North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey said it was made clear to him when he took office that Global Bankers Insurance Group was treated differently than other companies under his predecessor, Wayne Goodwin.
Goodwin is now the chair of the N.C. Democratic Party. The owner of Global Bankers Insurance, Greg Lindberg, is at the center of the federal probe that’s resulted in four people being indicted, including Lindberg and Robin Hayes, the former chair of the N.C. Republican Party.
Soon after he took office in early 2017, Causey said staff members at the Department of Insurance told him that one of Goodwin’s political appointees in the department wanted to vet all information about the company.
“It was what I was hearing from employees, that some of those employees felt like someone was checking things before it went to them,” Causey said in an interview with WFAE. “And it appeared to some of those employees, that perhaps somebody was wanting to make sure everything was exactly right for what they wanted to go before that company.”
Causey said at least two former political appointees at the Department of Insurance now work for Global Bankers Insurance Group.
One of those appointees wanted to control the flow of information between the department and the company, Causey said. Causey declined to name that employee, citing the ongoing federal investigation.
“There was some concern from some of those folks [in the department], that some of the managers were – I don’t want to say micro-managing – that some of those managers were saying things need to go through here before you send it directly to them,” Causey said. “Just some little things that raised a few questions. That might not have been the way things had always been done.”
Causey, a Republican, defeated Goodwin, a Democrat, in 2016.
In January 2018, Causey went to the FBI, telling agents he was concerned about Lindberg’s repeated efforts to donate to his campaign, as well as asking him to vouch for him with insurance commissioners in other states. He agreed to cooperate with an investigation that the FBI decided to launch.
The Justice Department said Tuesday that Lindberg, of Durham, was part of a “brazen bribery scheme” in an attempt to influence Causey. He was indicted on bribery and public corruption charges, along with two businessmen he worked with and Robin Hayes.
The indictment, unsealed Tuesday, said that Lindberg and Hayes conspired to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars into Causey’s campaign account for his re-election effort in 2020. In return, they wanted Causey to remove or transfer a senior deputy commissioner who was overseeing Global Bankers Insurance Group.
Over the next several months, Lindberg and the businessmen — as well as Hayes — discussed the plan to remove the senior deputy commissioner.
Lindberg donated $500,000 to the state Republican Party, and the indictment says Hayes directed a donation of $250,000 to Causey, with a promise of another $250,000 later. Lindberg also gave $1.5 million to a group called the North Carolina Growth and Prosperity Committee, which had been promised to Causey’s campaign, according to the indictment.
An analysis by Bob Hall of Democracy NC shows that Lindberg and his associates have given more than $6 million to both Republican and Democratic candidates, political parties and independent groups – all since 2016.
Hall said Lindberg's first donation in NC politics came in February 2016, when he hosted a fundraiser for Goodwin. Hall said that Lindberg and business associates donated $125,000 to Goodwin in 2016, the year he lost to Causey. He also said Lindberg steered $425,000 to the NC Opportunity Committee, which was created to support Goodwin, but he lost his reelection bid.
Goodwin is not available for comment this week, according to Robert Howard, a spokesperson for the NC Democratic Party.
But Goodwin released a statement Thursday, in which he said he does not “recall being asked to take or direct any action to help Greg Lindberg or his companies during my time as Insurance Commissioner and do not recall him or his companies being raised for my review.”
He said for complex insurance regulatory issues, he deferred to experts in his department. He added, “any suggestion that I have ever taken any action in return for contributions is categorically false.”
He also said that he has been told he is not the subject of the investigation, and has cooperated with investigators in their probe.
Hayes announced that he would not run for N.C. GOP chair re-election Monday, a day before the indictment was unsealed. The state Republican Party announced that Hayes has given up "most of his day-to-day" duties in managing the party. The party has appointed an acting chair until it can vote on the position in June.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Robin Hayes announced plans to step down from his position as N.C. GOP chairman. That is incorrect. He announced that he would not run for re-election.