Iowa’s insurance commissioner is defending her decision not to make public the details surrounding a fine of $750,000 imposed last month upon an Indiana insurance company. Conseco Life Insurance was accused of using a secret pricing formula for some policies it sold, but instead of taking part in a class-action settlement resulting from a California lawsuit, Commissioner Susan Voss says her agency decided to seek a civil penalty against the firm — and kept details of the settlement mostly confidential.
She told the lawmakers that if it happened all over again she might have added more information to the settlement order. "I regret that and I apologize… to the policyholders, but I do think that what I did was correct for policyholders in the end," Voss said. The state Insurance Division agreed with Conseco on March 21 to halt its inquiry and instead of a detailed report, made public only a six-page "memorandum of understanding."
Voss was called this week to explain that decision to a joint meeting of the state House and Senate Commerce Committees. "Given the fact that sometimes the courts can take a long time," Voss said, "the ability to get restitution to Iowa policyholders sooner than later, which could have been three, four years down the road, I felt this was appropriate." Voss says Iowa law doesn’t give her the authority to simply demand restitution to Conseco’s Iowa customers so instead she agreed to the confidential settlement, so roughly one-thousand customers would get some money.
Voss says even though the company has new management that’s acknowledges its past bad practices, she wanted to "send a strong message." While the committee seemed to accept her explanation at the hearing on Tuesday, Voss is asking for the power to demand restitution in future cases. Republicans say that decision should remain in the hands of courts rather than a political appointee.