My fellow slabbers we passed through the looking glass into wonderland yesterday as today’s Anita Lee report in the Sun Herald indicates.
This is manna from heaven for the slabbed as we finally have received a chance to set the record straight and to that extent we are grateful Mike Chaney is willing to insert his foot into his mouth so the story keeps churning. Our readers no doubt remember Mr Chaney’s declaration our wind insurance premiums are at nearly pre Katrina levels in the process confirming our suspicions he secretly visits the lemonade spring.
Nowdy’s excellent post yesterday gave a good account of the events surrounding the current controversy between Attorney General Hood and disgraced former insurance commissioner George Dale and his successor Mike Chaney. The short version of the story is that Dickie Scruggs and his Scruggs Katrina Group tried to work out a global settlement with State Farm for the remainder of the Katrina claims. State Farm wanted Jim Hood, whose office had open criminal and civil cases against them included so they could have a global solution to their legal problems in Mississippi. They hammered out an agreement which became known as Woullard after the case Woullard v State Farm. Jim Hood memorialized the Woullard settlement in his state court case, dropped his criminal investigation while the Farm and Dickie Scruggs presented their agreement to US District Court Judge Lt Senter for his approval.
A sign of trouble with Woullard emerged when policyholders like Coast Attorney Judy Guice showed up in Federal Court speaking out against the deal. Judge Senter ultimately agreed with them and rejected Woullard. Negotiations between Scruggs and the Farm then fell apart. Jim Hood still had his State settlement though.
Former insurance commissioner George Dale then proceeded to cut his own deal with insurers and specifically with State Farm. The deal Dale cut with them was his second effort to facilitate claims settlement and represented a watered down version of the Woullard agreement that Judge Senter rejected. State Farm then settled out more claims on the cheap but since their deal with Jim Hood held them to a higher standard than did their agreement with Dale Hood sued the Farm again. It was that case that was settled earlier this week.
The bottom line is when you strip the political BS and spin away there is plenty of “credit” to go around. George Dale and from his remarks, Commissioner Chaney are no doubt proud of the fact the Mississippi Department of Insurance enabled State Farm to settle out cheaply and without the minimal policyholder protections of Woullard which Judge Senter rejected as not good enough. The slabbed well remember Dale’s first foray into this mess with his initial mediation program in 2006 which was a sham. Since Mr Dale and Mr Chaney feel slighted for credit I hope they will also take credit for the cognitive dissonance some policyholders are now experiencing such as Mr Boyd who has recently filed suit in Federal Court because he thinks he was fleeced in mediation. Judge Senter plans on letting the man make his case too, despite the Farm wanting summary judgement. I have yet to meet one person who went through the mediation process who did not describe it with words like “glorified begging”, “humilating” or “complete waste of time”. The credit for it that Mr Chaney and Mr Dale publically crave is well deserved.
For his part Jim Hood is rightfully able to claim credit for the 148 slab cases that fell through the cracks at the Mississippi Insurance Department. For whatever reason Mr Dale and Mr Chaney don’t want to talk about that though instead prefering to say Hood’s settlement announcement was “trashing” State Farm. Such is life at the lemonade spring.
The Sun Herald is keeping this story alive for several reasons IMHO, some of which Mr Chaney may not like as this unfolds. Without further commentary on my part here is the story from today’s Sun Herald story on Chaney v Hood Part deux:
Attorney General Jim Hood on Thursday countered criticism from State Farm and Mississippi’s insurance commissioner with letters from the insurance company about its efforts to re-evaluate Coast policyholders’ claims.
A State Farm spokesman said company officials were “perplexed” and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney called Hood “crazy” after Hood credited his office Wednesday with securing $74 million in additional payments for State Farm policyholders whose homes Hurricane Katrina damaged or destroyed.
“I’m taking the high road, of course, because I’m now a private citizen and I don’t intend to get in a spraying match with the attorney general, but I will just say that Commissioner Chaney is well-informed about what happened,” former Insurance Commissioner George Dale said Thursday. “His comments were right on target.”
On Thursday, Hood sent the Sun Herald two letters from State Farm as proof of his office’s role in the re-evaluations. Hood did not respond to a request for an interview.
The letters assured Hood that State Farm was complying with a claims re-evaluation agreement reached with his office in January 2007. When federal court oversight for the agreement fell through, Dale ordered a re-evaluation, while Hood threatened to sue State Farm.
“The process the attorney general was instrumental in initiating has produced significant benefits to policyholders wishing to have their claims re-evaluated,” State Farm assured Hood, adding that a lawsuit from Hood would only impede the process.
A short time later, Hood sued. On Wednesday, the lawsuit was dismissed and Hood conceded at a Biloxi news conference that State Farm had paid policyholders what the company promised in the original agreement.
Commissioner Mike Chaney said he is dealing with fallout from Hood’s news conference. Chaney said he is trying to keep insurance companies writing on the Coast and get them to offer discounts for homes built stronger or retrofitted.
“I’m not trying to pick a fight with him, but somebody somewhere has got to say, ‘You can’t keep trashing folks when it’s not true’,” Chaney said Thursday. “We step forward three steps and he puts us back five steps.”