RALEIGH – Back in June Patrick Conway was arrested in the and charged with DWI and child abuse. He was swerving on the highway with his two daughters in the car and hit a truck. Officers smelled alcohol, witnessed slurred speech and ‘unsteadiness,’ but Conway refused a breathalyzer test. He then apparently threw a fit at the police of the “Do you know who I am?!” variety
Conway is the president and CEO of Blue Blue Shield of NC, the state’s largest health insurer. That’s who he is, and he wanted the officers to know it apparently. As reported by WRAL, the police report quoted Conway as saying to the arresting officers, “’You had a choice. You could have let me go. You don’t know who I am. I am a doctor, a CO of a company. I’ll call Governor Cooper and get you in trouble,’“ WRAL reported.
The company’s board, after learning of the arrest, issued the following statement:
“Our board takes this matter very seriously. Upon learning of the incident in June, it immediately established a committee within the board to review the situation, and engaged outside counsel and experts to aid the process. After careful consideration, the board of trustees decided that Patrick’s strong leadership will continue to be an asset and he will remain as president and CEO.”
Again, Conway had two children in a car, obviously drunk in broad daylight, got into a wreck where luckily no one was hurt, and the proceeded to act as if he was above the law and basic norms of human decency and respect for life. Is that the kind of strong leadership a Fortune 500 company needs? Yet the matter was relatively quiet until this week when the following video emerged.
— Brooke Cain (@brookecain) September 24, 2019
The same day that video came out, BCBS announced it was placing a planned merger with another big insurer, Cambia, on ‘temprary hold.’ We’re guessing the existing board members at Cambia weren’t too thrilled with the leadership exhibited in that video. The merger would have represented a combined $16 billion company.
“Blue Cross NC has decided to put its proposed strategic affiliation with Cambia Health Solutions on temporary hold,” the company announced in an email. “Blue Cross NC is committed to focusing on its customers, employees and the North Carolina communities it serves.”
Is the new information changing the Board’s tune? Or is it merely forcing them to hold Conway to account for something they all hoped would just be forgotten?
N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey wants thinks it’s the latter, and in a news conference Wednesday accused the insurer of attempting to cover up the nature of Conway’s arrest. He called for Conway to resign immediately.
“I can deal with the criminal charges, even as disturbing as they are; what I cannot accept is the cover-up, the misrepresentation of facts, the lack of respect for oversight and regulation of the company and lack of respect for law enforcement officers who are only doing their duty. As a result of this lack of leadership and governance by the CEO and Board of Directors, I am today asking for the resignation of Dr. Patrick Conway as CEO for Blue Cross Blue Shield.“
Some board members say they were satisfied with Conway’s completing a substance abuse program, and kept the matter under wraps out of respect for privacy. Even if you accept that explanation, though, at what point do you think that shareholders in BCBS deserve to know that the company’s CEO is driving day-drunk with his kids in the car. Probably well before the point that mergers are getting put on hold and the company name is getting a pile of negative press.
Beyond that, Causey said he thinks the Board willfully misrepresented the nature of the arrest to him.
“The efforts by the board of directors to hide the arrest of their CEO for drunk driving and child neglect is very disturbing. When news accounts surfaced of the June 22 incident last week, the board misrepresented to the Department of Insurance the actual arrest — telling me that the incident was without incident and was a routine arrest.”
Judging by that police report, the arrest was not quite routine. We’re still waiting to see if Conway does take Causey’s advice, or the Board will do it’s duty to hold his pooer leadership to account. In the mean time, what do you think the chances are that Governor Cooper is still taking Conway’s calls?