Kevelighan: Talks with Institutes on Creating 21st Century Triple III Began Years Ago

By | November 16, 2020

  • November 16, 2020 at 4:30 pm
    Robert Hartwig says:
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    It’s difficult, albeit almost comical, to read Mr. Kevelighan’s attempted spin on the III’s huge member and financial losses over the past four years. The numbers speak for themselves. I speak with ultimate authority on this. The III grew steadily and profitably throughout my entire decade as president. Under Mr. Kevelighan, the III is shrinking and losing millions of dollars. Period. Game over. End of story. The III’s own IRS filings prove it. Member withdrawals began in late 2016 and have continued into 2020. The III’s own publically available membership lists prove that. Indeed, the largest member company to withdraw to-date occurred this year (Travelers). Apparently all is not well in the utopian paradise that Mr. Kevelighan is attempting to paint. What’s more is that many board-level companies (e.g., CNA, Geico, Marsh, Selective, State Auto, Travelers to name just a few) have withdrawn during Mr. Kevelighan’s 4-year tenure, vs. zero board-level withdrawals during my entire decade as president. Such board instability is a sign of a deeply troubled organization with a dissatisfied membership. In contrast, board stability under my leadership, combined with profitable growth, is proof positive of the organization’s overall strength and its value proposition to the industry. As noted in this article, III’s losses under its current CEO are a staggering $3.7 million—and that’s only through 2018. Wondering how the III has managed to keep the lights on despite such huge losses? By eating into the very large reserve fund I built up during my decade as president, that’s how. During my final three years alone at the III, the III had record revenues, record membership and POSITIVE net income totaling $3.6 million, representing an embarrassingly large adverse swing under current management of $7.3 million! Amid these huge losses, Mr. Kevelighan raked in $2.5 million. Nice gig if you can get it—lose million but still make millions. As noted, expenses under Mr. Kevelighan have soared, with executive compensation reaching 40% of total expenses in 2018. Large sums have been spent on high priced consultants, severances, settlements and legal fees—even investigations! Also, I suggest that Insurance Journal request the III’s 2019 IRS 990 form or audited tax return. They would be complete by now. It’s likely those documents show another material loss. If III will not provide you with those documents, that should tell you something. Financial losses from member withdrawals typically have their full impact a year after the withdrawal, so the financial impact of a withdrawal occurring in early 2018 would generally not be reflected until 2019, for example. Also comical is the assertion that the III is a “transparent” organization, especially considering that most of the III’s employees learned in the media that they were being absorbed into The Institutes back in June–which the III then incredulously denied, dismissing those reports as “rumor.” Also, this article doesn’t mention that the III announced job cuts last week equal to approximately 17% of its workforce, including its highly regarded Chief Economist, Dr. Steve Weisbart. I guess that little fact was omitted. I wonder why? Oh, and the III is terminating its pension program and is transferring its liabilities to an annuity from a private insurer in hopes of dodging any future payments to the plan. Despite my urging months ago to inform the organization’s retirees (many of whom are at an advanced age) of this important and major change, Mr. Kevelighan has so far refused to do so.

    As for Mr. Kevelighan’s assertion that there were “concerns” over the future of the III before he even arrived, that is pure fabrication. The III was extremely successful and the only concerns expressed by the board after I announced in early 2016 that I would be leaving for a role in academia related to finding a suitable successor. Pete Miller, CEO of The Institutes, did make an unsolicited advance towards the III shortly after my departure was announced in February 2016. His overture was immediately rebuffed by the III board precisely because the board wanted to ensure the III’s independence. Never once during my entire decade as president did the board even once bring up the topic of a merger with The Institutes. Mr. Kevelighan is trying to spin the III’s dreadful performance under his watch into an alternative reality that simply does not exist. Again, the III’s membership, growth and influence during my decade as president speak for themselves. Mr. Kevelighan’s speak for themselves too, though not in a way that anybody familiar with trade association operations or businesses in general would be trying to crow about.

    I am very proud of the achievements made during my tenure (and we never laid anybody off nor did we terminate anyone’s pension plan). No amount of spin will hide the fact that dozens of members have left the III since 2016 and the organization’s financial performance has been abysmal (also stated with authority as someone who ran the organization successfully for a decade, holds a PhD in Economics and teaches Corporate Finance). Mr. Kevelighan also cannot compare when it comes to my personal contributions to the industry. I delivered close to 1,000 presentations during my years at the III to audiences around the world, authored or co-authored scores of substantive articles and studies, testified before dozens of federal, state and local legislative and regulatory bodies—even served as an expert witness in key industry cases. Mr. Kevelighan cannot compare. I also earned my CPCU credential while at the III because I knew that investing in one’s knowledge about the industry would bring added value and credibility to my leadership skills. How many CPCU exams (or industry professional exams of any sort) has Mr. Kevelighan passed? I’ll stack my record and achievements—personal, professional and intellectual—against his any day of the week.

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