One could tell just how heartfelt the honor was, if only by the way that the award presenters kidded the lawyer with just how "longtime" he is.
Les Boughner, now the immediate past chair of the CICA board, joked, "He has been around since the Earth cooled"--or at least around as far back as 36 years ago, when CICA formed at a "golf retreat where a captive conference broke out."
You only tease someone in front of 500-plus attendees when you really like them.
And chuckles aside, Boughner stressed how, if anybody did, Jones deserved the CICA Distinguished Service Award--which he called "the highest award possible in the captive insurance industry"--because of Jones' groundbreaking work, his willingness to speak at events and educate, and his leadership in elevating the industry's reputation.
When Jones took the stage to shake hands, receive his award, and make his acceptance speech, it was apparent in his short speech that he was truly honored. Though, again, he kidded as well. He was told, he said, that receiving the award was not contingent on beating the IRS' latest tax proposal.
"Though that didn't hurt," he said, grinning.
Jones, a partner in the Chicago office of law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and the captive taxation expert, played a major role in the collective industry effort called the Coalition for Fairness to Captive Insurers, which was established in opposition to an IRS proposal that would have transformed the way that many U.S.-based captives deducted their loss reserves. Jones spearheaded the effort to synthesize the coalition's brief, explaining, in highly legal and technical terms, why the proposal went against years of IRS practice and legal rulings. The IRS withdrew the proposal Feb. 20, 2008.
The success was just one contribution to the industry among many, as Boughner highlighted in his introductory speech in Scottsdale. The CICA award is just one among many. He won the Vermont Captive Insurance Association's 2005 Industry Service Award. In 2001, Cayman also awarded Jones special recognition.
When Risk & Insurance® followed up with Jones a couple weeks after the CICA conference, it was not an easy task to get the humble man to reflect on these contributions.
"I think my biggest contributions are still to come," he said.
How about the highlight of his career to date? Again, he deftly avoided the spotlight and instead applauded everyone he works with and for. He talked about all of the captive meetings he's sat through where captive owners strive to reduce losses and through that produce better behavior and fewer accidents.
He called captive insurance: "the problem-solving industry that generally leads to a better financial result, and underlying that, more significantly, is it helps reduce losses and prevent accidents."
As for his colleagues within it: "people with sharp pencils who don't like to have these losses every year."
And people he likes, whose camaraderie he prizes.
"I sort of joke about this," he said, "but a real plus of the captive industry is we sort of have a collective no-jerk rule."
"I have had a great time," he summed up his experience. "I love it."
Put together the people and the problems and you have what he loves about the business.
"It's about an even split between the creative problem-solving on the one hand and just working with the people on the other," he said. "The technical and the human side go together, and for me, they're equally gratifying."
No wonder he sees bigger successes still to come, and why he's worked in the industry since the Earth cooled.
When he began his career at McDermott Will & Emery after attending law (1975) and business school (1971) at Cornell University, Jones was a tax lawyer with a focus on international tax planning. It wasn't until after eight or nine years of being there, he recalled, that a client came to the firm looking to set up a Cayman captive. A senior partner put Jones in charge.
Months into it, the client came to Jones and said, "It seems like you know a heck of a lot more about this issue than last year."
Jones realized he was diving into the captive world, reading as much as he could about it, not because he had to for his client. He enjoyed it.
Soon after, he started his career as a speaker at captive events, a great opportunity to share and gain knowledge and meet people.
"My goal has been to raise the knowledge," he said.
Over the years, there are other accomplishments he's as proud of (and would mention after coaxed with repeated questions)--his work with reciprocal risk retention groups, the Rhode Island law that he got changed so that hospitals could insure doctors that they didn't employ. He estimated 20 percent of all doctors in the state are in one of his captives. Healthcare captives are a specialty.
Then there are achievements he didn't mention, such as being a corporate legal advisor for the New York World Trade Center Captive, structuring bio-terrorism risk pools for airlines and the managed care industry, and serving as board member and faculty for the International Center for Captive Insurance Education.
"So you can make a difference," he said, perhaps summing up why he has so valued, and been valued by, the captive industry.
And like the man said, he still has a difference to make. Currently, how risk retention groups are used in California is in limbo pending the case involving the California Association of Auto Dealers. And the IRS is still at its attempts to narrow the definition of insurance for tax purposes, having issued new guidance on the federal excise tax.
The industry will keep on expanding despite--and will mount defenses against--any serious challenges.
"The industry is well situated to come together and defend itself," Jones said.
MATTHEW BRODSKY is senior editor/Web editor of Risk & Insurance®.
(Read the rest of the March 26 People on the Move newsletter.)
March 26, 2008
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