Pomeroy Approached As ACLI’s Search For A New President Continues

By

Washington

The name of Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., surfaced last week as a candidate to be the next president of the American Council of Life Insurers, but his office said he is not under consideration.

A press representative for Pomeroy told National Underwriter that the Congressman was approached regarding the position.

She says he is flattered by the interest, which is probably due to his expertise about the insurance industry.

However, she says, Pomeroy is not under consideration for any position.

Pomeroy is one of the few members of Congress with genuine expertise about the business of insurance.

He is a former insurance commissioner from North Dakota and served as president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

ACLI issued a statement saying the Councils search committee has retained an outside firm to help identify and interview potential candidates.

The firm and the executive search committee have interviewed, and are continuing to interview, potential candidates, ACLI says. But the committees activities are strictly confidential, according to ACLI, and the group will not discuss those activities or comment on the search process in any way.

It was during Pomeroy’s tenure that NAIC adopted its solvency policing agenda and insurance department accreditation program.

After entering Congress, Pomeroy was a primary developer of a special caucus focusing on retirement security issues.

Regarding the issue of retirement security, the life insurance industry is looking to the National Summit on Retirement Savings to continue the momentum towards enhanced retirement savings efforts.

In an interview, Ward Armstrong, president of American Express Retirement Services, which is a member of ACLI, said he hopes to see increased public education about the need for workers to save for their retirements.

Many of the tools needed to enhance retirement savings were enacted into law last year, Armstrong says.

These include increasing the contribution limits for 401(k) plans, allowing catch-up contributions and enhancing portability.

Many of these important changes, Armstrong says, emerged from the first summit, which occurred in June 1998.

The current summit, he says, will focus more on education and on the fact that many retirement savings vehicles, including 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts, remain underutilized.

Another issue, Armstrong says, is what retirees should do when they receive that lump sum check.

He says one of the major legislative issues supported by American Exprcess Financial Services is H.R. 2269, the Retirement Security Advice Act that was approved by the House and is now pending in the Senate.

For an organization like American Express that is involved in retirement planning, H.R. 2269 is important, he says.

While savings tools are now available, he says, what is lacking is the ability to provide 401(k) plan participants with hard information and assistance so they can make good investment decisions.

Under H.R. 2269, financial firms that already provide services to employer-sponsored plans would also be allowed to provide investment advice to plan participants, subject to strict disclosure requirements.

On the distribution side of the equation, ACLI is advocating its Lifetime Annuity Payout proposal during the Summit.

Under this proposal, those who decide to annuitize their retirement savings would be taxed at the capital gains rate rather than the higher individual tax rate.

ACLI Chairman Joe Gasper, who is president of Nationwide Financial, says life insurers are concerned that the media, legislators and policymakers have not fully considered the fact that the baby boom generation and subsequent generations will have to prepare differently for retirement than previous generations.

Traditional defined benefit plans are on the wane, he says, and the impact of Social Security reform on benefits is uncertain.

Moreover, he says, future retirees will have a longer life expectancy than previous generations.

All this means that they will have to take greater personal responsibility for ensuring adequate retirement income, in an era in which their savings will have to last longer, Gasper says.

The National Summit on Retirement Savings is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Finally, Congress may begin looking at the impact of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and the subsequent problems in the reinsurance market on the group life insurance business.

At a hearing last week, Rep. Sue Kelly, R-N.Y., who chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, raised the issue.

The primary purpose of the hearing was the release of a United States General Accounting Office report on the status of the terrorism reinsurance market for property-casualty risks.

“That is clearly important,” Kelly said at the hearing. “But we also need to consider whether there have been similar detrimental effects with respect to terrorism coverage in the group life insurance area, and I hope we can get some enlightenment on that question as well.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, March 4, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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