Erie Insurance Group on Tuesday named the chairman of Buffalo law firm Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel LLP as its new general counsel.
James J. Tanous will become executive vice president and corporate secretary of the Erie, Pa.-based insurer, in addition to its chief lawyer. He succeeds Jan R. Van Gorder, who retired on Dec. 31 but has remained with the company in an acting capacity, and will stay on through the end of April to smooth the transition.
Tanous, who will relocate to Erie, will start at the insurer on April 30.
At Jaeckle, Tanous will be succeeded as chairman of the firm's executive committee by managing partner Edward G. Piwowarczyk, who will now have both titles. The managing partner implements the firm's policies and oversees day-to-day operations, while the chairman deals with the general strategies and policies of the firm.
Piwowarczyk, 61, has been managing partner for three years, while the 61-year-old Tanous has been chairman for about five.
"We're losing one of our significant partners," Piwowarczyk said. "We obviously will miss him, but we had been making plans anyway for firm leadership to have a transition and make a change."
Tanous spent 33 years at Jaeckle, serving as a member of its executive committee for many years before becoming chairman. He also is a partner in the firm's business and corporate practice group, where he represents U.S. and international publicly traded companies in matters such as financing, mergers and acquisitions, securities, antitrust and regulatory matters.
His experience includes property and casualty insurance, and Erie has been one of his clients. He's also served as a director of Erie Insurance Co. of New York since the Erie subsidiary was founded in 1995.
"Jim knows the company well," said Jeffrey A. Ludrof, Erie president and CEO, who called him "an ethical man who is intelligent, strategic, professional and extremely knowledgeable; a true man of integrity."
Erie is the 15th-largest auto insurer in the country based on direct written premiums and the 22nd-largest property and casualty insurer based on total lines of written premiums. The group of six insurers has almost 3.8 million policies in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and is ranked 421 on the Fortune 500.
Its subsidiaries include Erie Insurance Exchange, Flagship City Insurance Co., Erie Insurance Co., Erie Insurance Property and Casualty Company, Erie Insurance of New York, and Erie Family Life Insurance Co. Erie Indemnity Co. provides management services to the others.