NU Online News Service, Dec. 9, 12:53 p.m. EST
SAN FRANCISCO--A key insurance regulator said insurers will be pursued for climate risk data by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners even if their state of domicile doesn't ask for it.
In a surprise to insurance representatives, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario, who heads the NAIC's Climate Change and Global Warming Task Force, said if an individual state chooses not to administer the NAIC Climate Risk Disclosure Survey to insurers, regulators will solicit the information from one of their subsidiary companies domiciled in another state.
His comments came when his task force met during the NAIC Winter National Meeting here. He also said that to simplify matters for insurers regarding the survey, only one company from a given insurer group will have to complete the survey by May 1 each year.
A handout during the meeting explains, "Surveys are intended to be submitted to the domestic regulator of [an] insurer group's lead state"--meaning the insurer within the group that reports the largest direct written premium volume must submit the survey to its domestic regulator. That survey will satisfy the requirement for the entire insurer group.
But, Commissioner Ario noted, while approved by the NAIC, the survey must be administered by the regulators of each individual state. If a regulator chooses not to administer the survey, and that regulator's state houses the lead insurer of a group of companies, Commissioner Ario said the NAIC will look to the next largest insurer in that group, domiciled in a separate state that is administering the survey, and request that the company complete the survey for the group.
Insurer associations that had originally opposed the survey, and had planned as a next course of action to fight its implementation state-by-state, were caught off guard by Commissioner Ario's statements.
David Kodama for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) said the situation seems to be one of regulators in one state not respecting the decisions of another. He said regulators should respect the decision if one regulator decides the survey is not appropriate for the insurers in his or her state.
Mr. Kodama compared it to a parent deciding his or her children will not participate in an activity, and then someone else trumping that decision and making them participate anyway.
Robert Detlefsen, for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, echoed those sentiments, stating that a regulator might not be making the decision to not administer the survey simply because of lack of resources at the insurance department. The regulator, he noted, might be philosophically opposed to the climate risk disclosure survey, and he said that should be a decision respected by other regulators in other states.
Mr. Detlefsen wondered if the NAIC would take it one step further and administer the survey to the second company in a group if it does not like how the regulator in the lead state administered the survey.
Eric Nordman, director of the NAIC's Regulatory Services Division, said the NAIC has not discussed that option and it is too early to say if regulators would consider it.
Some insurance associations have opposed the climate survey primarily because the results will be made available to the public and, as Mr. Kodama said, there are fears that the information may be used for non-regulatory purposes.
Among the concerns with public disclosure, insurer associations have cited fears the survey could reveal trade secrets and could be the basis for policyholder lawsuits if insurers disclosed they were not writing or canceling coverage based on climate change.