Risk Management

The Truth About Facts

By: | March 3, 2017 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

When I arrived at my friend’s home, I gave a candy bar to her two small children, as all good “aunties” do.

They were elated; mom not so much. From the corner of my eye, I saw her son digging into his candy — even though he was explicitly told by mom to eat it after dinner.

As we got ready to head out for a walk, he came over with chocolate smeared on his face. Mom asked whether he ate the candy. He adamantly denied it. As she and I walked, I asked her: “How do you feel when your children lie to you?”

She quickly corrected me: “He didn’t lie, he fibbed. A fib is a lie about something unimportant.”


Fibs, lies, falsehoods, fudged truths, disinformation, misleading information — and let’s not forget a new term trying to penetrate our vernacular — “alternative facts.” They are terms-of-art that seriously concern me.

It was mindboggling for me to hear White House spokesman Sean Spicer explain the president’s overstated inauguration attendance numbers by paralleling it to weather forecasting.

“There are times, like anything else, it’s not alternative facts, it’s that there’s sometimes you can watch two different stations and get two different weather reports. That doesn’t mean the station was lying to you.”

A fact is a stable, real, verifiable, objective piece of information.

Mr. Spicer, weather stations do not lie or make false claims. Weather stations make forecasts about the weather — a future event.

A lie is a false claim. A truth is a claim of facts. The weather becomes a fact only after it occurs. Only then can we definitively state the weather of that day and make it an irrefutable fact.

A fact is a stable, real, verifiable, objective piece of information. A fact is considered dead and the reason why we use the expression, “cold, hard facts.” A fact is not dissuaded by opinion, beliefs or temporary passions. You cannot have “false facts,” but you can have false claims of fact. A false statement that claims something is a fact, is a lie.

Why does this matter to me as a risk manager?

Our jobs as risk management professionals are hard enough without introducing lying into our daily equations. We can’t let lying become acceptable. We, as an industry, cannot collaborate in lies and we simply cannot marginalize lying.


We are an industry that makes daily decisions, often life and death decisions, on behalf of people who trust us to say the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable or unpleasant. The decision to buy kidnap, ransom or terrorism coverage is hard, often unpleasant. It requires facing ugly facts.

We often guide our clients’ decisions using forecasts but we genuinely try to perfect our prophecies using facts so that our clients can rely on them. When we go to court defending or prosecuting a claim, only facts must be in our briefcases.

We must remember that our clients often treat our predictions as real. We must have the highest duty of care when it comes to truth and facts. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

The risk manager for Boyd Gaming Corp. says curiosity keeps him engaged, and continual education will be the key to managing emerging risks.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

I was trained as an accountant, worked in public accounting and became a CPA. Being comfortable with numbers is helpful in my current role, and obviously, the language of business is financial statements, so it helps.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Working in finance in the corporate environment included the review of budgets and the analysis of business expenses. I quickly found the area of benefits and insurance — and how “accepting risk” impacted those expenses — to be fascinating. I asked a lot of questions. Be careful what you ask for — I soon found myself responsible for those insurance areas and haven’t looked back!

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


I have found the risk management community to be a close-knit group, whether that’s industry professionals, risk managers with other companies or support organizations like RIMS and other regional groups. The expertise of the carriers and specialty vendors to develop new products and programs, along with the appropriate education, will continue to be of key importance to companies going forward.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

As I’m sure many in the insurance field would agree, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 changed our world and our industry. It was a particularly intense time and certainly a baptism by fire for people like me who were relatively new to the industry. This event clearly accelerated the switch to the acceptance of more risk, which impacted mitigation strategies and programs.

Bob Berglund, vice president, benefits and insurance, Boyd Gaming Corp.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

The fast-paced threat that cyber security represents today. Our company, like so many companies, is reliant upon computers, software and IT expertise in our everyday existence. This new risk has forged an even stronger relationship between risk management and our IT department as we work together to address this growing threat.

Additionally, the shooting event in Las Vegas in 2017 will have an enduring impact on firms that host large gatherings and arena-style events all over the world, and our company is no exception.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?


With the various types of insurance programs we employ, I have been fortunate to work with most of the large national and international carriers — all of whom employ talented people with a vast array of resources.

R&I:  How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

We use brokers for many of our professional coverages, such as property, casualty, D&O and cyber. We are self-insured under our health plans, with close to 25,000 members. We tend to manage those programs internally and utilize direct relationships with carriers and specialty vendors to tailor a plan that works best for team members.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I have been fortunate to have worked alongside some smart and insightful people during my career. A key piece of advice, said in many different ways, has served me well. Simply stated: “Seek to understand before being understood.”

What this has meant to me is try everything you can to learn about something, new or old. After you have gained this knowledge, you can begin to access and maybe suggest changes or adjustments. Being curious has always been a personal enjoyment for me in business, and I have found people are more than willing to lend a hand, offer information and advice — you just need to ask. Building those alliances and foundations of knowledge on a subject matter makes tackling the future more exciting and fruitful.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

Our benefit health plan is much more than handing out an insurance card at the beginning of the year. We encourage our team members and their families to learn about their personal health, get engaged in a variety of health and wellness programs and try to live life in the healthiest possible way. The result of that is literally hundreds of testimonials from our members every year on how they have lost weight, changed their lifestyle and gotten off medications. It is extremely rewarding and is a testament to [our] close-knit corporate culture.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?


Some will remember the volcano eruption in Iceland in spring of 2010. I was just finishing a week of meetings in London with Lloyd’s syndicates related to our property insurance placement when the airspace in England and most of northern Europe was shut down — no airplanes in or out! Flights were ultimately canceled for the following five days. Therefore, with a few other stranded visitors like myself, we experimented and tried out new restaurants every day until we could leave. It was a very interesting time!

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

I am originally from Canada, and I played ice hockey from the time I was four years old up until quite recently. Too many surgeries sadly forced my recent retirement.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

That’s a funny one … I am a CPA working in the casino industry, doing insurance and risk management, so neighbors and acquaintances think I either do tax returns or they think I’m a blackjack dealer at the casino!

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]