BY Matthew J. Smith, Esq. | June 12, 2023
At the Midyear meeting, my retirement as the Coalition’s executive director was announced. A decision I actually made more than a year ago when I shared my plans with our Executive Committee leadership at our 2022 Midyear Meeting.
This is the best job I have ever had or could hope for. That says a lot for a guy who had worked part-time since age 16 and full-time from when I was 20. So why step aside at all, or especially now? Let me try to explain.
When I took over the Coalition reins after Dennis Jay’s incredible 27-year tenure in this role, he told me: “We built the foundation; now go and build on that foundation.” Over the past 4 years, Dennis’ words have guided me and our staff. From updating our bylaws, moving into new office space, expanding our staff, securing our financial stability, and growing our membership by adding nearly 100 new members, our efforts have been and will continue to be, focused on making your Coalition stronger and better equipped to help you in the fight against insurance fraud. In a very short time, especially with an intervening pandemic, we have achieved many great things together.
While my time as your executive director has been 4 years, my involvement with the Coalition has spanned more than a decade. When I was first asked to serve as the Coalition’s legal advisor in 2012, I was honored and humbled due to my great respect for the Coalition and its work. I did, however, tell them I could only serve in the role until 2017, as I had already made plans to transition out of the law firm I had founded at that time. While I knew I wanted to do something else after leaving my law firm, I had no idea what that might be.
In August of 2017, at dinner with Howard Goldblatt, he told me of his plans to retire at the end of the year. With the support of my dear wife, I approached Dennis with my interest in trying to fill Howard’s “shoes” as the Coalition’s director of government relations. When I spoke with Dennis at the IASIU Conference a month later, he said simply, “you’re hired.”
That began my staff involvement, and I enjoyed two years representing the Coalition and our members’ interests in the legislative and regulatory community.
I would gladly have remained in that role for many years, but Dennis’ own plans to retire led to my being asked to assume this new role in January of 2020. When our leadership approached me about this role, I was obviously honored to again step into the “shoes” of a great anti-fraud leader I have always admired. Equally, I told them I would be a “bridge” to lead the Coalition for a limited time period, to build upon the 27-year history of the Coalition’s work, and help us locate an executive director to follow me. I truly believe we are now at that time.
At my request, I accepted this position with the proviso that I could also retain my role in directing our government relations programs. It was not a power grab, but the strong belief I still have that the Coalition’s legislative and regulatory advocacy is our strongest way to lead in the fight against insurance fraud. But there are only 24 hours in a day. During COVID, it was relatively easy to navigate wearing the dual “hats” of executive director and government relations director. As the world reopened, traveling to present at conferences, monitoring and filing comments or testimony for legislative hearings, and fulfilling other duties all led to the realization our members are not being well-served by my continuing to balance two roles at that the same time. With the Executive Committee’s support, we sought to again hire a full-time director of government relations. That culminated in the recent hiring of Brent Walker as only the 3rd person in this important role in our 30-year history. With his background from Travelers Insurance and IASIU, Brent is the perfect person to fill this role and lead the Coalition’s efforts going forward.
My decision to retire and not simply remain as your executive director was due though to two final reasons, or rationalizations, for my retiring now. In March, I turned 65. I am grateful to be in good physical health (some may challenge the mental side!), but the vast majority of my contemporaries for decades in the fight against insurance fraud have already retired or are planning to do so in the next few years. Our profession is changing and evolving in exciting new ways. Those changes are being led by a new and younger generation of anti-fraud leaders. The reality is at most anti-fraud gatherings; I am now the oldest person in the room. The Coalition’s leadership “face” should be more reflective of where our profession not only is today but where we are going into the future. In short, it is time for a new and younger leader to step up and guide the Coalition’s future.
Finally, in September, we will welcome our 3rd grandchild. My grandfather was the one who most impacted my life and the man I have become. Without him, my life would be far different. For that reason, I have always dreamed of being the same type of grandfather I was blessed to enjoy. I am also blessed to soon celebrate 40 years of marriage to Cyndi. She has been at my side every step along the way since 1985. In recent years that has included days and weeks apart as my travel schedule has increased dramatically as we spread the Coalition’s mission across the nation and now the globe. It is now time for me to spend more time with her as well. Finally, I am mindful that my father was in excellent health until he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within 90 days at age 68. While I don’t believe the same will occur with me, I have to accept I am only 3 years younger than he was when his life ended far too soon. None of us have any guarantees.
We will still have the months between now and December together, and I will always be here to help and support the Coalition in any way. I hope you will understand and support my decision to step aside at this time. I truly want what is best for the Coalition and our future. I also ask you to help and support our Executive Committee leadership team as they seek to identify and bring on board our new executive director. The candidates who have already stepped forward are each incredible, so their decision will not be easy. What I do know is our future is bright. I have done my best to heed Dennis’ sound advice to build upon the Coalition’s strong foundation. I hope you feel we have done that job well. In the time I have remaining this year, I will now focus on making sure our Coalition is well-positioned for our new leader, who will take this incredible Coalition to newer and greater heights. Thank you for all you have done for me, for my family, and most importantly, for this great profession and our Coalition. God bless.
Matthew is a respected anti-fraud professional. Under his leadership, the Coalition is bringing together our diverse members from all sectors of the fraud fight including consumer advocates, insurers, legislators regulators, government agencies, prosecutors, law firms and respected business partners.
Before joining the Coalition staff in 2018, Matthew founded one of the nation’s leading law firms specializing in handling of insurance fraud and bad faith cases. He previously served as our Director of Government Affairs and legal counsel. Matthew is a prolific writer and speaker who serves on many boards and committees related to fraud-fighting efforts.
Matthew graduated from the Salmon P. Chase College of Law and the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music where he studied Radio, TV & Film.