With all the fuss the Eliot Spitzer (remember him?) probe kicked up three years ago there's still a big question now, though the dust has presumably settled. It's this: Do we really know that the questions the then New York attorney general raised about agent, broker and underwriter double-dealing are being dealt with? How do we know? Am I missing something? Have risk managers figured out yet what are the right questions to ask? I fear not.
On the bright side of that scandal, a federal judge has dismissed antitrust claims against dozens of insurers and brokers in a class-action suit involving the very industry practices investigated by Mr. Spitzer.
Well, maybe not that bright. Yet to be decided is whether charges in that suit involve claims that may fall under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as the RICO law. The suit was initiated by commercial property/casualty and employee-benefits policyholders. The joint lawsuit consolidated numerous actions that came in the aftermath of the Spitzer probe.
Speaking of Eliot Spitzer, whatever happened to him? It will no doubt please many in the industry, especially Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, that he's been a bit of a bust as governor of New York. He got to the mansion in Albany on the heels of a career as a legal crusader, à la Tom Dewey. Dewey wound up with a silly smile displaying a copy of the Chicago Tribune declaring his "victory" over Harry Truman in the 1948 presidential race
Maybe Spitzer needs a more successful gimmick.
I commented in a previous column ("The Ghost of Ambrose Bierce," Oct. 1, 2007, P. 18) on a letter from an irate consumer addressed to my own local newspaper, Newsday, headlined "Insurers Are Just Greedy 'Bookies.' " I didn't have room to comment on a letter just below that one, remarkably in the same edition, from a Long Island insurance agent, about the homeowners' insurance crisis here, which has been a problem for many years.
"The New York State Insurance Department has failed the citizens of Long Island by not making sure there is a vibrant, healthy insurance market," he wrote. "It's about time regulators and insurers sat down and figured out how to solve the coastal insurance crisis and make affordable protection available to everyone, before Long Island turns into the next Florida, Louisiana or Mississippi." Amen to that.
As a lifelong resident, I'm about to switch from my auto and homeowners carrier of 40 years. Loyalty is truly dead, folks, at both ends.
Footnote: An old colleague from the trade press wrote this to me after reading my column "Mutually Exclusive Terms," in the Sept. 15, 2007, issue of Risk & Insurance®. The piece equated comedian George Carlin's famous routine with the notion of insurance innovation, which was the theme of that issue.
"With 35 years experience in this industry," he wrote, tongue in cheek, "one thing has become unquestionably clear: Change is coming to the insurance industry, and it's only decades away."
To which I responded: "Too bad we won't be around for the inevitable change. But then neither will our grandchildren."
a veteran editor and writer on industry affairs for more than 40 years, is Managing Director of Slattery-Esterkamp Communications in Baldwin, N.Y.
November 1, 2007
Copyright 2007© LRP Publications