Industry News

  • PIA Says Buying Insurance Is Not Like Buying a Song on iTunes

    November 20, 2013

    PIA National issued a press release on Nov. 15 in which we agreed with President Obama when he said, “Buying health insurance is never going to be like buying a song on iTunes. You know, it’s just a much more complicated transaction.” The president made the remark during an hour-long press conference at the White House on November 14, during which he attempted to explain all of the problems related to the launch of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    “Although many independent insurance agents and brokers would disagree with the kind of healthcare reform efforts seen so far, the president finally did make a few valid points about the nature of insurance,” said PIA National President John G. Lee. “I was somewhat taken aback when the president admitted that his administration is ‘discovering … that insurance is complicated to buy.’ PIA has been saying this all along because it is true. This eleventh-hour realization is a particularly disappointing admission on the part of the president, given how many highly qualified and successful former insurance regulators he appointed within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to head this effort.”

    The president also said during his press conference, “Part of what we’re realizing is that there are going to be a certain portion of people who are just going to need more help and more hand-holding in the application process.” Lee said, “That is precisely what independent insurance agents and brokers do every day as part of the regular service we provide to our customers.”

    PIA Agrees That Buying Insurance Is Not Like Buying a Song on iTunes (PIA 11/15/13)

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  • Mike Becker Named Executive Vice President & CEO of National Association of Professional Insurance Agents

    November 15, 2013

    Mike Becker PortraitWASHINGTON – Mike Becker has been named Executive Vice President & CEO of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA National), effective December 10, 2013. The announcement was made by PIA National Executive Vice President & CEO Ron Von Haden.

    “PIA is pleased that Mike Becker will assume his new responsibilities on behalf of our national association,” said Von Haden, who will continue as Executive Vice President of PIA of Wisconsin when he relinquishes the additional duties he had assumed at PIA National over the past year. “We are proud that PIA is moving forward in such a dynamic manner.”

    Becker heads PIA’s day-to-day lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. He began his career at PIA in March of 2007, rising to Assistant Vice President of Federal Affairs, then being appointed to his current position of Vice President of Federal Affairs in February 2013. Prior to joining PIA, he worked on the congressional relations team for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), an organization representing pharmaceutical companies. He joined CHPA in 2004 after a stint as a legislative staffer on Capitol Hill.

    “Mike Becker is a can-do person who is fully and firmly committed to the continuing success of PIA,” said PIA National President John G. Lee. “He is the right person at the right time for PIA. The leaders of PIA National are determined that our Association will continue to grow and prosper in the years to come.” Lee added that Mr. Becker’s strong background as a federal lobbyist does not mean that PIA’s emphasis will change. “PIA is firmly committed to maintaining and continuing to expand the full range of legislative and regulatory advocacy, carrier relations and services that we currently provide on behalf of our members.”

    “My commitment to PIA is complete and unwavering,” said Becker. “We owe an immense debt of gratitude to our professional staff at PIA National’s Alexandria, Virginia, headquarters. Their talent, experience and dedication keeps PIA a major player on behalf of Professional Insurance Agents. We couldn’t do it without them and we will depend on all of them in the years ahead as we move forward.”

    “Over the past few years, PIA successfully overcame many challenges and is now growing its membership and expanding its influence. My job is to enable that to continue,” said Becker. “I am dedicated to earning the respect of our PIA affiliates, leadership, members and staff in this team effort.”

    Founded in 1931, PIA is a national trade association that represents member insurance agents and their employees who sell and service all kinds of insurance but specialize in coverage of automobiles, homes and businesses. PIA members are Local Agents Serving Main Street AmericaSM. PIA’s web address is www.pianet.com.

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  • PIA Agents Respond to the McKinsey Report

    November 5, 2013

    It happens every decade or so and now, in 2013, it is happening again.

    There have been several consulting reports issued in recent months which, to varying degrees, predict the demise of the independent agent and the unraveling of the independent agent distribution system.

    The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) disagrees, vehemently.

    The report that has garnered the most attention is one by McKinsey & Co.’s Financial Services Practice, a consulting firm. It contained the headline, “The End of an Era for the Local Insurance Agent.” McKinsey contends that “the economics of the traditional agent model are beginning to unravel.”

    The McKinsey report, after it makes a case for agents being under increased pressure from competition by direct writers and commoditization, then goes on to observe – somewhat incongruously with the rest of its argument – that “Local agents are not in danger of extinction, but the role they play will continue to evolve.”

