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Mississippi AG urges repeal of antitrust exemption


WASHINGTON--The attorney general of Mississippi urged Congress to revoke the insurance industry's limited federal antitrust exemption during a Wednesday appearance before a House subcommittee.

Appearing before the House Financial Services Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood accused insurers of trying to "intimidate" the state's justice system and failing to pay legitimate claims after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, and called on Congress to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act's antitrust exemption.

Another witness, Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., accused insurers of "conspiring to defraud" policyholders. Rep. Taylor is co-sponsoring a bipartisan measure that would repeal the exemption.

Robert Hartwig, president of the New York-based Insurance Information Institute, noted, however, that most claims were settled without dispute. A group of insurance company associations joined III in a joint statement denying that insurers conspired to defraud policyholders.

The subcommittee's chairman indicated that Wednesday's hearing did not represent the last congressional word on the issue. In fact, "I think it's clear there will be other hearings" regarding insurers' Katrina claims handling practices, said the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C.