Alabama Insurance Commissioner Walter Bell’s move to a very senior position at a major reinsurer fails the proverbial smell test miserably. So blatant and audacious a disregard for appearance and propriety can only be called shameless. Unfortunately, it is but the latest in a string of shameless moves of insurance commissioners to the ranks of the industry they were charged with regulating.
Yes, my friends, we are back to taking one more turn through the revolving door headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., and otherwise known as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
It was announced on August 19 that Bell was leaving the Alabama department to become chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corp.
Alabama law is pretty clear on situations like this. What it states is: No public official or public employee who personally participates in the direct regulation, audit, or investigation of a private business, corporation, partnership, or individual shall within 2 years of his or her departure from such employment solicit or accept employment with such private business, corporation, partnership, or individual.
You would think this would apply to the commissioner of a department. But no.
So how did Bell get around this seemingly insurmountable obstacle vis ? vis employment with Swiss Re, at least a few of whose units are regulated by Alabama.
Well, it works out serendipitously because you see Bell will not be working for any of those units. He’s going to be working for the holding company.
Thank goodness for that! That loophole obviates what might otherwise seem like a huge conflict of interest, doesn’t it?
We’re following the letter of the law, see. It says so right here.
Never mind that the spirit of the law has been tied up, trussed up and thrown overboard with nary a glance back.
And let’s not forget that this arrangement had to have been carried out while Bell was still the nominal head of the Alabama department that was overseeing some Swiss Re units. But it’s OK since the negotiations were with the holding company.