    Having put forth its view of how it thinks the market is evolving, McKinsey then paints a picture of the role it sees local agents playing in the future: highly specialized, greatly diminished and paid much less. Indeed, McKinsey laments the fact that the flawed argument it puts forth “Surprisingly [emphasis added] [this] has not yet led to a change in the local insurance agent landscape. There are signs now, however, that the economics of the traditional agent model are beginning to unravel.”

    It’s Just Not True

    “The McKinsey report is just somebody’s opinion. In reality, I just don’t think it’s true,” said PIA National President John G. Lee of Fredericksburg, Virginia. “Direct writers are tough competition but we can compete. Wacte have just as competitive rates as they do. There is a Johnny Lee full size web portraitpercentage of the market that’s going to go direct and overall, across all lines, it’s been stuck under 30% for many years, despite billions in advertising. I don’t see that market share increasing.”

    “Far from being the ‘End of an Era,’ this is the dawning of a bright, new age for the independent insurance agent,” Lee said.

    PIA National Senior Vice President Patricia A. Borowski has seen this all before. Every decade or so, consulting firms will predict the demise of the independent agency distribution system, for their own competitive priorities. Often, she says, this leads to massive losses by those who buy into the narrative.

    “The report by McKinsey is not a research report, as no true unbiased research seems to have been conducted for it,” said Borowski, during a break at a conference held by the Society of Insurance Research (SIR) in San Antonio, where she was representing PIA. “There are charts and graph references, but they are used to support a predetermined outcome. It is nothing more than an opinion article by a couple of analysts that – at best – relies on the authors’ opinions, along with selective statements from like-minded others.”

    Borowski said the McKinsey report was on the agenda of the Commercial Lines Insurance Agents Panel at the SIR conference. The consensus among the panelists and a number of the conference participants was that the report is little more than a dressed-up op-ed article.

    “These ‘reports’ are efforts to convince everyone that they – these consultants – have a plan by which carriers and/or banks (for whom the consultants would no doubt like to consult) can eliminate independent agents and pocket that savings,” Borowski said. “What is never discussed are the conversion requirements, ongoing costs and potential consequences carriers may face by following such a strategy.”

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  • PIA National Names Frankenmuth Insurance 2013 Company of the Year

    October 15, 2013

    WASHINGTON — The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) has named Frankenmuth Insurance as the recipient of its prestigious 2013 Company Award of Excellence. The presentation was made on September 20, 2013, at a ceremony held in conjunction with PIA’s Fall Governance Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada.

    “Frankenmuth Insurance is a true partner for Professional Insurance Agents,” said PIA National President Andrew C. Harris, in presenting the award. “In addition to their outstanding product line, Frankenmuth Insurance does business through 530 local independent agencies in a total of 15 states. It is with pride that PIA National bestows the 2013 Company Award of Excellence to a stalwart business partner and staunch supporter of agents.”

    The PIA National Company Award of Excellence honors a company for its commitment to PIA, to the American Agency System and to furthering the interests of professional insurance agents by creating a better business environment.

    “Receiving this national industry recognition is particularly gratifying since it comes directly from the independent insurance agents with whom we partner,” said Frankenmuth Insurance Chairman, President and CEO John Benson. “We strive to continually exceed their expectations, and receiving the 2013 PIA National Company Award of Excellence is confirmation we are achieving that goal.”

    “We are truly honored to be selected to receive this award from the PIA National,” said Frankenmuth Senior Vice President Fred Edmond. “Our commitment to supporting our independent agency partners aligns both our interests and contributes to our mutual success. On behalf of our dedicated employees, leadership and Board of Directors, we wish to thank the PIA National as well as the Michigan PIA for nominating our organization.”

    “With the advancement of technology, automation and product pricing sophistication, we cannot forget this is still a people business,” Edmond said. “It’s not always about just finding the lowest price, but it's about working with those you know, trust and like. Our mutual success is based upon strong agency partnerships and meaningful relationships.”

    Founded in 1931, PIA is a national trade association that represents member insurance agents and their employees who sell and service all kinds of insurance but specialize in coverage of automobiles, homes and businesses. PIA members are Local Agents Serving Main Street America SM. PIA’s Web address is www.pianet.com.

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  • First Salvo Fired in New War on State Regulation

    October 9, 2013

    A man who for the past decade has been one of the most outspoken supporters of federal insurance regulation in Congress, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), has fired the first salvo in what may be a renewed war on state regulation of insurance. Rep. Royce has launched a broadside against the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). He said he intends to request a hearing to investigate the NAIC and its role in the insurance marketplace, which he said has gone far beyond what it has the legal authority to do.

