Insurers Claim Regulators’ Open Meetings Policy Ignored

December 22, 2004

“Any NAIC deliberation or decision that has legal or persuasive effect on insurance law and regulation is the public’s business and must be conducted in a public setting,” stated a National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies official in a letter sent to a regulator.

District of Columbia Department of Securities and Insurance Commissioner Lawrence Mirel asked for comments during the NAIC/Industry Liaison Meeting earlier this month in New Orleans. NAMIC Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, Peter A. Bisbecos, provided comments in a letter to Mirel on Friday.

“NAMIC believes that the NAIC should conduct the public’s business in public settings, with few well-defined and clear exceptions,” wrote Bisbecos who went on to observe that the NAIC’s open meetings policy “is inadequate and readily ignored.”

According to Bisbecos, weaknesses in the open meetings policy that should be acknowledged and addressed are:

“The NAIC’s open meetings policy is inadequate as it fails to recognize the NAIC’s real impact on insurance regulation. While the NAIC is not ‘charged’ with performing official functions, it is authorized to make decisions that have varying degrees of legal effect in the states.”

The letter went on to say that because NAIC’s actions have significant impact on state insurance regulation, including incorporation by reference, it is crucial that regulators maintain a rigorous open meetings policy.

“The policy should also apply to situations in which the NAIC’s actions have persuasive authority,” the letter further stated. “The NAIC occupies a unique position with legislators as its model acts reflect the collective judgment of the nation’s insurance regulators. Adoption of model acts that are not the product of an open and rigorous debate will harm their persuasive effect with legislators- who pass open meetings laws in their states.”

According to NAMIC, exceptions to the open meetings requirement are too broad and allow a chairperson to close a meeting at his or her discretion.

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