Politics McGavick: Taking Credit/Denying Credit
Mike McGavick told KING 5’s Robert Mak last night that he didn’t use credit scoring to axe customers, but he told insurance industry insiders a different story back in 2001.
Credit Scoring is pretty confusing. So, let me start at the beginning.
Last Friday, I was down in Olympia where the Democrats were arguing in Thurston County Superior Court that the Office of the Insurance Commissioner must release the data behind its 2003 study into Credit Scoring, a controversial insurance industry practice—outlawed in in a number of states now, including Washington state—where companies drop customers based on credit history, rather than germane things like driving records. (It’s not against the law to use credit scoring to set premiums, however. Although, it strikes me as crummy ethics.)
The Democrats think the data will show that former SAFECO CEO Mike McGavick pushed credit scoring.
The Insurance Commissioner is fine with releasing the data, but SAFECO was arguing to keep the information out of the public’s hands.
The judge said he would look at the data in question—to see if its really proprietary stuff as SAFECO argues, and he’ll issue a ruling on the 15th.
Meanwhile, McGAvick was on the Robert Mak show this weekend, and Mak asked him about credit scoring. Here’s the conversation.
Mak: The Wall Street Journal reported that when you were head of Safeco, the insurance company, it cancelled people’s auto insurance based on their credit score. Do you believe that’s a fair way to assess people — by their credit?
McGavick: Yeah, they shouldn’t cancel people just for credit scoring. What they should do, what we did—and I want to be clear—when I got there, there were a lot of practices going on at Safeco that I don’t think were right. So you’re not talking about the very early Safeco practices. The programs I put in place were programs that use credit as a part of a larger way of evaluating the risk, not as a single determinant.
But wait… here’s McGAvick quoted in an April, 2001 Quarterly Conference call where he boasts about canceling policies based on credit scoring: “We have gone back in and in fact this month was the first month that we began to step up aggressive nonrenewal of low credit score related businesses.”
And here’s McGavick in a July, 2001 trade publication interview: “SAFECO will be making some major changes in the way it reviews homeowners business, namely in stepping up the use of insurance scoring, which takes into account personal credit histories—including bankruptcies, foreclosures, late bill payments and outstanding debt—in setting premium rates or making underwriting decisions. Most of the industry uses this method for auto business, but SAFECO would be the first to use it for homeowners.”