Genworth Financial Inc., the seller of life insurance and mortgage guarantees, named former U.S. Senator Kent Conrad to the board of directors as financial firms seek government expertise and influence in Washington.
The addition of Conrad, 65, a Democrat from North Dakota, increases the size of the board to 10 directors from nine, the Richmond, Virginia-based insurer said today in a statement. Genworth added David Moffett, the former head of government-backed mortgage investor Freddie Mac, to the board in December.
Insurers are adding directors and executives with government experience as they grapple with regulations on matters ranging from capital to home loans. MetLife Inc., the largest U.S. life insurer, added Carlos Gutierrez, a former commerce secretary, to its board this month. Mortgage insurer Radian Group Inc. hired a chief policy officer this week.
“Kent’s extensive budgetary and public policy experience and perspectives will provide invaluable insights as Genworth continues its focus on rebuilding value for shareholders,” Genworth Chairman James Riepe said in the statement.
Congress is weighing changes to U.S. housing policy that may increase the role of companies selling private mortgage insurance, including Genworth and Radian. Federal regulators are separately considering capital rules for the largest U.S. non-bank financial institutions, a group that may include MetLife and American International Group Inc.
AIG, which suspended all lobbying in 2008 after receiving a U.S. rescue package, hired Patton Boggs LLP in December to advocate in Washington for the firm’s interests in a deal to sell a plane-leasing unit. Lenders including Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. also added ex-government leaders to their boards as U.S. regulation increased following the financial crisis.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the group of state insurance overseers, in January named ex-Democratic Senator Ben Nelson to be its chief executive officer. Nelson also served as an industry executive and state regulator.
“We needed the gravitas, the phone calls returned, to go to Capitol Hill, to tell our story, defend our turf, and beyond, protect and promote our system around the world,” Jim Donelon, NAIC president and Louisiana insurance commissioner, said in an interview in January. “I think all the way up to and including President Obama would return Senator Nelson’s phone calls.”
Conrad was a Senator from 1987 until this year. He was the chairman of the Budget Committee at the time of his retirement. Prior to his election to Congress, Conrad was the North Dakota tax commissioner. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stanford University and an MBA from George Washington University.