    A top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, Royce said the NAIC has acted beyond its self-described role as a standard-setting organization and taken on a regulatory role, both in the United States and on the international stage. While the NAIC maintains it is a “trade association made up of regulators,” Royce contends the organization “imposes its will on companies and states through its accreditation standards while representing the U.S. on an international basis on rules it has no authority to enforce on a universal basis.” An NAIC spokesperson said the association had no comment at this time.

    Royce was a prime proponent of creating the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) and tasking it with doing a study on the “benefits” — but not the disadvantages — of federal insurance regulation. Royce was also an author of the ill-fated so-called “optional” federal charter for insurers and producers. Prominent among Rep. Royce’s campaign contributors have been those at the forefront of the decades-long campaign to engineer a federal insurance takeover.

    What It Means to Agents: The timing of this is not a coincidence. Very shortly, the much-delayed FIO study of insurance regulation, which PIA has maintained all along may be biased in favor of federal regulation, will be released. It may recommend some measure of federalization — unlike the recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, which praised our state-based insurance regulatory system for protecting markets, the insurance industry and policyholders during the financial crisis.

    Attacking the NAIC and holding a congressional hearing could be part of a smear campaign timed to coincide with the release of a critical FIO report and recommendation. Royce said he sees the release of the FIO report “as a watershed moment for future regulation” of the insurance industry.

    Make no mistake: This is very important to Main Street insurance agents. This is another attempt to shift to a federal model, to benefit a few big players. The “uniformity” that federal advocates tout could result in there being far fewer insurance companies, offering fewer choices to consumers, through fewer independent insurance agents. In addition, every state’s insurance premium tax could be at risk of being usurped by the federal government.

    This battle has been fought many times before, and the state system has prevailed. It will prevail again. PIA remains steadfast in support of our state-based system of insurance regulation.

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  • The PIA Partnership Announces Voice of the Customer: Commercial Lines

    September 27, 2013

    The PIA Partnership, the company relations council of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA), has announced its annual project for 2014. Agency Touch Points – The Voice of the Customer: Commercial Lines will conduct a nationwide survey of commercial lines customers to determine their buying preferences.

    Agency Touch Points – The Voice of the Customer: Commercial Lines will be the follow-up to the PIA Partnership’s groundbreaking 2012 study, Agency Touch Points – Voice of the Customer: Personal Lines.

    “Recent studies backed by direct writers and captive carriers have contended that some buyers of coverages such as small and midsize business owners policies (BOP) have asserted that a majority want to purchase such coverages online,” said PIA National President Andrew C. Harris. “We believe that such studies lack credibility and that a more objective picture of buyer preferences is required.” Commercial Insurance Customers have been relying on the advice and council of their Professional Insurance Agent, just as they have with their CPA and Legal Counselor.

    The 2012 survey on personal lines found that customers value what agents can do for them more than they value having a choice of products and policy coverages, and they are eager for producers to take a more active role in delivering those services. It found customers are looking for expert advice and counseling, personalized attention and interaction, the ability to offer comprehensive protection to meet individual needs and excellent relationship-based customer service. The survey also found that customers care about coverage and that price is not the primary determining factor.

    Current PIA Partnership companies include: Encompass Insurance; Erie Insurance; Harleysville Insurance; Liberty Mutual Insurance; MetLife Auto & Home; Progressive Insurance; Selective Insurance Group; State Auto Group; The Central Insurance Companies; The Hanover Insurance Group; The Hartford; The Motorists Insurance Group; and Travelers.

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  • Outgoing President Andy Harris: Much Has Been Accomplished, More Remains

    September 27, 2013

    Outgoing PIA National President Andrew C. Harris, CIC, CPCU, CRM, ARM, AIS, gave a report on the state of the Association during the September 22, 2013 Board of Directors meeting held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Harris’ term concludes on October 1, 2013 as he begins a one-year stint on the Executive Committee as Immediate Past President.

    Harris outlined the many changes made and highlighted many of the resulting accomplishments over the past year.

    “Going into this year, we realized we needed to align the mission that PIA National has with our affiliates,” said Harris. “We did that by putting together a plan and a vision. It was simple, because there was only one way to go, and that was up.”

