A leading consumer advocate has gone to war against anactuaries' organization that he contends supplies biased reports toCongress because of hidden job connections.

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On the attack is Consumer Federation of America InsuranceDirector Robert Hunter, who is challenging the objectivity of theAmerican Academy of Actuaries, which recently presented findings tolawmakers concerning the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

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Mr. Hunter, who has been urging members of the Academy todisclose their individual employment affiliations in reports tolawmakers for nearly a year, believes the objectivity of Academysubgroups on TRIA, medical malpractice and other issues isquestionable.

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Mr. Hunter, himself a member of the Academy, said currentboilerplate wording contained in Academy reports describing theAcademy's function is "deceptive."

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The description, which says the Academy is a "nonpartisan" groupthat "assists the public policy process "through the presentationof clear and objective actuarial analysis," gives no hint ofpotential biases of individual members. Such biases may existbecause Academy members work for employers and clients that haveinterests in how some issues the group reports on play out, hecontends.

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Ken Kent, vice chair for the Council on Professionalism of theAcademy and a former chair of the joint committee on the Code ofProfessional Conduct, disagrees. When actuaries volunteer to workon behalf of the Academy, they leave their employers' interestsoutside the door--putting the interests of the Academy first, andbuilding Academy analyses and recommendations around a consensusview, he said, explaining why the Academy won't change the wordingor disclose member business affiliations.

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"We work on a committee basis and a consensus basis," he said.When the Academy puts forth a position, it is approved bycommittee, not by any single individual, he added.

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Mr. Hunter first attacked the notion that a consensus viewobviates disclosure in a letter to the Academy last February, whenhe expressed particular concern about a medical malpracticecommittee that reports to Congress.

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"Ninety percent of the members of that committee either work formedical malpractice companies or have such companies as[consulting] clients," Mr. Hunter told NU. "So, if you're getting aconsensus among them, what have you really got?" he asked.

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Mr. Hunter also noted that the chair of an Academy TRIA subgroupworks for a large provider of commercial insurance that was on therecord as seeking a particular outcome with respect toextension.

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That subgroup published a Dec. 1 statement recommending"permanent federal legislation to make terrorism coverage widelyand readily available." (See NU Online News Service, Dec 5.)

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The unwillingness of Academy members to comply with his repeatedrequests for disclosure prompted Mr. Hunter to take matters intohis own hands. On Dec. 13, he sent a letter to four members ofCongress, Treasury Secretary John Snow and Alesssandro Iuppa,president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners,with an attached list of TRIA subgroup members and businessaffiliations. The letter also stated his belief that the Academy'sanalysis of TRIA was not independent.

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Mr. Kent stressed that members take obligations to adhere to theAcademy's conflict-of-interest policy seriously. In fact, hereported there are times when a committee member "may back off" oreven leave the room if the committee is working on an issue thatdirectly involves the member's employer or client.

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Coaxed to share examples based on his own committee experiences,Mr. Kent, a pension actuary who has served as VP of the AcademyPension Practice Council, said when the Academy is called upon toprovide clarification of news events, like those related to pensionissues at United Airlines, actuaries having client relationshipswith United excuse themselves.

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