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A Message From PIA's President


Richie Clements Presidents Message PicDecember 2014

It's important to remember where you've been. Looking back can provide a window into where you may be headed, helping you avoid mistakes if similar situation occur.

A couple of ten-year anniversaries are upon us. In 2015, it will be ten years since Hurricane Katrina devastated my neck of the woods in Louisiana as well as the rest of the Gulf Coast. As that anniversary approaches, I will be sharing my thoughts on what happened, and what we need to do to prepare ourselves and our clients for similar catastrophes.

This is also the tenth anniversary of another catastrophe: Eliot Spitzer. The former New York Attorney General and Governor questioned the integrity of Main Street insurance agents—who were never suspected of any wrongdoing—contending that contingent commissions were inherently harmful and should always be prohibited on an industry-wide basis.

PIA conducted a successful campaign to defend the reputation of Main Street agents. We filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in one of the lawsuits against Spitzer’s actions. In the end, we won. The courts ruled that contingent commissions were not illegal. Mr. Spitzer was subsequently driven from politics as the result of a prostitution scandal.

There are two articles in this issue of PIA Connection that look back at the real threat to Main Street agents that was posed by Spitzer. One is an overview; the other is a reprint of an article published in late 2006 by Rough Notes magazine, which detailed PIA’s challenge and encouraged the entire insurance industry to back our position.

PIA devotes much of its attention to advocacy. Of course, that means we lobby Congress, federal regulators, state regulators and state lawmakers. As advocates of our American free enterprise system, we must guard against those who would legislate or regulate our agencies and our carrier partners out of business.

But successful advocacy involves much more than just legislative and regulatory lobbying. It also means responding effectively when agents are unfairly attacked or portrayed. It means responding to inaccurate information about agents and brokers. It means challenging so-called studies that are done by our direct-writer competitors that seek to distort or dismiss the value we provide, which keeps customers coming to us.

Advocacy is maintaining relationships with our carrier partners, projecting a positive image of PIA members and using our considerable influence to ensure a productive, profitable future for the members of our association.

As William Faulkner stated, “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth.”

It is important that every PIA member continues to speak out for the value that Professional Insurance Agents bring to the insurance process. And it is crucial that PIA always remain prepared to deal with disasters, whether they are named Katrina or Spitzer.

Richard A. Clements