    “One of the first things that we had to do was build consensus,” Harris said. “How? You meet with people, talk with people and you have forums. We started that under [previous president] Tom Adderhold. We had forums at every meeting, where we promised you that there were no secrets; everything was on the table. That transparency and candor has to work in both directions for it to succeed. We set the example, and we need to have frank and honest feedback to the PIA leadership. The dialogue itself is the important thing. We don’t ever always agree on everything, but it’s important to know where your partners are coming from. We have to respect our partners.”

    Harris said that one of his first priorities was conducting a comprehensive search for a new executive vice president. He said the lengthy, exhaustive process resulted in the hiring of Ron Von Haden as Executive Vice President of PIA National. He said that was “probably the best decision” made during the entire year.

    Harris then gave a partial list accomplishments, including visiting 25 affiliates during the year; reestablishing our relationship with the PIA Trust; creating the Membership Committee; securing PIA Trust funding for the Membership Marketing Campaign and creating it; getting on track to achieve 10 percent growth in new members, with a positive net, nationwide; adding two new E&O carriers, Liberty Mutual and Markel, to compliment the offerings of PIAPRO; transforming the President’s Advisory Board into a breeding ground for new ideas; and expanding PIA’s commitment to the PIA Partnership, to “not only produce tools for agents to use, but to also talk about how together, PIA and carriers can work to change the dynamic and improve the market for us and them at the same time.”

    “We have made some very positive changes during the last year. It’s really the first step along a very long process,” Harris said. “We have 19 years before we celebrate our 100th Anniversary. Let’s hope we can keep our changes focused in the same positive direction over the next 19 years.”

    “The last challenge I have to this organization is to reclaim our birthright,” he concluded. “We were once a superpower. Somehow, we got off track. We recognized that, we accepted that and we said ‘We want to go forward together.’ If we try, I would love – assuming I’m still around – to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of PIA as the #1 agents association in the country. I believe we can do that if we all pull together, and if we all try. So, that’s my challenge to you.”

    “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you,” said Harris.

    Audio excerpt of Andy Harris’ remarks (9/22/13)

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  • Study: 60% of Direct Buyers Eventually Return to Independent Agents

    August 29, 2013

    Most customers who are lured away from independent agents by direct insurers promising lower prices will ultimately return to an independent agent. According to a recent study commissioned by The Hanover Insurance Group, nearly 60 percent of consumers who had purchased insurance through a direct channel ten or more years ago reported switching back to an independent agent because they wanted more value.

    This study was conducted for The Hanover, an independent agency company and member of the PIA Partnership, by the research firm InsightExpress, which surveyed 1,000 consumers who purchased insurance through direct channels 10 or more years ago. Most consumers who switched back to independent agents cited expertise and convenience for their decision. According to the survey, the motivators for consumers who switched to work with independent agents also included the benefits of having one point of contact to handle insurance needs and questions and having the guidance of an experienced personal insurance professional.

    “This research demonstrates that consumers really value the advice provided by independent agents and the personal relationships they build with their customers,” said Mark R. Desrochers, president, personal lines insurance at The Hanover. “The majority of respondents said their number one reason for switching from a direct insurance provider was to have someone to guide them through their insurance buying decisions. Clearly trust and expertise are important to consumers.”

    “The study shows that consumers realize the value that independent agents bring. That’s why we deliver our products exclusively through agents who are ‘the value creating channel,’” said Dick Lavey, president of field operations and chief marketing officer at The Hanover.

    Study Shows Consumers Who Go Direct Return to Independent Agents (Hanover 8/12/13)

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  • PIA?s Take on GAO Report on State Regulation in National Underwriter

    August 14, 2013

    The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found that the state insurance regulatory system helped mitigate the negative effects of the 2007-09 financial crisis on the insurance industry continues to make news. PIA’s report and analysis on the GAO study is featured in the National Underwriter’s Property/Casualty 360. In our analysis, we note that the GAO report serves as an objective counter-balance to an upcoming report that will likely not be objective: A study of insurance regulatory modernization by the Federal Insurance Office (FIO).

    GAO: State Regulatory System Lessened Financial Crisis (National Underwriter 8/8/13)
    Industry, Regulators Cheer GAO Finding that State System Worked Well (PIA)

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  • GAO Report Says State Regulatory System Worked Well During Financial Crisis

    July 31, 2013

    A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the state insurance regulatory system worked to help mitigate the negative effects of the 2007-2009 financial crisis on the insurance industry. In addition, the GAO found that since the financial crisis, state insurance regulators have continued efforts to strengthen the insurance regulatory system.

