Maximilian Wallach, 63, the D.C. superintendent of insurance who was credited with saving the troubled Government Employees Insurance Co. (GEICO) in 1976, died Tuesday in a New York City Hotel after an apparent heart attack.
He was in New York to attend a meeting of federal and state health insurance regulators.
Mr. Wallach's job was to license insurance companies doing business in the city, review the financial condition of those companies, and to regulate insurance rates.
He joined the D.C. Insurance Department in 1957, and was named superintendent in 1973. He was best known for his role in saving GEICO. In 1975, the insurance company was the largest insurer of automobiles in this area. It insured more than 2.4 million cars nationwide, making it the fifthe largest auto insurer in the country. It lost $126 million in 1975.
The demise of GEICO would have left 9,000 people out of work across the country and dumped $900 million in liabilities on the insurance market.
Mr. Wallash helped GEICO obtain $75 million in working capital and a "reinsurance" agreement under which other insurance companies took over one-quarter of GEICO's policies.
"If I had to draw up a list of eight or nine people who saved us, Max Wallach's name would be at the top," said John J. Byrne, chairmen of the board and chief executive officer of the company.
"He had the courage not to do the safe thing," Barne said in an interview yesterday. "He had the courage to give us time to get our act together."
Byrne said Mr. Wallach was responsible for persuading more than 25 insurance companies to take part in the rescue venture.
Despite this, Mr. Wallach faced possible replacement by mayor-elect Marion Barry. In an interview with The Washington Post before winning the Democratic primary election last September, Barry said that Mr. Wallach was among several high D.C. officials he intended to replace. Barry gave no explanation for this.
Mayor Walter E. Washington told The Washington Post at the time that he doubted that Barry knew who Mr. Wallach was or what he did. Washington said that Mr. Wallach "is the man who saved GEICO."
Austria. He received an actuarial
Mr. Wallach was a native of Vienna, diploma and a degree in canon law from the University of Venna.
His parents died in Nazi-occupied Austria, but he and a brother escaped in 1938 and came to this country two years later.
He served with the U.S. Army infantry in Europe during World War II, and was awarded the Bronze Star.
Mr. Wallach stayed in Europe for two years after the war, as a civilian employe of the War Department serving on the Allied Commission in Austria.
After returning to this country he earned a master's degree at Princeton University and did graduate work in actuarial science at the University of Michigan.
Mr. Wallach worked as a researcher for Princeton University and the Brookings Institution before joining the Labor Department in 1951. He was a Latin America program officer at Labor for three years. He worked as an actuarial examiner for the Michigan Insurance Department for a year before joining the D.C. Insurance Department.
He had been active in PTA organizations and served as a staff adviser on the Montgomery County Commission on Aging in the early 1970s.
Mr. Wallach was the author of several technical work and belonged to the American Academy of Actuaries and the Middle Atlantic Actuarial Club.
He is survived by his wife, Muriel, and a son, Ronald J., both of the home in Bethesda, and another son, Andrew B., a student at the University of Pennsylvania.