Wednesday, 02 May 2007 10:26

Election and legal discussion highlights SCRS 25th anniversary event

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     The SCRS celebrated its 25th anniversary in April at an event in Atlanta that gathered many of the association’s early founders and leaders, and that included awards presentations, the election of a new chairman, a presentation by a lawyer on the McCarran-Ferguson Act, and a dinner celebrating the group’s history and accomplishments. At that dinner, SCRS Executive Director Dan Risley read a passage from a 1982 letter the newly formed association had sent out to recruit members.

    “You understand the needs of the collision repair people, and that working together we can better meet those needs,” the letter stated.
    “I can tell you that letter is as relevant today as it was back in 1982,” Risley told the gathering of about 250 people at the anniversary dinner. “You probably see our tagline, ‘Working together is the most important work we do,’ everywhere, because it truly embodies what the association is all about. As much as we’re celebrating and honoring tonight all our past chairs and board members, it’s also a celebration of all of you. SCRS wouldn’t exist without everybody in this room.”
    Those in the room included well over half of the 21 people who have served as chairman of the association over its 25 years. But Risley said it is more than just a business association that brings the group together.
    “We are a family,” he said. “I may be a staff member, but when I look out there, I don’t see board members and corporate members. I see a bunch of friends and family.”
    Several other organizations made brief presentations to honor SCRS on the anniversary. Pat Anderson, a Minnesota shop owner representing the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals (AASP), donated $500 from AASP in the name of SCRS to the National Auto Body Council’s fundraiser for a local hospital in Atlanta.
    Tom McGee, CEO of I-CAR, presented the I-CAR Industry Excellence award to SCRS.
    “We have been very fortunate to have had the presence and influence of SCRS for the past 25 years,” McGee said. “It is through the work of organizations such as SCRS and its members that the collision industry continues to thrive in this ever-changing world.”
    John Loftus, who retired after about two decades as SCRS executive director, also shared some memories and said the industry is better off today because of SCRS’ existence.

    “We all have the same love for the industry,” Loftus said. “We all have the same passion. We want things to be better. We want to be respected and have the pride that goes with the accomplishment of our work. We’re good at what we do. We’re damn good. That’s the thing that SCRS gave voice to. We brought that forth. The problems today are different. There are different challenges. But, the fact is you have an organization to deal with them. That’s the difference. There was nobody to deal with these things until we came along.”
    Tom Moreland, an Akzo Nobel executive who concluded his term as chairman of SCRS at the event, closed the celebration by saying that it was appropriate that the evening was not spent solely listing the association’s many accomplishments and successes over 25 years.
    “Because what’s really important about SCRS, and it’s been said over and over again, is right behind me,” he said, pointing to the sign with the association’s “Working together…” tagline. “All that matters is bringing the people together and trying to find a way to work through what is arguably one of the most complex industries that there is today.”
    He thanked Loftus and the past chairmen for their “courage, vision and patient leadership,” and challenged everyone in the room to live up to the course set by those early leaders.
    “We know the road ahead of us is certainly full of challenges, and I would ask the future board and supporters of SCRS to accept that challenge,” Moreland said.

SCRS holds election, discusses McCarran-Ferguson
    The annual SCRS gathering also included several award presentations. Bob Smith, an SCRS board member from Missouri, received the association’s “Independent Service Award” for his efforts in bringing together three local groups to hold a “Collision Industry Forum” in his state last year. The event attracted more than 200 people, and gave the industry a chance to interact with state legislators who also attended.
    Sheila Loftus became the seventh person – and the first woman – to receive the SCRS “Lifetime Achievement Award.” Until last year, Loftus spent about three decades as editor of Hammer & Dolly and served as executive director of the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association based in the District of Columbia. She continues to produce “Crash Network,” a weekly industry bulletin.
    “I love this industry. It has been a labor of love,” Loftus said in accepting the SCRS award. “I am so proud of each and every one of you that work in this industry. You are all so good in so many things, and so brilliant, and I love telling your story.”
    SCRS also held its annual meeting and election. Re-elected to the association’s 12-member board were CARSTAR executive Dan Bailey, Oklahoma shop owner Gary Wano, and Virginia shop owner Barry Dorn, and newly elected was ABRA Body & Glass CEO Rollie Benjamin. Appointed to the board to serve out Moreland’s unexpired term was Indiana shop owner Aaron Clark.

    That board then elected the officers and executive board for the coming year. Farzam Afshar, CEO of VeriFacts Automotive, was elected as the new SCRS chairman.

    “I believe I have the experience and ability to serve as your chairman, and it will be my honor to serve in that position and continue the SCRS tradition of working together,” Afshar said.
    Dorn was elected as vice chairman. Nevada shop owner Tim Waldren will serve as treasurer, Arkansas shop owner Craig Griffin as secretary, and CARSTAR executive Stacy Bartnik as the director-at-large on the SCRS executive committee.
    The SCRS meeting also included several presentations including one by Atlanta attorney Trevor Hiestand, who offered his perspective on how the McCarran-Ferguson insurer anti-trust exemption affects – or does not affect – the collision repair industry.
    Hiestand said the Antitrust Modernization Commission (AMC) created by Congress issued its report in April and “across the board slammed anti-trust exemptions,” such as those provided to major league baseball, labor unions and insurers.
    “If you were to have asked me a month ago, ‘What’s the likelihood of McCarran-Ferguson being repealed?’ I would have said to you, ‘They may tinker with it,’” Hiestand said. But based on the commission’s report, he said he now sees a repeal of most of its provisions as much more likely.
    But, he said, such a repeal would likely have little direct impact on shop-insurer interactions. He said some court rulings have found McCarran-Ferguson protections do not necessarily protect insurers from anti-trust suits brought by third parties such as pharmacies, attorneys or collision repair shops that do business with insurers. But even still, federal antitrust suits are rarely successful.
    “So when you hear in the news that McCarran-Ferguson has been repealed, you’ll know that it doesn’t really change your relationship with these insurance companies directly,” Hiestand said.
    His advice to the industry in terms of countering insurer control was to focus on consumer education.
    John Yoswick is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988. He can be contacted by email at jyoswick@SpiritOne.com.

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