Local News

State Insurance Dept. Launches Investigation Into Bid-Rigging

Posted February 14, 2005 5:12 a.m. EST

— Whether it is car, homeowner, or health insurance consumers want the best deal for their money. But, when North Carolina's Department of Insurance got responses to a industry survey, they found allegations that the real deals took place between unscrupulous brokers and insurers.

Department spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said investigators are chasing leads that some brokers conspired with companies to artificially hike bids and push clients to certain providers.

"We have the potential for seeing some charges out there," she said. "It's just manipulating the bids for the gain of the broker and for the company. It is illegal. It's unethical."

The insurance industry is quick to point out that in most cases, only the brokers that deal in contracts for large employers have the ability to rig bids.

Ninety-nine percent of your brokers do not deal in that arena. Secondly, we do not have the power to dictate those terms," insurance agent Cloyce Anders said.

Anders, who is past president of the Independent Insurance Agents of America, said bid-rigging costs consumers money and confidence.

"For the customer to believe that I have done the best job that I can do for them is very important, and I think that's the fallout for our industry. It does put a black eye to a degree on it," Anders said.

Because it is a criminal investigation, the Department of Insurance is not yet identifying which companies it is targeting.

North Carolina's investigation follows a large-scale bid-rigging case in New York. Insurance broker Marsh and McLennan will pay $850 million over four years to policyholders hurt by the company's conflict of interest. The company also issued a public apology. The New York state Attorney General called the settlement one of the largest restitution funds ever from one company.