Monday, July 21, 2014

No. 59: The Proposed Demutualization of Canada's Economical Mutual Insurance Company

Alastair ("Al") Rickard is a former Canadian insurance executive and the founding editor of The Canadian Journal of Life Insurance. Although his Journal is no longer published, he is a blogger ( Through his blog I learned two years ago about the shocking terms of the proposed demutualization of Economical Mutual Insurance Company (Waterloo, Ontario), a large, federally regulated mutual property and casualty insurance company. I invited Rickard to write an article on the subject. He did so, and the article appeared under his byline in the October 2012 issue of The Insurance Forum.

Rickard has posted on his blog several articles about the Economical Mutual proposal, which remains pending. Rickard's most recent post on the subject is his No. 268 dated July 15. I decided to interrupt my summer break to call this latest post to your attention. I urge you to read not only his No. 268, but also at least some of his earlier posts on the subject (his Nos. 208, 209, and those mentioned in the second paragraph of his No. 268). To go to Rickard's post No. 268, click here.


Monday, July 14, 2014

No. 57: A Note to Readers

In the final two issues of The Insurance Forum—the November and December 2013 issues—I expressed the hope to keep in contact with readers through my blog ( On October 7, I posted the first item. For a few months thereafter I posted items at the rate of two per week, and later cut back to one per week. Now I have decided to take a summer break during which I may not post anything for a few months. However, I might post an item if something interesting occurs.

In the November issue, where I explained the reasons for my decision to end publication of The Insurance Forum, I said a major reason was my desire to write a memoir about my 40-year experience with the newsletter. I have made some progress, but during the break I plan to concentrate on the project in an effort to complete it fairly soon.

During the break, feel free to communicate with me. It is always good to hear from readers. Thank you for your interest in my work.


Monday, July 7, 2014

No. 56: J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, and a Superb New Book about a Famous 1971 Burglary

On the night of March 8, 1971, more than a year before the break-in at the Watergate, eight civil rights and antiwar activists broke into an office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Media, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. The burglars stole—and released to reporters and members of Congress—secret FBI files revealing the existence of unconstitutional programs that violated the civil rights of individuals and organizations. The burglary became one of the most embarrassing unsolved mysteries in the history of the FBI under its legendary director, J. Edgar Hoover.

In 1971, Betty Medsger was a young reporter for The Washington Post. She was one of the first to see the secret files and break the news about them. Now, after more than 40 years, she has written a superb book about the burglary. She found seven of the eight burglars and reveals for the first time—with their permission—the identity of five of them. All of them had avoided detection and were prepared to go to their graves without being identified as the burglars. Two of them agreed to be interviewed for the book but still refused to allow their identification despite the fact that the statute of limitations has long since run out; those two are referred to by fictitious names. The 596-page book, published in 2014, is entitled The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI.

I found noteworthy Medsger's detailed analysis of the thought processes of the burglars leading to their decision to break the law and risk lengthy prison terms in order to reveal the illegal operations of the FBI. She describes the meticulous planning that went into the burglary, including the decision to conduct the raid on the night when the nation was absorbed with the heavyweight championship boxing match between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden.

Also noteworthy is Medsger's detailed descriptions of the burglars' life experiences preceding the burglary, and their lives after the burglary as they released the stolen files and struggled for years to avoid detection in the massive FBI investigation of the case. For example, the leader of the burglars was a college professor; he died in his eighties in 2013 after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease. Two others were a married couple with three small children (a fourth was born later); the couple made careful arrangements for the care of their children in the event of capture and long prison terms. Especially interesting is the description of how they broke to their children years later the news of their parents' criminal act.

Because I was and still am in Bloomington, I was intrigued by Medsger's discussion of the FBI investigation following the burglary. On pages 147-148 of the book is a list of reports that came in from FBI field offices across the country. Here is one of seven reports mentioned:
From Indianapolis: The field office checked on the whereabouts on March 8 of a man from Bloomington, Indiana, who agents there thought might do such a thing.
The Medsger book is a well written page turner. It is also a thought provoking piece of work. I strongly recommend the book.