Celebrity Chefs Such As Wolfgang Puck And Thomas Keller Have Launched Their Own Advocacy Group

Posted: Apr 23, 2020

Celebrity chefs such as Wolfgang Puck and Thomas Keller have launched their own advocacy group to pressure insurers to pay.

President Donald Trump is at the center of a fierce lobbying fight between insurers and businesses that are clashing over hundreds of billions of dollars in claims triggered by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Trump has proved to be a wild card in the dispute over business interruption insurance policies, which are designed to protect companies financially when there are major disruptions. The president, who oversaw his own hospitality empire before being elected, has shown sympathy to restaurants and other businesses pushing for payouts, while also saying he understands why insurers are contesting claims for a pandemic they say they never pledged to cover.

Celebrity chefs such as Wolfgang Puck and Thomas Keller have launched their own advocacy group to pressure insurers to pay and have made their case on Fox News, trying to spread the word on one of Trump's preferred outlets. The battle has ramped up as the president has recruited the chefs and a top insurance executive to advise him on a sprawling panel focused on reopening the economy.

"I understand the sympathy that he extended on the subject to those who are suffering," said Evan Greenberg, CEO of the insurer Chubb and a member of Trump's council. "The fact is you've got to go back to first principles and the facts."

The battle has big implications for not only the finances of the insurance industry and its aggrieved customers but also for how Washington resolves what are bound to be countless other legal tangles the pandemic is creating as it rocks the country.

The Trump administration is being careful about picking sides. The White House has been talking to insurance industry leaders and has made no decisions yet, an official told POLITICO. The National Economic Council is studying it.

The fight quickly escalated after much of the country shut down because of stay-at-home orders.

It took little time for restaurants and other businesses to hit a brick wall when they filed business interruption insurance claims that were rejected. Insurers have argued that many business interruption policies weren't drafted to cover pandemics — and that such events are uninsurable.

"There is a clear reason pandemics, unlike other catastrophes such as hurricanes or earthquakes, are not covered," Greenberg said. "Unlike a hurricane or an earthquake, a pandemic is not limited by geography or time. It's everywhere geographically and for extended periods of time. So the loss potential in practical terms is almost infinite."

By Zachary Warmbrodt
April 23, 2020
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