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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

INSURANCE BOARD OF GREATER CLEVELAND

INSURANCE BOARD OF GREATER CLEVELAND

The INSURANCE BOARD OF GREATER CLEVELAND, which regulates the local insurance industry, was founded in 1846 by Joseph L. Weatherly as the Cleveland Board of Underwriters. At that time both the insurance companies and public were dependent on the integrity of the agent who quoted premiums based on his inspection of the client's premises. In an effort to improve public confidence in the business, the new board drafted a standard list of fire insurance rates for dwellings, businesses, and factories. Over the years the board provided information on all facets of auto, home, business, and general insurance and imposed strict standards on its members, eventually limiting its membership to agents of those companies which wrote policies exclusively through board members.

In the 1950s this was considered restraint of trade by the Department of Justice, since 85% of the insurance written in the county was generated by the board's 175-member group. In 1956 the Court agreed that the insurance board in fact violated antitrust laws and harmed the public good by effectively boycotting agents writing insurance for outside companies--a ruling which opened up the insurance market in Cleveland. In the wake of the 1966 HOUGH RIOTS, complaints that insurance companies made underwriting decisions based on race or on perceived group characteristics of a particular postal zone resulted in the Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan of 1968. FAIR guaranteed the availability of insurance to residents of high-risk areas in line with the condition of their property. All the companies writing insurance in an area were obliged to share the risk and the administrative expense. In 1991 the Insurance Board moved its operation from offices in the STATLER TOWER to the Bulkley Bldg.