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La Grande Observer 11/28/14

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Home arrow Opinion arrow Our View arrow BRING SAIF CORP. FINANCES TO LIGHT



The Saif Corporation, Oregon's non-profit workers' compensation insurer, needs to be coaxed out of the shadows.

The Oregon Legislature might be able to help Saif step into the sunshine and be more open in sharing its financial information with the public.

Saif, known in the past as the State Accident Insurance Fund, is huge. It insures 44,000 employees and last year had reported revenues of $432 million.

It also has a multibillion-dollar reserve. A large storehouse of cash might be OK. Saif must be able to handle the claims of injured workers. And those workers should rest assured that there's plenty of money on reserve to handle any future claims.

What's needed, however, are regular reports from Saif on how it spends its money. Documents that were pried loose through a court order show that Saif paid two private consultants more than $1.4 million in fees over the past five years. One of the consultants is former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt. It was also discovered that Saif awarded $250,000 in severance pay to a top executive who resigned in 2001.

Saif's quasi-public status means that it should be more open to disclosing how it spends its money. Details about huge severance packages or how much Saif pays its consultants should not be cloaked in secrecy. Neither should information on how much money Saif took in over the previous year or how large is its reserve.

Publically-traded companies are much more open about their finances. In Saif's case, the shareholders are the thousands of Oregon companies that buy workers' compensation insurance from the corporation and the nearly 50,000 employees who are insured.

The issue with Saif is accountability to Oregonians. A bill should be passed by the Legislature to shed light on the corporation's finances. It is not right for Saif to keep secret the payments it has made to former executives or the massive amounts it is willing to pay consultants.

Here's tool to use

The Observer from time to time publishes its "Where to Write" box, containing the phone numbers and addresses of elected officials. Readers often ask us when it will be published, so they can save it for future reference.

We're publishing "Where to Write" today. Maybe people will want to express their views to the governor or other elected officials about the Saif issue that was discussed above. Clip out "Where to Write" and keep it handy as a tool you can use.


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