    The report noted that state regulators were especially critical in maintaining general stability in the market during the crisis. “The effects of the financial crisis on insurers and policyholders were generally limited, with a few exceptions,” the report stated.

    The GAO report was proposed 18 months ago by PIA and was prepared for the chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), as well as subcommittee member Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio).

    PIA wanted the GAO to do the study because a separate Congressionally-mandated study of insurance regulatory modernization by the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) — which was due in January 2012 and has still not been released — would be biased in favor of federal insurance regulation, based upon the questions the FIO published for it.

    “The GAO report is positive, in that it essentially says the state regulatory system worked well during the financial crisis,” said Mike Becker, vice president of federal affairs at PIA National. “It also says that state regulators and the NAIC have taken steps since the financial crisis to further strengthen the state insurance regulatory system.”

    “Multiple regulatory actions and other factors helped mitigate the negative effects of the financial crisis on the insurance industry,” the GAO report notes. It said state insurance regulators and the NAIC took various actions to identify potential risks and help provide capital relief for insurers. In addition, several federal programs were also made available that infused capital into certain insurance companies. “Also, industry business practices and existing regulatory restrictions on insurers’ investment and underwriting activities helped to limit the effects of the crisis on the insurance industry.”

    The report found that the financial crisis “generally had a limited effect on the insurance industry and policyholders,” with the exception of certain annuity products in the life insurance industry and the financial and mortgage guaranty lines of insurance in the P/C industry. PIA National will be providing additional analysis of the GAO report.

    Impacts of and Regulatory Response to the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis (GAO)

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  • NAIC CEO Nelson Says FIO Has Attempted to Speak for State Regulators

    July 31, 2013

    Commenting in an article in Best’s News Service, National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) CEO Ben Nelson said he has been meeting with Federal Insurance Office (FIO) Director Michael McRaith and holding conference calls in an effort to clarify the FIO’s role on the international stage. But he said more communication may be necessary.

    “Communication involves more than just meetings and telephone calls,” Nelson said. “It has got to mean that FIO has to tell us their positions in advance, so we don’t learn about them as a surprise or that they have a position but they can’t tell us what it is. That’s not communication.” Questions about the FIO’s role have reached a point where Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), who chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, has asked McRaith to submit monthly updates about the office’s interaction with the NAIC and on the development of policy positions.

    Nelson said McRaith has attempted to speak on behalf of state insurance regulators and has “taken positions that run contrary to the state regulatory mechanism.” Nelson said some of the FIO’s actions and statements have led to confusion among its international counterparts about whether the office is actually a regulator. He said that only representatives of state regulatory bodies should speak on behalf of regulation.

    NAIC CEO Nelson: Confusion Persists on FIO’s Role (Best’s News 7/10/13) (subscription)
    Nelson to Congress: FIO Does Not Speak for Insurance Regulators (PIA 6/18/13)

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  • Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act

    July 16, 2013

    A small bipartisan group of U.S. senators last week introduced legislation that would break up Wall Street’s megabanks by separating traditional banking activity from riskier financial services. The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act would bring back elements of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which divided commercial and investment banking and was repealed in 1999.

    The new legislation would separate the operations of traditional banks with accounts backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) from riskier activities such as investment banking, insurance, swaps and hedge funds. It would include a five-year transition period and would call for penalties if companies violated the law. The bill is sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Angus King (I-Maine), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

    “Since core provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act were repealed in 1999, shattering the wall dividing commercial banks and investment banks, a culture of dangerous greed and excessive risk-taking has taken root in the banking world,” said Sen. McCain. “Big Wall Street institutions should be free to engage in transactions with significant risk, but not with federally insured deposits. If enacted, the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act would not end Too-Big-to-Fail. But, it would rebuild the wall between commercial and investment banking that was in place for over 60 years, restore confidence in the system and reduce risk for the American taxpayer.”

    21st Century Glass-Steagall Act (bill text)

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  • Disgraced Eliot Spitzer Seeks Return to Public Life

    July 16, 2013

    Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York who resigned in disgrace as the result of a prostitution scandal that he said last week was the result of his “urges,” has announced that he will re-enter politics and run for Comptroller of New York City. In an odd twist, one candidate the ex-governor will face is Kristin Davis, the ex-madam who says she supplied him with hookers and who is running on the Libertarian line.

