Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation

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Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation
Ohio BWC Logo.png
Agency overview
Formed 1912
Headquarters

William Green Building

30 West Spring Street, Columbus, Ohio
Website www.ohiobwc.com

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (OBWC or BWC) provides workers' compensation insurance coverage for employers and employees in the State of Ohio through a $22 billion fund.[1] Based on assets under management, OBWC is the largest exclusive state-operated and second largest overall provider of workers’ compensation insurance in the United States.

The OBWC reported providing coverage to more than 288,000 employers and supports more than 1.5 million open cases of worker disability. OBWC paid out more than $1.9 billion in benefits against premiums from employers of $2.1 billion.

Since its founding in 1912, BWC has provided medical and compensation benefits for work-related injuries, diseases and deaths. BWC provides insurance to about two-thirds of Ohio's work force.

Scandals and controversies[edit]

Coingate[edit]

In 2005, the OBWC became involved in a massive investment scandal that ultimately contributed to the defeat of the Republican Party leadership of the state government in Ohio.[2] It was revealed in early 2005, in part by a Toledo, Ohio, newspaper The Blade that the OBWC had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in high risk or unconventional investment vehicles run by people closely connected to the Ohio Republican Party who had made large campaign contributions to many senior Republican party officials.

Most notably, a rare coin investment fund has attracted particular scrutiny after it was reported that two coins worth more than $300,000 had been lost. Further investigation then revealed that coins worth $10–$12 million were missing and that only $13 million of the original $50 million invested could be accounted for. Thomas Noe, a Republican Party fundraiser and activist was charged with running a criminal enterprise, the theft of $13 million from the fund, and of keeping a second set of books to cover for it.[3]

Private equity investments[edit]

In the aftermath of the Coingate scandal, the OBWC determined to reduce its exposure to investments perceived as "alternative" or "high risk" which included an $400 million portfolio of over 60 private equity and venture capital investment funds. A sale of the portfolio was reported in 2007.

However, as part of that sale process, OBWC engaged Ennis Knupp to conduct a thorough valuation of its alternative investment holdings. The Columbus Dispatch subsequently made a request under the Freedom of Information Act to receive the Ennis Knupp valuation report, which included confidential materials that the various private equity firms objected to OBWC disclosing. The various private equity firms settled a lawsuit with the Columbus Dispatch allowing a partial disclosure, however the generally secretive private equity industry followed the outcome closely.[4][5]

Subsequent events[edit]

In the years following the Coingate scandal, OBWC has replaced its senior management and investment teams and has been scrutinized heavily by the new Democratic administration in Ohio.

On June 26, 2007, however, the OBWC was again in the news as a result of the theft of a laptop containing personal information for 439 injured workers.[6]

On January 13, 2009, Ohio inspector general's office investigation reported that a high-paid employee had been spending most of his work hours, since 2005, downloading and viewing audio and video files from sexually explicit websites during working hours. The case was referred to prosecutors for possible charges involving theft of state time and the inspector general urged the BWC to monitor more closely its employees' computer use.[7][8]

In January 2013, a plaintiff class of more than 270,000 Ohio businesses filed a report claiming it was due $860 million after the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation was found to have over-charged class members from 2001 to 2009. The report follows a decision from Judge Richard McMonagle of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas that the Ohio BWC violated two state statutes by charging the class excessive premiums. During the trial, the BWC conceded that the rates it charged non-group employers from 2001 to 2009 were excessive, according to case summary. BWC employees explained that those employers were charged a "huge surcharge" that resulted from a "broken group rating system." [9] On March 20, 2013, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Richard McMonagle ordered the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation to refund $860 million in illegal over-charges to some 270,000 employers.[10] In response to statements made by the Bureau's Administrator Steve Buehrer indicating a desire to appeal the decision, class members created a non-profit organization called Pay Us Back Ohio BWC, Inc.[11][12] to organize the 270,000 employers against the Bureau of Workers' Compensation's costly appeal of the decision.

Thirteen months after the BWC filed its appeal, Ohio's 8th Appellate District Court upheld the original Court's decision and blasted the state agency[13] saying that, "this appeal is about a cabal of Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (“BWC”) bureaucrats and lobbyists for group sponsors who rigged workers’ compensation insurance premium rates so that for employers who participated in the BWC’s group rating plan (“group-rated employers”), it was “heads we win,” and for employers who did not participate in the group rating plan ("nongroup-rated employers"), it was "tails you lose."[14] Just days before the decision, Ohio Governor John Kasich stated during a television interview that if the employers were owed money he would help them get it back.[15] In response, members of Pay Us Back Ohio BWC, Inc. called on the Governor to instruct the Bureau to comply with the court orders and give back the money it owes."[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]