Ohio Gov. Taft Taps Retired Insurance Exec to Head Workers' Comp Agency

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft has appointed William Mabe to head the state's embattled Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC), which in recent months has been rocked by resignations and revelations that it has lost more than $300 million in bad investments.

Mabe, a consultant and retired insurance company executive, replaces interim Administrator Tina Kielmeyer, who led the agency after former Administrator Jim Conrad resigned in May in the wake of an emerging investment scandal.

"Bill Mabe is a proven leader with a strong track record of improving private sector operations in need of turnaround," Taft said. "His expertise and dedication will enable him to efficiently and responsibly manage Ohio's workers' compensation system and restore its once-stellar reputation for excellence."

Taft's first major directive to Mabe was to implement the recommendations of the Ohio BWC management review team, which was assembled earlier this year to scrutinize the agency's $14 billion investment portfolio. The agency has been in the public spotlight much of this year due to revelations that it has lost about $300 million through investment gaffes.

One of Ohio BWC's apparent investment gaffes involves Tom Noe, a rare coin dealer and prominent Republican supporter from the Toledo suburb of Maumee, who has been indicted on charges that he gave President Bush's re-election campaign $45,400 in illegal contributions.

Noe and Ohio BWC first made headlines this past spring when word surfaced that $13 million was missing from the two rare-coin investment funds Noe was managing for Ohio BWC.

The state of Ohio on May 24 filed a lawsuit against Noe accusing him of defrauding Ohio BWC, and the state attorney general says there is evidence that Noe converted at least $4 million from the funds Ohio BWC invested to his and his wife's personal use. The lawsuit also alleges Noe forged a check to steal state money, used a "Ponzi scheme" to inflate profits of state investments he managed and used state money to buy a Catawba Island home. The civil suit is ongoing.

A task force of state, federal and county officials is scrutinizing Noe's management of Ohio BWC's investments in the two rare-coin funds, which are in the process of being liquidated. Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro in August said the state has recouped about $12.5 million of the $50 million Ohio BWC originally invested with Noe.

Another lawsuit stemming from Ohio BWC's investments was filed against an investment firm accused of fraud, breach of contract and other "irresponsible and inappropriate activities" that ultimately led to the agency losing $215 million it invested with the firm last year.

On July 7, the agency announced it lost $71 million in fiscal years 2002 and 2003 through investments with Allegiant Asset Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cleveland-based National City Corp. Ohio BWC terminated its investment dealings with Allegiant.

Throughout the year, however, Ohio BWC has insisted that its workers' compensation insurance fund is solvent and fully funded.

Mabe Known as a Turnaround Expert

Mabe previously worked in multiple capacities at Columbus-based insurance and financial services provider Nationwide, most recently serving as the senior vice president of Nationwide Provident Operations before retiring in 2003. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at Franklin University and works as a management consultant for R.E. Nolan Management Consulting.

Throughout his career, Mabe, 58, has built a reputation as an "able administrator capable of achieving major turnaround for private companies in need of change," according to a statement issued by Ohio BWC.

As senior consultant for R.E. Nolan Management Consulting Co, Mabe provided management consulting services "that drove profitable growth for the firm and completed a business process management project for a major insurance company, which delivered improved operational performance and a $20 million reduction in expenses," according to Ohio BWC.

As president and CEO of Nationwide Health Plans at Nationwide Insurance, Mabe developed and implemented a turnaround plan to improve Nationwide Health Plans, a regional managed care company with more than $100 million in premiums, from a loss position to sustained growth and profitability, the agency says.

While Ohio BWC is touting Mabe's success in catalyzing turnarounds at the corporate level, the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that Democrats in Ohio's House and Senate are calling for public hearings to assess whether Mabe has what it takes to restore integrity to the beleaguered agency.

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