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Rival American Academy of Actuaries Candidate Steps Up

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Tom Bakos is trying to get onto the American Academy of Actuaries board of directors by organizing a proxy campaign.

Bakos, a Ridgway, Colo., consulting actuary is soliciting proxies from other AAA members in the hope of being elected to the academy’s board Oct. 26, at the academy’s annual meeting in Boston.

Bakos says he is hoping to collect the votes from members who do not plan to attend.

Earlier this month, the AAA nominating committee put forth the names of 4 actuaries for 4 vacancies on the group’s governing body. Bakos says his candidacy is not in opposition to those candidates but rather is intended to fill a board vacancy that will open up when board member Arthur Panighetti leaves the governing body to accept new duties as a vice president of the AAA.

On Tuesday, AAA officials sent members a letter calling the Bakos call for a proxy vote “an unprecedented event.”

“We believe that proxy voting can easily be abused without proper processes to support it,” according to the letter, which was signed by John Parks, AAA president, and Steve Lehmann, chair of the AAA nominating committee.

Attached to the letter was the officials’ own proxy form, which they urged members not attending the annual meeting to sign and return to Lehmann.

“Members are enthusiastically encouraged to support the slate of regulator directors recommended to you by the nominating committee, who engaged in an extensive process to present four of the most experienced and highly regarded actuaries in their fields: Mary D. Miller, Tom Wildsmith, Dave Neve, and Ron Gebhardtsbauer,” Parks and Lehmann write in their letter.

In addition to advancing himself as a candidate, Bakos has suggested that he might propose an amendment to the group’s bylaws to provide for direct elections of board members and other elected officers.

“The Academy leadership agrees that there are governance issues that need to be addressed and has created a task force to examine them,” Parks and Lehmann write. “We believe that the task force should be given a chance to seriously and thoughtfully consider governance changes.”

Bakos had been an outspoken defender of Bruce Schobel, former president-elect of the group, in Schobel’s recent legal dispute with the AAA board.

The board had elected Schobel to be president-elect in October 2008. The board took the title away Aug. 5, 2009, saying it was acting at the request of 19 former AAA presidents. Schobel filed a suit Sept. 1.

In September, the AAA board and Schobel agreed to settle the dispute.

An examination of court papers filed in that settlement indicates that the AAA agreed to pay Schobel $600,000 in connection with his agreement to drop the suit.

In addition, Schobel agreed to “make affirmative efforts to help repair any reputational damage to the Academy resulting from the litigation and the related dispute.”

Schobel also agreed to not run for the presidency of the group for at least 2 years.

Interviewed this week, Schobel said it was possible he might run for the presidency of AAA after the 2 year-moratorium period. He also said he was “absolutely” supporting Bakos in his bid for the board seat.