It is a telling indication of the new visibility of insurance (and insurance regulators) in recent months that the post of Superintendent of Insurance in New York can be used as a creditable launching pad for a run at higher office.

This is indeed the case for Eric Dinallo, who last month vacated the post and has now confirmed that he intends to run for Attorney General of New York. While Dinallo’s future prospects remain uncertain, his performance as the state’s top insurance regulator during a time of unprecedented turmoil can be properly assessed. Dinallo played a key role in the federal rescue of New York-based American International Group Inc., and also had a hand in bolstering the bond insurance market after woes beset New York domiciled financial guarantee insurers MBIA Inc. and Ambac Financial Group Inc.

Matthew Guilbault, director of government and industry affairs, Professional Insurance Agents of New York, had a largely positive assessment of Dinallo’s tenure, dubbing him the right man, for the right job, at the right time.

“He was certainly forward-thinking,” Guilbault tells Insurance Networking News. “We didn’t agree with everything that he did, but even those things we disagreed on there was a level of mutual understanding and respect.”

Guilbault further credits Dinallo’s commitment to keeping the lines of communication open between all parties potentially affected by his office. “We have an appreciation of the outreach the department engaged in under his leadership,” Guilbault says.

One larger question is how some of the causes Dinallo championed will fare now that he is longer able to use his former office as a bully pulpit. Foremost among these is opposition to an optional federal charter for insurers. While Dinallo’s voice was just one of among many state insurance commissioners, because New York was the locus of the financial services meltdown, Dinallo was one of the main faces of state regulation.  

“Whoever is New York Insurance Commissioner is prominent in the world of insurance regulation,” notes Donald Light, a senior analyst at Boston-based Celent. “However, partly because his talents and personality, and partly because of the circumstances surrounding financial and mortgage guarantee insurers under his watch, [Dinallo] became very prominent in the national picture.”

Guilbault agrees that Dinallo was a staunch supporter of state regulation. “He was very influential and did an outstanding job of articulating the value of maintaining state regulation of insurance,” he says.

Roger Sevigny, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners praised Dinallo’s efforts, but said other state insurance commissioners will offset his loss. “The NAIC prides itself on a deep bench of seasoned state insurance regulators who will continue to articulate the benefits of state regulation of insurance and strenuously object to anything that will dilute consumer protections,” Sevigny tells INN. “The inherent strength of the NAIC is derived in large part from a rich repository of regulators who effectively and forcefully advocate on behalf of consumers and state-based regulation.”

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