Do you remember the post, Church Mutual Found To Be Systematically Underpaying Claims By a Federal Judge and Engle Martin Grossly Underestimated the Loss? Guess who was found guilty of engaging in unfair insurance claims practices last week? Church Mutual.1 Why would any church subject its parishioners to such unholy claim delays, denial, and underpayment?

Who is running Church Mutual? None other than the immediate past president of the American Property and Casualty Insurers of America (APCIA), Richard “Rich” Poirier, JD. Here is Poirier’s resume:

Chief Executive Officer

Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I.

Rich Poirier joined Church Mutual in April 2011 as vice president — claims and was promoted to chief operating officer in October 2011. He was named president in 2014. He assumed additional responsibilities as CEO in January 2016. In January 2023, the president role passed to a senior member of Poirier’s team. Poirier continues to serve as CEO, and will do so until his planned retirement in March 2024.

Poirier earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Marquette University in 1983. Following graduation, he was given a direct commission in the United States Navy through its Law Education Program. Poirier earned his Juris Doctorate from Marquette University in 1986. Following law school graduation, he entered four years of active duty as a Navy judge advocate in Norfolk, Virginia.

Following his discharge from active duty, Poirier continued his service in the Navy Reserves. He held a number of prestigious assignments, including two commanding officer tours. He retired in 2010 at the rank of Captain. His numerous awards and decorations include two Navy Achievement Medals, two Navy Commendation Medals and a Meritorious Service Medal.

Poirier is active in numerous professional and civic organizations. He is the immediate past president of the American Property and Casualty Insurers of America (APCIA) and continues to serve on its board. He also sits on the Board of Directors of Aspirus, Inc.; the NTC Foundation; the Marathon County Chapter of the Boys and Girls Club of America and the Wausau Wolf Pack Youth Lacrosse Association.

To address the situation at Church Mutual and the role of its CEO, Rich Poirier, in the context of the recent verdict against the company2 and findings noted by a federal judge presiding over numerous Church Mutual cases,3 it’s important to provide a balanced perspective that acknowledges those claims practice issues while also considering potential steps towards resolution and improvement.

Background and Current Issues: Church Mutual, under the leadership of CEO Rich Poirier, has recently faced criticism and legal challenges, including a federal judge’s finding that the company has been systematically underpaying claims. This situation raises concerns about the company’s claims handling practices and its impact on policyholders, particularly churches. It would come as no surprise if state insurance departments started market claims studies regarding Church Mutual and its claims processes.

Rich Poirier’s Leadership and Response: Rich Poirier, with his extensive background in law and insurance, coupled with his leadership roles in various professional and civic organizations, is positioned to address these challenges head-on. His experience as a Navy judge advocate and involvement with the American Property and Casualty Insurers of America (APCIA) should provide him with a unique perspective on legal and ethical standards in the insurance industry. The question is whether he will address the verdicts and judicial concerns and take an active leadership role in reforming Church Mutual’s claims handling.

Potential Steps for Improvement: Church Mutual could benefit from conducting an immediate and thorough internal review of its claims processing procedures. This review should aim to identify any systemic issues contributing to delays and underpayments. Implementing reforms based on this review could help in rectifying these issues.

Training and Education: Enhancing the training of claims handlers and other relevant staff could ensure that claims are processed more efficiently and fairly. This training should emphasize ethical standards and the importance of timely and adequate claim settlements. It should emphasize that property claims adjusting is about promptly investigating coverage, evaluating damage, and fully paying claims.

Transparency and Communication: Improving communication with policyholders about the claims process and expected timelines can build trust. Transparency in how claims are evaluated and processed can also reassure policyholders of fair treatment. Following through with making prompt payments is the key to success, but few companies will write this as a goal when it comes to property claims management.     

Engagement with Policyholders and Industry Experts: Church Mutual could benefit from engaging more closely with policyholders, industry experts, and legal professionals to better understand their concerns and expectations. This engagement could lead to more policyholder-friendly practices.

Leadership Accountability: As CEO, Rich Poirier could take a more active role in publicly addressing these issues, outlining specific steps the company is taking to improve, and setting a timeline for these improvements.

While the recent verdict against Church Mutual highlights significant systemic issues in its claims handling processes, it also presents an opportunity for the company to make meaningful changes. The question presented is whether, while under Rich Poirier’s leadership, Church Mutual will reform its claims practices and thereby restore trust among its policyholders. Will it set a positive example in the insurance industry? This approach not only addresses the immediate concerns but also aligns with the broader goal of ethical and fair treatment of Church Mutual’s policyholders.

Thought For The Day  

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.  

—Rosalynn Carter

1 First Assembly of God Church Inc. of Leesville v. Church Mutual Ins. Co., No. 2:21-cv-0378 (W.D. La. Nov. 17, 2023).

2 Id.

3 First Baptist Church of Iowa Louisiana v. Church Mutual Ins. Co., No. 2:21-cv-02472, 2023 WL 4423531 (W.D. Lou. July 10, 2023).