Title Industry Critic Leaves NAIC Post

December 10, 2009

A long-time critic of the title insurance industry, its marketing practices and rate structure has decided not to reapply as the consumer representative for the National Association of Commissioners (NAIC) in 2010.

Birny Birnbaum, who is the author of several studies on title insurance marketing and rates, has served as the NAIC consumer representative for several years.

His studies suggest title companies market their products and services to entities that can steer the consumer to their businesses by using a variety of payments and services to those entities that act as middlemen for the title industry. He has said title companies, real estate agents, developers and mortgage companies make money, while the consumer ultimately pays for it all through high-cost premiums for title insurance. In 2006, a plan to reduce title insurance rates more than 25 percent was based on analysis produced by Birnbaum.

Birnbaum, the executive director for the Center of Economic Justice, is an expert on insurance availability, data, and ratemaking issues. Birnbaum has a long history of working on behalf on consumers on energy, economic development, and insurance issues. Before his work for CEJ, Birnbaum was the associate commissioner for Policy and Research and chief economist at the Texas Department of Insurance and chief economist at the Office of Public Insurance Counsel. In those capacities, he provided expert testimony in numerous proceedings regarding insurance rates and availability.

The NAIC is accepting applications for the 2010 Consumer Liaison Program to fill the position vacated by Birnbaum.

Established in 1992, the Consumer Liaison Program promotes consumer representation and interaction with the NAIC members by providing funding for qualified consumer representatives to participate in NAIC meetings.

“Consumer representatives are a valuable and integral voice in the regulatory dialogue,” said Roger Sevigny, NAIC President and New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner. “The liaison program provides an insightful exchange of perspectives that ultimately assists state regulators and benefits consumers.”

The NAIC defines a consumer organization as a national, state, or local organization that serves to protect the interests of consumers as they relate to the regulation of insurance. In order to qualify for funding, a candidate shall:

  • Have a commitment to representing consumer interests in insurance regulation;

  • Represent a non-profit organization;

  • Be willing to fully participate in NAIC national meetings and related conference calls;

  • Have demonstrated expertise and experience on insurance-related issues addressed by the NAIC;

  • Not have obligations or commitments to an industry that conflict with his/her responsibilities to represent consumer interests; and

  • Require NAIC funding in order to fully participate in NAIC national meetings and conference calls.

Consumer organizations which do not want or need funding can apply for an unfunded consumer representative position.

The application deadline is Dec. 31, 2009. All applicants are required to complete the application and attach all documents requested. Applicants will be notified in early February 2010 regarding their selection as a funded or unfunded consumer representative.

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.