Entering the lion’s den

It may be like going into a den of lions, but Harvey Rosenfield, godfather of insurance reform in California, is going to be the featured speaker at a conference of insurance brokers and agents later this month.

Rosenfield, who spearheaded Proposition 103 in 1988, which resulted in millions of dollars in rate cutbacks, gained further enmity of the insurance industry with his David vs. Goliath victory in the ballot battle over Proposition 17 last spring. Almost singlehandedly, Rosenfield overcame a $16 million to $1 million disadvantage to defeat Mercury Insurance’s attempt to alter a portion of Proposition 103 that would have allowed insurance companies to charge surcharges to drivers who’d lapsed in their coverage.

The press release announcing Rosenfield’s appearance at the Alliance Convention & Expo in Palm Desert on Sept. 26 calls him a “Consumer Advocate and Insurance Industry Adversary,” and practically apologizes for inviting him.

“Rosenfield,” writes the Alliance’s executive director, Michael D’Arelli, “is an aggressive and uncompromising advocate, whose blistering and no-holds-barred approach has made him the insurance industry’s number one enemy. 

“The Alliance puts on the largest P&C event in the West and Harvey has the ‘wow factor’ and electricity that our convention attendees expect to see” at the Expo.

“Clearly, we do not see eye-to-eye with Harvey on many issues, but civility is not a sign of weakness and we see great value in engaging with folks like Harvey with whom we disagree. When you are confident in your position and the strength of your arguments, there is nothing to fear, and we believe that constructive dialogue can actually resolve problems.”

It’s not too often that a sponsoring group takes a shot at its featured guest speaker, but here’s how D’Arelli sends him up:

“Is Harvey the greedy villain that gratuitously intervenes in carrier rate filings to line his own pockets, or is he the righteous protector of consumers against corporate rip-offs and government abuse in the courts, Congress, state legislature and at the ballot box?”

It’s a surety that a convention hall of insurance brokers and agents see Rosenfield in the former description rather than the latter. On the other hand, maybe the idea is to soften him up a bit so he isn’t such a bulldog in the next ballot battle.

Steven Harmon