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What puts Thomas Brunner high on any list of D.C.-based insurance lawyers? Let us count the ways. He represents an impressive list of clients, including such well-known insurers as AIG, Chubb, CNA, Nationwide, St. Paul Travelers, Swiss Re, and the Winterthur Group. He launched the insurance group at Wiley Rein with five other lawyers less than 20 years ago. Now it boasts some 40 attorneys who specialize in disputes over general liability, professional liability, and health insurance policies; reinsurance; insurer bankruptcy; insurance fraud; and insurance regulations and legislation. Brunner, 61, has done a lot of work in the areas of asbestos and environmental cleanup claims. Recently, he has been handling more disputes over health insurance, professional liability policies, and mergers and acquisitions within the insurance industry. For example, he served as U.S. counsel for Winterthur in an $850 million, winner-take-all arbitration involving the divestiture of a few insurance businesses. Last year, AXA Group acquired Winterthur from Credit Suisse Group. Brunner has also been representing 11 European insurance companies in a dispute over whether policies issued to T.H. Agriculture & Nutrition Co. covered U.S. asbestos claims. The case has played out on two continents, with the insurers filing suit in Amsterdam and the policyholder filing suit in Kansas City, Mo. Brunner won his argument in the trial court and is now waiting for a verdict on appeal, which he expects in the next few months. Clients say that Brunner’s knowledge of the industry and his analytical and strategic skills are what set him apart. “He doesn’t pretend to represent us well without first listening to us,” explains Edward Boehner, senior vice president and general counsel of American Nuclear Insurers. “He works in a big law firm, but he has always been involved in our cases and our issues.” Brunner’s interest in insurance was sparked over 35 years ago when he was a student at Yale Law School. He had a part-time job at the New Haven, Conn., police department writing press releases, meeting with community groups, and drafting grant applications. After his boss was forced out of the department, says Brunner, he helped him establish the Insurance Crime Prevention Institute to investigate fraud involving property and casualty insurance claims. The organization is now known as the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and Brunner serves as outside counsel. But at the time, the idea was that his former boss would run for mayor and Brunner would work on his campaign. As it turned out, the man never ran for office, and Brunner decided to look for work at a law firm. He landed first at the now-defunct Wald, Harkrader & Ross in 1972 and next at the firm then called Piper & Marbury in 1985. He finally reached Wiley Rein in 1988. With over three decades in insurance practice under his belt, Brunner says the biggest challenge remains understanding the complexities of the cases and grasping the plethora of each state’s rules and regulations. “Keeping up with it can be very hard,” he adds, “but that’s also part of what’s fun.”

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