Salvatore R. Curiale, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo's nominee for New York State superintendent of insurance, received unanimous support from various witnesses at a public hearing held by the Senate Standing Committee on Insurance on Wednesday. Mr. Curiale's appointment awaits confirmation from the State Finance Committee.
His final confirmation as New York superintendent is expected to take place on June 26.Mr. Curiale served as first deputy superintendent of insurance from May 1984 until July 1987 when he became executive director of the New York's State Insurance Fund. This agency acts as an insurer of last resort for workers compensation and disability benefits insurance, and also competes directly with private carriers on these lines.
During testimony here, Mr. Curiale identified the role of superintendent as that of an insurance "caretaker," and said the office is "a mechanism to enforce consumer protection and encourage the industry to compete while protecting the public and themselves."
Responding to a question by Sen. Guy Velella, R-Bronx, regarding the commissioners role as liquidator, Mr. Curiale said it is important to monitor insurance companies and "make sure they're not cutting corners." At the same time, he said, it's important to give the companies an opportunity "to recover their business."
Sen. Velella chairs the state Senate Insurance Committee. He noted that it is the responsibility of his committee to examine the credentials of a nominee for Mr. Curiale's prospective position, and to make recommendations to the finance committee and the full Senate regarding a superintendent's confirmation.
Among the problem areas broached by witnesses at the committee hearing were heath care for the elderly, an exit by many insurers from the personal lines market, and market assistance programs geared to counter availability problems.
On the latter, E. John Cucci, a vice president with the Alliance of American Insurers' New York office, said Mr. Curiale participated in many projects during his tenure as First Deputy Commissioner, which served the state well during the liability insurance crisis of the mid-1980s.
"While other states experienced severe price and market dislocations, New York, through a series of voluntary Insurance Department Market Assistance
Plans (MAPS), was able to weather the storm until critical tort reform measures enacted by our legislature were given a chance to take hold and calm the market down," said Mr. Cucci.
Consequently, he said, the New York market did not become a basket case during these difficult "crisis years."
Mr. Cucci said Mr. Curiale would bring a balanced perspective to the superintendent's post by blending firmness and fairness in the best interests of policyholders as well as the insurance community that serves them.
Charles H. Burhan, regional legislative affairs representative for Nationwide Insurance, quoted John Ruskin's words, inscribed in the passageway to the Senate chamber, to describe the role of superintendent as akin to that of a stone layer whose efforts are held sacred for many generations.
"Speaking for myself and for Nationwide Insurance, we feel that Sal Curiale will build that proper foundation," Mr. Burhan said.
In reviewing "the merits of the nominee, the most important factor is best described by the Yiddish word, 'mensch' (literally, a person of honor and integrity).
"Sal Curiale is a decent, fair man whose intelligence and humor will prevent him from ever being imperial or imperious."