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Repeal insurers' antitrust immunity: Leahy


WASHINGTON--Insurers should be stripped of the limited immunity from federal antitrust laws that they currently enjoy under the McCarran-Ferguson Act, says the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

During a brief hearing Wednesday regarding the McCarran-Ferguson Act, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the "potential for insurance industry abuse became clear on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina."

"The bottom line is, right now we do not know what anticompetitive acts insurers may be engaging in because the antitrust immunity insurers enjoy acts as a curtain that hides their activity from federal antitrust authorities," said Sen. Leahy, who is among sponsors of the Insurance Industry Competition Act that would repeal the limited antitrust exemption.

However, Marc Racicot, president of the Washington-based American Insurance Assn., told the Senate committee that repealing the exemption would replace the current regulatory system with "an uncertain system that that adds another layer of federal antitrust enforcement on top of the state regulatory and antitrust structure."

The result would harm consumers, Mr. Racicot said.