The Office of General Counsel issued the following informal opinion on March 6, 2000.
What are the requirements, if any, as to corporate identification on storefront signs, letterhead stationery, and other means of disclosure where an owner of two corporate insurance agencies combines them into one physical office location?
There are no requirements other than the general prohibition against demonstrating misleading or untrustworthy conduct.
An owner of two corporate insurance agencies located at two different sites desired to consolidate them into one physical office, using the same staff, office furniture, stationery, etc., while still operating both agencies and maintaining separate books of business.
The operation of two insurance agencies at separate locations is permissible provided that the licensee operator complies with the provisions of N.Y. Ins. Law § 2129 (McKinney Supp. 1999-2000) which requires that each place of business be under the supervision of someone licensed to do the kinds of business transacted in that office. Similarly, the two separate agencies could be operated at a single location. The two agencies should retain their separate corporate identity and books of business, notwithstanding using the same staff, cabinets, etc. at the one office. It is also permissible to disclose the identities of both agencies on the locations store sign, letterhead and business cards.
Nothing in the N.Y. Insurance Law and Department Regulations obligates a licensee to advertise one or both of the agencies. Generally, licensees with more than one licensed name list all of them on their letterhead. Alternatively, separate stationery is used for each agency. If the licensee prefers to use letterhead on which only one of the licensed names is listed, he or she must ,if applicable, indicate in the body of the letter or below his or her signature that the licensee is acting as producer in the other licensed name. This licensed name must be identified so as to prevent misleading insureds into thinking that they are doing business with the licensed entity which is not the actual producer of record. To so mislead an insured may be considered an untrustworthy act which could lead to disciplinary action pursuant to N.Y. Ins. Law § 2110 (McKinney 1985).
A licensee may not advertise or use stationery indicating an entitys "group" name, nickname, abbreviation, etc. when such name is not the exact licensed name of record with the Departments Licensing Bureau. To do so would be a violation of N.Y. Ins. Law § 2102(a) and (b) (McKinney 1985), which prohibits acting without a license, which in turn includes doing business in an unlicensed name.
Finally, Department Regulations 5, 6, and 7 (N.Y. Comp. Codes R. Regs. tit. II, §§ 21.4, 22.3, and 23.5 (1972)) require agents and brokers to notify the Department's Licensing Bureau in Albany of any change of business or residence address.
For further information you may contact Associate Attorney Jeffrey Stonehill of the Departments New York Office.