PCI’s Csiszar Accuses Spitzer of ‘Corporate Terrorism’ and of Ignoring Own Conflicts

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has bypassed due process and used McCarthy-like tactics to wage “corporate terrorism” against the insurance industry even while ignoring his own alleged conflicts of interest, a leading insurance industry executive has charged.

Ernie Csiszar, president and chief executive officer of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said Spitzer is unfairly using the threat of jail and a “trial by media” against business executives and that Spitzer’s avowed political ambitions taint his prosecutorial positions.

“The reality is that Spitzer did find practices in the industry that are deplorable; bid-rigging is the classic example,” Csiszar said. “The problem that we have, that I have personally and the PCI’s position is, that Spitzer takes it much further than that. If you leave it to the prosecutorial charge, fine, you’ve got them, a criminal offense was uncovered by your investigation by all means charge people and get on with,” Csiszar said at an insurance industry meeting of the American Association of Managing General Agents in Orlando, Fla. last week.

“Instead what we are seeing is a trial by media, a media that is only too happy to give Spitzer his podium; and an industry that basically left itself defenseless over the years, and that is our fault.”

Csiszar, who was South Carolina insurance commissioner before taking the top job at the insurance companies’ trade group, exclaimed: “Spitzer has discovered the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. It wasn’t Saddam Hussein; it was Spitzer’s corporate terrorism, the threat of an indictment, the threat of going to jail.”

According to Csiszar, there is no due process involved and no one is reviewing the actions of Spitzer, who the PCI leader said is attacking industry after industry and overreaching as a prosecutor.

“If Spitzer is out to eradicate conflict of interest which he seems to be doing, he should look in his own mirror in the morning and question his own conflict of interest,” Csiszar charged. “Here you have a prosecutor who has clearly expressed his lust for political power by declaring himself as a candidate for the governor of New York.

“There are some of us who think, not without good reason, who think that his ambitions go beyond that. The governor of New York historically has not been a bad place to begin a run for the presidency at some point down the road. I think that Spitzer is positioning himself for that. The reality of it is that in and of itself, in comparison to his prosecutorial position, truly creates a conflict of interest and what is the punishment for that?”

He added, “This smacks of McCarthyism, and I am sorry, that is not what America is all about.”

Csiszar’s comments came during a question-and-answer session held immediately after a group of panelists completed their discussions.

A complete report on additional comments from PCI’s Csiszar and others at the AAMGA meeting will appear in the print edition of Insurance Journal on May 23.