    In November 2008, prosecutors in charge of the case announced that Spitzer would not face criminal charges for his involvement in the sex ring, because they found no evidence of misuse of public funds and therefore pressing charges would not serve the public interest.

    Beginning in late 2004, Spitzer, then the state attorney general of New York, investigated allegations of bid-rigging and client-steering against a handful of insurers and mega-brokers. Then, together with a few of his fellow Attorneys General, he negotiated supposedly “voluntary” settlement agreements in which they agreed to forgo contingent commissions, without admitting any wrongdoing.

    Smearing Main Street Agents

    While Professional Insurance Agents were never suspected of any wrongdoing, Spitzer and his allies tried to tarnish Main Street agents with his broad brush. He attempted to use his “voluntary” settlements to bring about an industry-wide ban on contingent commissions, including those received by PIA members. In short, Spitzer wanted Main Street agents to be punished for the suspected wrongdoing of others, when Main Street agents did nothing wrong.

    PIA battled this unfair assault led by Mr. Spitzer and his cohorts for the better part of a decade. We took legal action in 2006 to defend PIA members from the onslaught. In the end, the courts agreed with us, ruling that contingent commissions are ethical, not illegal, and not a breach of fiduciary responsibility. We also conducted a major public relations campaign, winning in the court of public opinion.

    If you would like to peruse the entire history of PIA’s battles with Eliot Spitzer, click on this link. It will take you to PIA’s complete files, detailing almost 10 years of our fighting – ultimately, successfully – to protect the good name and reputation of all PIA members. Another link is to the brief PIA filed in federal court in which we made our case against Spitzer’s attempts to smear honest Main Street insurance agents. And there’s a recent link to a story about Spitzer blaming his problems on his “urges.” Check it out – all of it makes for very interesting reading.

    PIA’s Years of Battles with Eliot Spitzer (complete file)

    Spitzer Blames ‘Urges” for Prostitution Scandal (PBS 7/9/13)

    Brief of Amicus Curiae
    Unites States District Court, District of New Jersey
    in opposition to Proposed Class Settlement with Zurich Insurers
    National Association of Professional Insurance Agents
    (Filed 9/15/2006)

    In-Depth Article on Spitzer and PIA’s Brief (Rough Notes Nov. 2006)

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  • PIA Victories! NY Senate Follows Montana in Passing Certificates Bill Backed by PIA

    June 26, 2013

    New York Bill Awaits Gov. Cuomo's Signature; Montana Bill Introduced by Sen. Fred Thomas Signed Into Law


    In a major victory for PIA, both Montana and New York have passed bills backed by PIA to address the large and growing problem all producers face when handling certificate of insurance requests.

    In New York, the New York State Senate passed a bill, which was already approved in the New York State Assembly, and sent it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature. PIA of New York said it will continue to work diligently to urge the Governor to sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.

    Fred Thomas PortraitIn Montana, State Sen. Fred Thomas (R), a past PIA National President, introduced the Certificates of Insurance Model Act (S. 158) and shepherded it to passage. It was signed into law on April 25, 2013 by Gov. Steve Bullock (D).

    The victories in Montana and New York cap a two-year long process, in which PIA National took the lead in getting the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) to adopt a model bill to curb requests of agents for illegal Certificates of Insurance. PIA National President Andrew C. Harris led the effort along with PIA National Assistant Vice President of Regulatory Affairs David M. Eppstein, Esq. Harris testified at several NCOIL meetings, urging the legislators to act, because agents are increasingly being asked to add information to certificates of insurance that may not match the underlying policy terms. He also personally brokered a compromise with lenders to address their concerns.

    What It Means to Agents: PIA’s leadership on this issue broke a stalemate that had existed for decades. Montana and New York are two of eight states so far to consider the NCOIL certificates model. This achievement is a powerful example of what PIA is able to accomplish for the benefit of PIA members everywhere, when everybody works together.

    PIA Achieves Major Win with Certificates Model Law (PIA Connection 12/12)

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  • PIA Advises Public Adjusters Are Not Needed in Most Cases

    May 29, 2013

    PIA National issued a press release on May 24 that had two purposes: (1) to educate the public about post-disaster claims filing; and (2) to make the point that most people do not need to hire a public adjuster.

    Our press release was prompted by one that was issued by the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, in which they present claims filing advice filled with recommendations that Oklahoma disaster victims should consider hiring a public insurance adjuster.

