Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Marsh. This morning's WSJ has, as its lead article, the resignation of the Marsh CEO as a result of the pressure that the NY Attorney General is bringing.

When I consider what Marsh did - they received "commissions" from insurance companies to which they stirred business - I am simply amazed. Our firm uses a national broker, Brown & Brown, one of Marsh's competitors, to help us find the right insurance and the right insurance company. To think that B&B would accept kick-backs from their recommended insurers makes me angry (I don't know that B&B does; I am going to write them and ask.)

The WSJ article says that Marsh will loose over $800 million per year in commissions, as a result of stopping the practice. But I would think that, over the long run, their business should increase when people are assured that their opinions are unbiased.

The Bar has been dealing with this issue over the last several years. Many law firms want to "diversify" into other services besides giving just legal advice or they want to "share" in the fees paid to vendors to whom they make referrals. (If you are on a "billable hour" format, there are only so many hours a day - only so much you can make. Often that is "simply not enough".) For example, one large firm has its own private investigator company. Other lawyers are invited to share commissions that are paid to life insurance agents whom they recommend (these are often very large commissions). Its pretty clear that the latter is unethical; I think the former is suspect as well.

We have thought about organizing a private social services group. But I think that would be problematical. People come to us for unbiased advice. What if there were better private social workers across the street? Wouldn't we want to keep our own people busy first, even if they were inferior?

But I think the Marsh thing is so crystal clear in its wrongfulness that I am astonished.

No comments: