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Singular expertise: Robert Gordon is a rare breed--an insurance expert on Capitol Hill. (Regulation: The Big Picture).

For many years you could count on one hand, and still have fingers left over, the number of people on Capitol Hill who truly understood insurance, said Brian Atchinson, executive director of the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association.

Robert Gordon would have taken up one of those fingers.

Gordon has been senior counsel for the House Financial Services Committee since January 2001.1-Ic was there when the committee presented a terrorism reinsurance bill for passage by the full House, as well as the Financial Services Antifraud bill.

Atchinson was insurance commissioner in Maine from 1992 to 1997, was president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 1996, and said he worked with Gordon in a few different roles over the years.

The first encounter came when Gordon was working on health-care issues. He was very helpful in bringing his expertise to discussions on a health-care reform bill sponsored by Sens. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.,in 1995.

Atchinson said he also worked with Gordon when the World Trade Organization was trying to bring insurance into the scope of the General Agreement on Trade in Services. "When I dealt with him as a regulator in the mid-90s, he was one of the only people on Capitol Hill who understood the role of regulators, the private market and government," Atchinson said.

GATS, which came into force in January 1995, is an agreement affecting international trade that covers services such as banking and insurance.

"He was there supporting trade negotiators at the 11th hour to get insurance into GATS. He was one of the only people to understand the minutiae of insurance and what makes it so unique," Atchinson said.

Gordon worked on the Gramm-Leach-Bliley financial-services reform act, which was passed in 1999, and a number of other bills on c-commerce, liability reform and health care. Gordon previously worked as counsel to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as legislative counsel for the Office of Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., and as an attorney at a Washington, D.C., law firm.

In fact, Gordon was at the center of Gramm-Leach-Bliley, said Jack Dolan, a spokesman for the American Council of Life Insurers, and going forward, he "will be a key player as we work to make insurance regulation more effective. The Financial Services Committee is the springboard for discussion of insurance industry issues."

The Financial Services Committee could be the scene for hearings on optional federal chartering of insurance companies. Gordon could be influential because he is respected and viewed as open-minded and fair; Atchinson said.

"He seems genuinely interested in giving everyone a chance to be part of the dialogue and discussion, and defers to elected officials to steer deliberations as they may evolve," he said. "If he is shepherding those hearings, it's a good sign for anyone who wants a thoughtful and open process, and not a good sign for those who want it steered in any one direction. He looks to craft good public policy, not a victory for any constituency."

Gordon is, in many ways, the "eyes and ears" of Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said Catherine Willis, director of government relations for the National Association of Independent Insurers.

He sits in a pivotal position, and various aspects of insurance regulation will come before him in the committee, said Julie Rochman, senior vice president of public affairs with the American Insurance Association.

Rochman also pointed to Alex Sternhill, a staff member of Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., as a key person on Capitol Hill. As Dodd tried to broker a bipartisan deal for a terrorism backstop, Sternhill was the one trying to make things work, she said.

"Nobody worked harder than Alex in creating the terrorism insurance bill. Along with Wayne Abernathy, nobody knows that legislation better than he does," she said. Abernathy is now assistant secretary of the Treasury for financial institutions. Sternhill, she said, "worked Sunday afternoons, whatever it took."
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Author:Kelly, Dennis
Publication:Best's Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2003
Words:659
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