    “Public adjusters sometimes have a role, but frankly in most cases consumers do not need to take on the additional expense of hiring one,” said PIA National Executive Vice President & CEO Ron Von Haden. “Professional insurance agents assist their clients in the claims filing process, which begins with filing a claim with the insurance company, at no added cost. The overwhelming number of claims are properly paid. Approaching the claims filing process in an open, cooperative manner produces a better result than assuming a potentially adversarial stance from the outset.”

    In our press release, Senior Vice President Patricia A. Borowski elaborated further. “Public adjusters imply that the settlement won’t be fair to the policyholder without their intervention, for which they charge an additional fee directly to the person who is insured,” she said. “This fee is usually a percentage of the final settlement – and for some, it might also include extra charges for the expenses of the public adjuster.”

    “Under the insurance and contract laws of every U.S. jurisdiction, insurance companies are required and obligated to perform the claims services and settlements that are stated in their insurance policy contracts,” Borowski said. “Also, in every state there is a Department of Insurance, along with regulators, who will assist consumers to ensure that insurers meet their obligations. This service is a part of state government, which consumers have already paid for in their taxes.”

    PIA Offers Post-Disaster Claims Filing Tips (May 24, 2013)

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  • PIA National President Andy Harris Refutes the Direct Writers

    May 22, 2013

    If you pay attention to some industry pundits — which is always risky — you might think that customers increasingly want to buy insurance policies online. You might come to believe that younger customers really want to transact business online. You could assume that price is the prime motivating factor in insurance purchases. You might even be tempted to conclude that people value insurance agents less.

    The trouble with all of that is all of it is wrong! PIA National President Andrew C. Harris notes that in just the past year, there have been several large surveys conducted that reveal that this so-called “conventional wisdom” is incorrect. One of these surveys was conducted by Ernst & Young. Another was conducted by Accenture. Another was conducted by PIA, through our company council, the PIA Partnership. The bottom line on all of them: consumers value what agents provide and they prefer dealing with agents!

    Harris notes that misconceptions about what consumers want are being driven by massive advertising by the direct writers. “We need to get the truth out person by person, client by client,”said Harris, in his latest President’s Message to PIA. “Warren Buffett can pay to put a billion geckos on our television screens, but a cartoon character or a disembodied voice will never be there after a Hurricane Katrina or a Superstorm Sandy, personally helping insureds put their lives back together.” You can read Harris’ full message here.

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  • Agents Say Goodbye to ?One-of-a-Kind? Elsie Reamy

    April 24, 2013

    Elsie ReamyElsie Reamy, who for 41 years was affiliated with the Professional Insurance Agents Association of Virginia and D.C. (PIA-VA/DC) and served as the organization’s executive vice president, passed away in April after a long battle with cancer. She was 75 and resided in Richmond, Va.

    Reamy began her career in 1970 as office manager for what was then called the Mutual Insurance Agents’ Association of Virginia and (Washington) D.C. Following her retirement from PIA-VA/DC in 2003, she retained a part-time affiliation as state legislative chair for another eight years.

    Besides the countless awards and recognitions for her contributions to the association – such as growing membership, building offerings to more than 100 classes, creating an education foundation and two PACs, and her tireless involvement with insurance causes throughout Virginia – Reamy was known as leader of a professional organization run with a major dose of Southern hospitality.

    “There’s really no limit to the sense of fellowship and community that Elsie’s charm and professionalism brought to nearly every phase of the insurance industry in Virginia,” said Dennis Yocom, current executive vice president of PIA-VA/DC. “They really broke the mold with Elsie; she’s one of a kind and will be remembered fondly by agents across the nation.”

    Over the span of 41 years, Elsie earned countless awards, and recognition for so many organizational “firsts” that they cannot be accurately listed. Here are just a few: more than doubled agent membership and staffing; increased budget by 10 times; built educational offerings to more than 100 classes annually while increasing attendance by 50 percent; created publications, an education foundation and two PACs; grew convention attendance annually; wrote the 70+ year history of PIAVA/DC titled “A Legacy of Service and Fellowship”, and adopted Special Olympics of Virginia as charity of choice 34 years ago. Her most endearing accomplishment is that Elsie took a self-help concept from a group of professional insurance agents and, by applying a major dose of Southern hospitality, turned it into an organizational “family” providing personal professional services to more than 500 agencies and in excess of 2,500 agents in Virginia and DC.

    In her own words: “I want your association to always be an agents’ association; by this I mean for programs and services to be those you need and use. I want it to always be meaningful to you, and for you to feel that you’re the one running it.”

