In the view of David Schiff, the feisty editor/writer of the Insurance Observer, the publication that gave the insurance industry fits from 1989 to 2007, the problem with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners is it is neither fish nor fowl.
He says the NAIC “has a logical function because it is trying to standardize things,” but its problem is that it has no way to enforce its decisions. “I have issues about what the NAIC is,” he said. “It is not a government organization. It’s a private club. It is not accountable to anyone.
“It is a non-accountable public entity that provides a sort of regulatory function,” Schiff says.
At the same time, he says, it has a great deal of authority as a clearinghouse for critical insurance information.
“But, it can’t be forced to do anything, for example, to provide the public access to the data it collects,” he said.
“A main issue I have with the NAIC is disclosure,” Schiff said. “It is a private organization. You can’t file a freedom of information request to get anything from the NAIC. It is a private organization, quasi-public. It’s work is secret.”
Schiff says if the NAIC is a government organization, then it should be part of the government. “I’d rather like the NAIC to be part of the federal government so that it could be forced to disclose its information, like EDGAR is used by the SEC to provide financial statistics on public companies to the public.”
Schiff cautions that he is “no enemy of the insurance industry,” He points to his insurance background, starting out at his uncle’s company, a national insurance brokerage, in 1977. “I’m not against the industry,” he repeats. “I am against cheating, dishonesty and fraud, whether it be by the policyholders or the companies.”
In 1987 he took over the insolvent Emerson, Reid & Company and helped build it into the leading wholesale insurance brokerage specializing in New York state disability benefits, a niche product offered only in that state.
He started the Insurance Observer in 1989, and once won a George Polk award for his expos?s on mutual insurance companies. He called it the “world’s most dangerous insurance publication” before ceasing publication in 2007 because “I didn’t want to be consumed by it.”