Ohio AG Says Customers Need More Time, Info to Evaluate Marsh Settlement

Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro has told New York-based insurance broker Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. that policyholders in Ohio harmed by the company’s alleged anticompetitive activities deserve more time – until the end of the year – to consider an out-of-court settlement offer recently worked out with New York state officials.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office is conducting a related antitrust investigation that might help some affected public entities in Ohio make a decision, but results have been hampered by Marsh’s delays in releasing critical information, Petro said.

New York’s state attorney general and insurance officials, along with Marsh & McLennan, recently gave certain insurance purchasers until Sept. 20 to accept specified settlement payments in exchange for agreements not to sue over their past insurance purchases using Marsh brokerage. Sixty-three Ohio cities, counties, universities, and other public entities were offered settlement payments totaling just over $1.1 million. Petro said he’s concerned affected customers in Ohio don’t yet have enough information to evaluate whether the settlement offers are fair.

“Commitment to transparency and candor in Marsh’s dealings with its customers in Ohio requires Marsh and the Attorney General of New York to … extend to December 31, 2005 the time for those customers to elect into, or out of, this settlement,” Petro wrote in a July 8 letter to Marsh President and CEO Michael Cherkasky. “This extension will permit such customers, including the numerous taxpayer-funded entities among them, to make careful, individual inquiry into the adequacy of this proposal.”

Marsh & McLennan, citing legal problems, has delayed providing documents and witnesses to investigators in Petro’s antitrust section examining whether abuses in the insurance and insurance brokerage industries have restrained competition and harmed Ohio customers of insurance and broker services, Petro said. He said the affected Ohio public entities should be allowed to make a decision on the settlement offer – including evaluating the legal claims they would give up – based on more informed legal advice.

The settlement, reached Jan. 30, 2005, resolved claims brought in State of New York v. Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc., et al., filed Oct. 14, 2004 in the Supreme Court of New York, New York County. Petro provides legal counsel to all state agencies and represents Ohio public entities in antitrust cases.