    Reamy was a licensed insurance agent with numerous designations and was a certified association executive (CAE). In 1991, she was given an Award of Excellence from the Virginia Society of Association Executives. She was recognized by her insurance association peers as Executive of the Year in 1992 by the National Society of PIA Executives, and in 1996 was honored as Industry Person of the Year by the Insurance Women of Richmond. In 2003, Reamy received recognition on the floor of the House of Delegates of the Virginia General Assembly for her service to the association community, to the insurance industry and to the Virginia Legislature.

    She was also active in the church community, having served as a leader, church school teacher and secretary at local churches. Reamy is survived by a brother, Joseph Reamy, of Montross, Va.

    Donations in Reamy’s honor may be made to the Elsie Reamy Scholarship Fund, c/o PIA VA/DC, 8751 Park Central Drive, Ste 140, Richmond, VA 23238 or to Ephesus Christian Church General Fund (P.O. Box 1027, Montross, VA 22520); or Bethany Christian Church Memorial Fund (5400 Forest Hill Ave, Richmond, VA 23225).

    Elsie Reamy Remembered

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  • PIA National Board Honors the Late PIA National CFO Loan Nguyen

    April 23, 2013

    On Sunday, April 14, 2013, the Board of Directors of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents issued a solemn Proclamation, honoring the late PIA National Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Loan Nguyen, who passed away on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 following a long illness.

    Loan served PIA since 1986, managing our finances with the highest degree of professionalism and the utmost commitment to PIA. She touched the lives of all those who were fortunate enough to know her. The Board Proclamation states, in part:

    Whereas: For more than 27 years, Loan Nguyen guarded the financial assets of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents with diligence;

    Whereas: Everyone in PIA, at the national level and throughout the many PIA affiliates, recognized and appreciated Loan Nguyen’s unquestioned honesty and integrity;

    Whereas: Loan Nguyen truly believed in and loved PIA with a fierce loyalty;

    Whereas: Loan Nguyen believed that PIA is a family, that PIA was part of her family, and as such she always cared about and sought to protect her PIA family;

    Whereas: PIA has suffered an incalculable loss with the passing of Loan Nguyen – our guardian, our matriarch, our protector, the keeper of the PIA National flame, our dearest and most beloved friend;

    Therefore Be It Resolved: That the Board of Directors of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents does hereby express its most profound condolences upon the passing of our dear friend Loan Nguyen and confer the highest affirmation of our undying appreciation and respect upon the memory of her time among us.

    ADOPTED unanimously, on this 14th day of April, 2013, by the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents. You may read the complete proclamation here.

    A special dedication ceremony, with the planting of a tree outside Loan’s former office, the installation of a memorial plaque and a celebration of Loan’s life, is planned at the PIA National headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia on May 1, 2013.

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  • PIA Article: Ben Nelson to the Rescue

    March 8, 2013

    The announcement that former Nebraska Governor and former U.S. Senator Ben Nelson had been chosen as the new chief executive officer of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) was music to the ears of supporters of state insurance regulation. An article by PIA’s Ted Besesparis in the March 2013 issue of American Agent & Broker magazine sings the praises of Nelson, with whom PIA National and PIA of Nebraska have maintained a close working relationship over several decades.

    An excerpt: “Like the cavalry riding to the rescue, Nelson was in his new job only 24 hours before he held a press conference and declared that there is ‘no need for dual regulation’ of insurance. You could almost hear a collective national sigh of relief emanating from the supporters of state insurance regulation.” You can read the entire article here.

    Ben Nelson to the Rescue ..(American Agent & Broker March 2013)

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  • Becker Promoted to VP of Federal Affairs at PIA National

    February 21, 2013

    Mike Becker has been named Vice President of Federal Affairs for the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA). The announcement was made by PIA National Executive Vice President & CEO Ron Von Haden. Becker heads PIA’s day-to-day lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, directs the annual PIA National Federal Legislative Summit and is the lead liaison to the association’s Government Affairs Committee. He serves as the Treasurer of the Professional Insurance Agents Political Action Committee (PIAPAC) and is a board member of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

    “PIA is pleased to recognize the accomplishments of Mike Becker in his Capitol Hill advocacy for PIA members,” said Von Haden. “His legislative acumen, dogged determination and extensive Washington contacts benefit our members by advancing PIA’s agenda every day.” – more

    PIA National Names Becker as Federal Affairs VP (Insurance Journal 2/18/13)

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