Mark Webb: 1956-2023

Attorney, advisor, writer, regulator, and friend.  

Mark Webb was all of these and so much more. First and foremost though, Mark was a dedicated husband and loving partner to his wife, Christina. The two loved travel, gourmet cooking, and fine wines and shared these passions over their twenty-five years together.

Mark passed peacefully on Easter Sunday, the result of esophageal cancer.

Mark’s professional career of service to the industry spanned more than four decades. He was in and around legislative hearing rooms, carriers’ offices, and as an independent consultant.

Mark was the font of institutional knowledge and helped shape multiple workers’ comp reform rounds. His encyclopedic-like knowledge of the Labor and Insurance codes was not limited to just rote recitation of chapter and section but went to a deep understanding of how the parts related to and worked with each other. Mark was the resource to the industry, legislature, and regulators who brought a depth of the history that helped shape these regulations (sometimes disappointing him) into their current form.

“Mark was a renaissance man. He was a gourmet chef. He sang opera. He could drink a bottle of wine with dinner and have a port afterwards and still quote and interpret the labor code sections including parentheses, commas, and semi-colons,” remembers Bill Zachry. 

“Mark asked me once if I knew the difference between a souffle and a pancake. The answer was how many times you opened the oven door. When people attempted to change one section, many times they did not understand the impact it would have on the other sections of the process, but he understood this and did his best to educate them,” Zachry added.

Mark’s perspective was informed in part by his experience as a former Deputy Director of the Arizona Department of Insurance. But most of his career was in the private sector, focusing on legal issues, government relations, and compliance.

Mark served as vice president of the American Insurance Association’s western region and as assistant general counsel in charge of state relations for American International Group. For a decade, Mark was vice president in charge of government relations and chief compliance officer of Pacific Compensation Insurance Company.

Mark launched Prop 23 Advisors in 2015 and ran his consulting firm for the rest of his life. Through his consulting services, Mark created and published the bi-monthly Workers’ Compensation Insider newsletter that analyzed and advised on significant developments in the California workers’ compensation system.

He was a regular columnist for Workers’ Comp Executive and the case decision editor of Cal-OSHA Reporter. Also, he was a frequent contributor to publications by the California Lawyers Association’s workers’ compensation section and the California Workers’ Compensation Institute. He was a peer reviewer for the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute. 

Mark made many long-lasting friendships in the industry.

I knew Mark for at least 30 years. We first met at the old CCR. It was there I first heard the words, ‘We cannot approve any language in a new or revised bill until Mark had reviewed it.’ Not much more can be said as a tribute to his contributions over the years to the workers comp system,” says Stu Baron. “He will be sorely missed for his most invaluable insight into the ever moving machinations of the workers’ compensation system. But more importantly, I miss our regularly scheduled lunches at L’Opera.”

Alex Swedlow, president of the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, worked closely with Mark over the years on numerous issues. “Mark was a guy whose opinion mattered. He understood our industry’s detailed history and he could describe it all with precision and humor,” Swedlow notes. Mark co-authored papers with CWCI.

“Mark was one of the smartest individuals that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I recall many meetings that we both participated in or one-on-one conversations where we were discussing the impact of proposed legislation or brainstorming our own legislative ideas and I found myself mentally exhausted at the end of these meetings,” says attorney Saul Allweiss. “During these discussions/meetings I felt that I was playing chess with Mark, and while I was looking at the board perhaps anticipating two or three moves, Mark was already playing the game 15 moves or more down the road. Mark will be sorely missed as both a colleague and a dear friend.”

I knew Mark for over 25 years, says former WCIRB president Bob Mike. First, when he worked as a lobbyist for a large national industry lobbying firm and later when he went to work for a major California insurer. “Mark was one of the most knowledgeable people I knew when it came to understanding the intricacies of the workers’ compensation system and how proposed legislation would impact the system. What impressed me most about Mark is that he always acted with integrity. Over the years, our professional relationship evolved into a personal one. He was a kind and gentle man who will be missed by all who knew or worked with him,” he notes.

Jill Dulich with the Self-Insurers’ Security Fund and the California Association of Self-Insurers remembers Mark as the consummate gentleman and a genius at workers’ compensation. “He gave so much to our work comp community over the years. He was always so respectful of all opinions and had such grace about him,” she notes. “Whenever I needed a wine or restaurant recommendation, he was the go-to guy…there will be a huge void in our industry and in many people’s hearts with his passing.”

“Mark will be missed by me both on a personal and professional level,” says Christine Baker, former director of the Department of Industrial Relations, now a principal at Baker & Welsh. “He was a thoughtful genius of Workers’ Compensation.”

Lobbyist John Norwood recalls, “Mark was brilliant regarding workers’ comp and labor laws. Most of us could not keep up with him. He loved the Sacramento restaurant Bodega Aioli, and we would have multi-hour meetings there whenever he could talk us into going.”

“I will miss Mark’s insights into our system – they were always helpful,” says Vern Steiner with the State Compensation Insurance Fund. “But most of all I will miss Mark. He was my friend.”

Lobbyist Russ Noack calls Mark a colleague and true friend. “I appreciated how he maintained his own ‘Western Style’ complete with cowboy boots and belts in Sacramento and did not conform to the Capitol uniform like the rest of us,” Noack recalls. “He was extraordinarily articulate on complex insurance issues, especially in the workers’ compensation field and had no fear in advancing strong opinions on controversial issues. Mark’s intelligence, warmth and wit will be sadly missed by all of his friends in the Capitol community.”

“Unlike most of us, Mark Webb is truly irreplaceable, both as a trusted advisor and as a friend. His advice and counsel on any insurance issue was the incontrovertible gold standard,” said Paul Donahue. “His passing is a huge loss to all who had the privilege of knowing him through the years. I’ll be forever grateful to have known Mark as a friend and colleague.”

Mark was undoubtedly an industry icon. His passing is among those who are ending an era.

 A Personal Note About Mark Webb

There are so many things I want to share about Mark. Here are a few I write through very teary eyes.

Even before Mark started writing for us consistently, Mark and I spoke two to four times a week for the last ten years. The conversation often drifted into how to supplement chicken for the pork he had used in some fantastic dish he had created for Christina the night before so we could make it in our Kosher home. It was about the combination of flavors.

And we can say that Mark was about a combination of flavors. Mark’s ideas combined subtle spices and sauces, generating flavors to create how the industry should be.

Sometimes the ethical conscience of the industry, Mark was always the one with the most institutional knowledge. He could demonstrate how some new process was familiar, an old idea coming back into the system from however many reforms before.

He never was bashful about enlarging my knowledge (read correcting me) so that I could direct our various organizations and products more effectively. One of the best researchers I’ve ever known, he could find that proverbial needle in the haystack that made a difference, or a point, or was the proof.

He was always at our two video editorial scrums each week, where he joined our editors and helped us all direct our coverage. Bringing an objective insider’s viewpoint to legislative machinations or being able to explain and, many times, predict how regulations would develop.

He always looked forward, and we actively engaged frequently in considering the ethical implications surrounding artificial intelligence for the industry as they apply it to claims and underwriting.

Mark was the first to apply the issues surrounding California’s privacy laws to the industry for brokerages, carriers, and claims people.

My wife spoke with Christina during the last couple of weeks, and Christina showed bravery and demonstrated the heart that comes from true love.  

I spoke with him nearly every morning these last two weeks. One of those days, he and Christina were working on taxes. Each conversation included his concern about others. I could hear his inner strength and faith growing stronger as his voice grew weaker.

Mark was an example for us all. And Mark and Christina are one of those movie-level love stories.

J Dale Debber