Monday, December 11, 2006

Rich Golick (R-Allstate)

Why hire a lobbyist when you can hire a lawmaker?

As a lawyer for Allstate Insurance Co., Rich Golick couldn't get state officials to let his company use a consumer's credit history when pricing auto and homeowners policies.

But as a state lawmaker, Golick (R-Smyrna) sponsored legislation in 2003 that allows the practice. . . .

Cathey Steinberg, appointed in 1999 by then-Gov. Roy Barnes as the state's first insurance consumer advocate, called Golick's sponsorship of the legislation "amazing."

"You have attorneys who serve on the judiciary committee, insurance agents who serve on the insurance committee," said Steinberg, who also served 14 years as a legislator. "I think what makes this unique is that it was so clearly for Allstate."

Steinberg said Golick met with her repeatedly to try to ease her opposition to the use of credit information, known as insurance scoring. He did so not as a legislator, she said, but as an Allstate lawyer.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine said Golick also had discussed insurance scoring with him as Allstate's lawyer.

Golick, who joined Allstate in 1995 and was elected to the House in 1998, acknowledged meeting with state officials - but said there was no conflict. Georgia law doesn't prohibit lawmakers who are attorneys from appearing before state agencies on behalf of clients.

"At absolutely, positively no time did anyone from my company suggest or encourage me in any way to introduce the bill," Golick wrote in an e-mail. "I introduced the measure on my own as a result of my familiarity with the issue from my private sector experience."

More on the so-called insurance score. The most disturbing bit:

The insurance industry has been unable to escape allegations that the use of credit information is unfairly discriminatory.

Even many insurance agents strongly oppose it on those grounds.

The National Association of Professional Allstate Agents has called the practice "inherently discriminatory" and "an unacceptable intrusion upon the privacy rights of the American people." The National Association of State Farm Agents has called it "a marketing scheme" that could "inadvertently or intentionally illegally discriminate."

In Florida, the insurance commissioner has ruled that the industry can use credit information in pricing policies only if a company can prove it doesn't discriminate against certain groups. The industry is challenging that rule in a state administrative proceeding.

Last spring, Allstate agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that the company's use of credit information discriminated against its Hispanic and African-American customers.

So, not only is it a black box, it's a potentially racist black box. Glad to see that's legal.