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

Janet Sheiner, VP of risk management and real estate at AMN Healthcare Services Inc., sees innovation as an answer to fast-evolving and emerging risks.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

As a kid, bagging groceries. My first job out of school, part-time temp secretary.

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

Risk management picks you; you don’t necessarily pick it. I came into it from a regulatory compliance angle. There’s a natural evolution because a lot of your compliance activities also have the effect of managing your risk.

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


There’s much benefit to grounding strategic planning in an ERM framework. That’s a great innovation in the industry, to have more emphasis on ERM. I also think that risk management thought leaders are casting themselves more as enablers of business, not deterrents, a move in the right direction.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Justified or not, risk management functions are often viewed as the “Department of No.” We’ve worked hard to cultivate a reputation as the “Department of Maybe,” so partners across the organization see us as business enablers. That reputation has meant entertaining some pretty crazy ideas, but our willingness to try and find a way to “yes” tempered with good risk management has made all the difference.

Janet Sheiner, VP, Risk Management & Real Estate, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

San Diego, of course!  America’s Finest City has the infrastructure, Convention Center, hotels, airport and public transportation — plus you can’t beat our great weather! The restaurant scene is great, not to mention those beautiful coastal views.

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

The emergence of risk management as a distinct profession, with four-year degree programs and specific academic curriculum. Now I have people on my team who say their goal is to be a risk manager. I said before that risk management picks you, but we’re getting to a point where people pick it.

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


The commercial insurance market’s ability to innovate to meet customer demand. Businesses need to innovate to stay relevant, and the commercial market needs to innovate with us.  Carriers have to be willing to take on more risk and potentially take a loss to meet the unique and evolving risks companies are facing.

R&I: Of which insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion?

Beazley. They have been an outstanding partner to AMN. They are responsive, flexible and reasonable.  They have evolved with us. They have an appreciation for risk management practices we’ve organically woven into our business, and by extension, this makes them more comfortable with taking on new risks with us.

R&I: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. health care industry and why?

I am very optimistic about the health care industry. We have an aging population with burgeoning health care needs, coupled with a decreasing supply of health care providers — that means we have to get smarter about how we manage health care. There’s a lot of opportunity for thought leaders to fill that gap.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Professionally, AMN Healthcare General Counsel, Denise Jackson, has enabled me to do the best work I’ve ever done, and better than I thought I could do.  Personally, my husband Andrew, a second-grade teacher, who has a way of putting things into a human perspective.

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

In my early 20s, I set a goal for the “corner office.” I achieved that when I became vice president.  I received a ‘Values in Practice’ award for trust at AMN. The nomination came from team members I work with every day, and I was incredibly humbled and honored.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

The noir genre, so anything by Raymond Chandler in books. For movies,  “Double Indemnity,” the 1944 Billy Wilder classic, with insurance at the heart of it!

R&I: What is your favorite drink?


Clean water. Check out Water.org for how to help people enjoy clean, safe water.

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

Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

China. See favorite restaurant above. This restaurant had been open for 100 years in that location. It didn’t exactly have an “A” rating, and it was probably not a place most risk managers would go to.

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

Eating that duck at Liqun!

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

Dr. Seuss who, in response to a 1954 report in Life magazine, worked to reduce illiteracy among school children by making children’s books more interesting. His work continues to educate and entertain children worldwide.

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

They’re not really sure!

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