subsidiary on the carrier side, Siech said. Carriers like Arch Insurance Group, Allied World Assurance Company Ltd., and QBE Insurance Group have signed up to partner with the new venture. Since the subsidiary is in the early stages, Siech said the reception among prospects has been one of "guarded optimism."
"There's a newness about this, you have to build a level of trust," he said. "This is a people that have a history of promises not being lived up to. That's why you can't dabble in this sector. You have to be committed to it."
November 1, 2008
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