Close Close

Life Health > Life Insurance

Commissioners Cross A Line

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

It may ultimately turn out to be nothing more than a tempest in a teapotso many things do at the National Association of Insurance Commissionersbut a recent action by the commissioners of the NAICs Southeastern Zone crossed an unacceptable line, nonetheless.

The 14 NAIC members in this zone have been circulating a resolution that says they “encourage and support the efforts” of National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors members “to amend their newly adopted policy to clarify their long-standing support for state insurance regulation and their strong opposition to the creation of a federal insurance regulator or a so-called optional or dual federal charter for insurers and producers.”

NAIFAs response to this meddling was a letter of remarkably restrained anger. It called the resolution “inaccurate, unprecedented and wholly unwarranted.”

Here in New York wed no doubt put the message to the commissioners more succinctly: Butt out.

I can understand, however, why NAIFA would want to use more than two words in responding. Their members, after all, are regulated by these very commissioners who are not only interfering in the internal affairs of an association, but also trying to turn its members against the groups adopted policy.

This is an outrage. If these commissioners have a problem with NAIFAs stance they should take it up with NAIFAs leaders, who are elected to represent the members. If the members have a problem with the organizations position on an issue, they will let the leaders know.

No doubt there are some members of NAIFA who dont like the policy that NAIFAs board clarified in January. David Woods, NAIFAs CEO, told National Underwriter he had heard from only 50 or so members who had complaints. This is out of a membership of almost 70,000. There may very well be more, and some of them may very well have close connections with the commissioners in the Southeastern Zone.

In the end, however, its really none of the NAICs business how many NAIFA members are disgruntled. This is something for the NAIFA leadership to deal with. In any organization with as many members as NAIFA has, it is illusory to think there will be absolute unanimity on every issue. If a position upsets the membership, then it is up to the leadership to decide how to respond. If enough members exert enough pressure against the position, it will change.

From this ill-considered resolution, it looks like the commissioners are hoping to foment a revolution in the ranks. Maybe they think this is more fun than doing their daytime jobs.

I find it illuminating that these commissioners did not float a similar resolution when the American Council of Life Insurers came out in support of optional federal chartering. After all, not every member of the ACLI is in favor of OFC. The reason, I believe, that the commissioners did not do so, is that they knew there would have been an outcry over regulators sticking their noses into the trade group affairs of the companies they regulate. Charges of attempted coercion and improperly using their influence would rightly have been leveled. The situation with NAIFA is no different.

It is difficult to see how this resolution could do anything but stiffen the resolve of NAIFAs leadership to maintain its policy. To do otherwise would mean being perceived as buckling under to the commissioners “wholly unwarranted” interference. If it succeeded this time, one could rightly ask, where would it end?

The appropriate course of action for the Southeastern Zone commissioners would be to publicly tear up their misguided resolution and apologize for overstepping the bounds of regulatory propriety. But dont hold your breath.

Steve Piontek


“The Southeastern Zone commissioners should publicly tear up their misguided resolution

and apologize for overstepping the bounds of regulatory propriety”

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, March 19, 2004. Copyright 2004 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.