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NC insurance regulator candidates point fingers over Greg Lindberg

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Voters in Delaware, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota and Washington will choose their state insurance commissioners in the Nov. 3 elections.

Insurance commissioner races have the potential to effect massive changes in states given the offices' abilities to approve mergers and acquisitions; their rights to approve, disapprove or renegotiate insurance premium rate increases; and their powers to protect consumers.

S&P Global Market Intelligence breaks down the candidates' platforms in each race, starting with North Carolina.

Voters in North Carolina will choose between an incumbent Republican, Mike Causey, and Democrat Wayne Goodwin, who have both served as North Carolina's insurance commissioner. Fallout from their previous contest in 2016 looms large over the 2020 race. Causey defeated Goodwin 50.4%-49.6% in 2016, a margin of roughly 36,000 votes; in 2012, Goodwin won his second term by defeating Causey 51.9% to 48.1%.

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Mike Causey, incumbent North Carolina insurance commissioner

Mike Causey: Causey, a Republican, is the incumbent in the race for insurance commissioner. Over the course of his first term, Causey made headlines for his role in a case that led to a conviction for Greg Lindberg, an insurance magnate who attempted to bribe Causey in order to curtail scrutiny of his insurance business.

Lindberg has sued Causey and the North Carolina Department of Insurance, alleging that the commissioner abused his power and made false statements to the FBI and in court. Causey did not wish to comment on the lawsuit against him but said the situation was one that he inherited from Goodwin.

"It was the previous commissioner that brought these companies to North Carolina," Causey said. "He approved it all and we've had to deal with it."

Causey was wearing a wire and working with the FBI when Lindberg allegedly offered him up to $2 million in campaign donations to make certain changes in how the department was overseeing some of his companies.

A federal judge sentenced Lindberg to more than seven years in prison, three years of probation and a $35,000 fine. Lindberg has appealed the conviction.

Causey added that the department has taken control of Lindberg's North Carolina-domiciled insurance companies — Southland National Insurance Corp., Colorado Bankers Life Insurance Co., Bankers Life Insurance Co. and Southland National Reinsurance Corp. — and is now running them in his capacity as court-appointed rehabilitator.

If re-elected, Causey said he would like to continue focusing on the initiatives the department has led for the past four years: making consumer protection a top priority, keeping a healthy and stable insurance climate in the state and rooting out corruption by "aggressively" going after insurance fraud.

Causey also noted that he has worked hard to make the department more transparent and user-friendly, bring more competition and attract more health insurance companies to the state.

When asked about the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' new efforts to examine the role of race in insurance products and practices, Causey said he thinks the industry is doing "a great job overall in fairness of products" in the present day.

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Wayne Goodwin, candidate for North Carolina insurance commissioner
Source: Wayne Goodwin

Wayne Goodwin: Goodwin, a Democrat, is seeking a third non-consecutive term as insurance commissioner, having previously held the position from 2008 to 2016.

In an interview, Goodwin said his No. 1 goal is to have a "more intense focus" on access to affordable health insurance, as part of which he would advocate for Medicaid expansion as well as fighting to preserve protections for pre-existing health conditions.

In addition, Goodwin said he believes that there needs to be a "more transparent" approach to rate-making, particularly within auto and homeowners insurance where the insurance commissioner would be more involved with the process of setting rates.

The state has a unique rate-making process whereby the North Carolina Rate Bureau files proposals on the industry's behalf for the private-passenger auto, residential property and workers' compensation lines.

Goodwin said he was pleased to see the NAIC establish a committee to examine the role that race plays in insurance pricing and products and said he would like to be part of that committee if elected.

"With recent events, it magnifies an existing duty for a state insurance commissioner that should reject any policies, programs, products or behaviors within the insurance market or insurance industry that discriminate on race," Goodwin said. He noted that there are multiple ways to address intentional or unintentional racism in the insurance industry, many involving the collection of data.

Goodwin also said he would be more aggressive in fighting fraud and advocating for consumers while listening to the concerns of the marketplace.

When asked about the Lindberg situation, Goodwin said he was "shocked, surprised and angered" by what he learned at the trial and noted that he "did not cause any of this to happen."

"I think it's not appropriate for Mr. Causey to be politicizing a matter that even with the court decision there are still other pending cases related to that," Goodwin said.

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