Lobby Your Congressman, Risk Mangers Advised

By Mark E. Ruquet

NU Online News Service, April 19, 1:18 p.m. EDT, Philadelphia?A panel of Washington insiders told risk managers here they can serve the insurance industry well by getting in touch with their congressmen about legislation impacting their businesses.[@@]

Speaking yesterday at the Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc.’s 2005 conference here in a session titled “Risk Management in the Halls of Congress,” panelists stressed that congressmen and congresswomen are eager for grassroots input.

Lawmakers, they said, are anxious to hear from constituents who speak from experience, and risk managers can have tremendous affect on insurance legislation because they speak as experts in the field of risk.

Mary Lu Korkuch, vice president of external affairs for the Chubb Corp. and moderator of the panel, called the purpose of the discussion “a consciousness raising session” geared at making risk managers aware of the impact they can have on legislation that could affect their risks.

The speakers included Joel Wood, senior vice president of government affairs for The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers; Matthew Campbell, general counsel for Chubb Commercial Insurance; Marcus Rayner, district chief of staff for New Jersey Rep. Mike Ferguson, R-N.J.; and Robert Cartwright Jr., loss prevention manager for Bridgestone-Firestone and RIMS vice chairman, external affairs committee.

Panelists said a major concern for the industry is legislation to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which they advised is being held up by conservative lawmakers’ misperception that the lack of terrorism reinsurance availability should not be solved through federal involvement.

Mr. Wood said that a major opponent of TRIA extension is House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-22nd Dist., Texas.

“I like Delay, but on this issue we face difficulty with him,” he said, “and in a way his opinion is a mixed blessing. On one hand he says we should find a permanent solution for TRIA. But on the hand he feels the government should not be involved.

“It is seen as a bailout, and that’s ridiculous because that’s not what it is,” he stated.

Mr. Campbell noted that the reason there is no free market solution to this issue is because the insurance industry does not operate in a free market environment. Instead, it is heavily controlled by regulators.

“Those are things that people forget [in this debate],” he said.

There is also the argument, said Mr. Wood, that TRIA is working to “undermine the preparation of companies to prepare for a terrorist attack”?a view, he added, that is being pushed by the Congressional Budget Office, an independent research arm for Congress.

Mr. Campbell called the idea ridiculous, adding, “You can’t loss control the mind of a terrorist.”

Mr. Rayner said that representatives are anxious to hear from experts outside of lobbyists. He said whether it is speaking directly to the legislator or one of his staff members, the information that a risk manager can convey on a topic is not ignored.

“Congressmen will listen because they are starved for expertise,” he noted.

“Congress listens to people who are organized, and it is the only way of making sure your point is known. Your expertise is invaluable,” Mr. Rayner continued.

For his part, Mr. Campbell urged risk managers to become involved in the issues and join RIMS’ legislative meeting in Washington, June 14 and 15. He said that one does not need to be concerned with being a legislative advocate, because the legislators or staff will end up mining the risk manager for information.

“It is important that your voice be heard inside of the beltway,” he noted. “We can change what happens in Congress. It does have a huge affect.”