PIA Says Hunter’s Remarks During Senate Testimony “Outrageous and Not Constructive”

November 19, 2004

The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents has issued a strongly worded statement admonishing, J. Robert Hunter, the insurance director of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), for statements made during Senate testimony this week.

In his testimony on Tuesday, November 16, before a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, Hunter described year-end bonuses agents can receive, which are calculated in part on the lower loss ratios, as “kickbacks” from insurance companies. According to the PIA, he suggested that efforts to reduce losses provided an “obvious incentive for an agent to delay filing a legitimate claim or to improperly advise a consumer not to file it.”

“Mr. Hunter’s congressional remarks are outrageous and not constructive, other than to grab headlines,” stated PIA National executive VP and CEO Len Brevik. “Mr. Hunter has been a consistent critic of the insurance industry. He continues this tradition by turning the choice independent agents offer into a ‘conflict.’ This is a disservice to consumers.”

Brevik explained that an “incentive bonus that rewards agents for helping their clients reduce risk and suffer fewer losses is not a ‘kickback.’ Kickbacks are illegal. To suggest that such bonuses provide an incentive for independent agents to delay filing legitimate claims, or advise their clients not to file legitimate claims, is to presume that agents lack integrity and do not comply with insurance law.

“This is not the case. Independent agents adhere with integrity to both the spirit and standard of the law. To suggest otherwise is just plain wrong,” Brevik added. He indicated that not only did Hunter cast aspersions on agents during his testimony, he also accused the entire insurance industry of having an “anti- competitive culture” and blasted state insurance regulators for allegedly failing to protect consumers.

“The idea that the insurance industry is not competitive, as a regular business practice, is absurd,” Brevik continued. “Our industry is perhaps one of the most competitive in our economy. And the idea that state insurance regulators have ‘utterly failed’ to protect consumers is also incorrect. It was state regulators and enforcement officials who brought the allegations against Marsh. Previous investigations involving the securities industry and savings and loans began on the state level. In the war against fraud and abuse, state authorities are our nation’s first responders and they do an excellent job.”

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