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N.Y. department prevails in liquidation bureau audit

New York state’s highest court has ruled that the state auditor does not have the authority to audit an obscure division of a state agency managing $3.3 billion.

The New York Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state Insurance Department’s Liquidation Bureau, which protects policyholders and claimants when an insurance company goes bankrupt.

“If you get hit by a taxi in New York City and that taxi happens to be insured by (an insolvent company) … whether you get paid and how quickly you get paid for your injury will be determined by if we do our job right,” said Mark Peters, special deputy superintendent in charge of the bureau.

Comptroller Hevesi

Former Comptroller Alan Hevesi tried to conduct an audit of the division in 2004 and sued when it refused to submit to the review.

A trial level court ruled against Hevesi in 2005, but the mid-level Appellate Division reversed that judgment.

The latest ruling overturned that decision and determined the bureau is not a state agency and the superintendent of insurance has a secondary role on behalf of distressed insurers, which gives the position broad fiduciary powers.

If the court had decided that the bureau was a state agency, then all of the liabilities carried by insolvent insurance companies could be assumed by the state on the backs of taxpayers, Peters said.

“By winning this case we are keeping all of these liabilities in the private sphere,” he said.

Lawyers for the former comptroller had argued that the insurance superintendent is a state officer, so any funds in his custody and control are subject to audit by the comptroller.

But the bureau contended it controls private funds and is not subject to public agency audits.

“The comptroller is disappointed in the decision,” said Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

“But he’s confident that the superintendent is taking the right steps to ensure transparency, openness and oversight in the Liquidation Bureau.”

Premier Insurance changes brand to Travelers of Mass.

As Massachusetts gears up for a switch to a more competitive personal auto insurance market, one of its domestic auto insurers, Premier Insurance Co., will adopt the well-known brand of its parent, Travelers Insurance.

Offically, the Premier Insurance Company of Massachusetts, an independent personal auto insurance subsidiary of The Travelers Companies, Inc., announced the company is changing its overall brand name to Travelers of Massachusetts.

Travelers of Massachusetts will be the “umbrella” brand name for all personal auto, homeowners, personal liability, identity theft, wedding and other personal coverages sold throughout the state issued by a Travelers company in Massachusetts. The companies include The Premier Insurance Company of Massachusetts, The Phoenix Insurance Co., The Travelers Indemnity Co., The Standard Fire Insurance Co., and The Travelers Commercial Insurance Co.

The Premier Insurance Company of Massachusetts will remain a separate and distinct company from all other Travelers companies as it has been since 1993. This means that the auto insurance products provided by Premier are not underwritten, reinsured or guaranteed by any other Travelers company, according to the announcement of the re-branding.

“Travelers is a nationally recognized insurance carrier with a long history of delivering on its promise to policyholders,” said Dick Welch, president of Premier Insurance Co., the underwriting company for Travelers of Massachusetts.

“Leveraging the strength of the Travelers brand enhances our ability to market products to agents and customers, while solidifying our commitment to the Massachusetts insurance marketplace.”


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