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Belth v. New York State Dept. of Ins.

Other Lower Courts

September 28, 2001

Joseph M. Belth, Petitioner,
v.
New York State Department of Insurance, Respondent.

COUNSEL

Emery, Cuti, Brinckerhoff & Abady, P. C., New York City (Nina Morrison and Matthew D. Brinckerhoff of counsel), and Public Citizen Litigation Group, Washington, D.C . (Justin P. Smith and David C. Vladeck of counsel), for petitioner.

Eliot

Page 509

Spitzer, Attorney General, New York City (Richard C. Rubinstein of counsel), for respondent.

Nixon Peabody L. L. P., New York City (Elizabeth D. Moore of counsel), for Life Insurance Council of New York, Incorporated.

OPINION

Nicholas Figueroa, J.

Petitioner, publisher of The Insurance Forum, a newsletter, seeks a judgment pursuant to CPLR article 78 directing respondent to disclose state insurance records under Public Officers Law §§ 84 through 90.

The Life Insurance Council of New York, Incorporated, an insurance industry association, is an intervenor-respondent in this proceeding.

Specifically, petitioner seeks the names, titles and salaries of employees working for life insurance companies doing business in New York, who earn $600,000 a year or more, including the three senior officers and the directors of each company regardless of the amount, and the officer or the other person, firm, or corporation receiving $600,000 or more; and the titles, persons, firms receiving $60,000 or more but less than $600,000.

This information is routinely contained in the New York Supplement to the Annual Statement and is required to be filed by insurance companies pursuant to Insurance Law § 307 (a) (1) and § 4233 (a) and (b) (3).

Petitioner's request for the individual names was refused by respondent on the ground that disclosing names would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy under Public Officers Law § 87 (2) (b) and § 89 (2) (b), but respondent offered to list the positions and salaries with names redacted.

Petitioner argues that respondent has routinely disclosed this information since 1986. Petitioner had circulated the information in his newsletter since around that time. Beginning in 2000, however, various insurance companies, upon learning that petitioner was also circulating this information on the Internet, wrote respondent expressing their opposition to the continued public disclosure of this information in any form.

One of these companies, the Equitable Life Assurance Society, complained to respondent that the information would be available to marketers, creditors, " and the like," and that its dissemination over the ...


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