Is $18 million too much?

The new Maryland Insurance Commissioner, Ralph S. Tyler, said Wednesday he will convene a hearing to see if the $18-plus million severance package for former CareFirst CEO William L. Jews (at right) is too much.

Tyler is specifically looking to see if the $17.6 million plus $800,000 in interest package violates state insurance law requiring payment to former employees be “fair and reasonable.”

The company, which saw $5.5 billion in revenue in 2006, says it did not just come up with the figure out of thin air and claims it is in line with other nonprofit Blue Shield and Blue Crosses.

“The $17.6 million referenced in Commissioner Tyler’s release is made up of about $12.6 million in retirement benefits and deferred compensation earned over 13½ years as CEO and about $5.0 million in severance payments,” CareFirst said in its statement. “Further, several expert compensation consultants retained by our board have independently concluded that the benefits due Mr. Jews are reasonable compared with those provided by similar not-for-profit Blues Plans.”

Who’s right?

—BEN MOOK, Assistant Business Editor