Merlin – Amy Bach and United Policyholders Supports Mississippi Insurance Protections

Sun Herald reporter Michael Newsom reported the current current status of insurance legislation pending at the Capitol in House OK’s Compromise:

House Bill 563 passed in a 107-7 vote Wednesday, which included all South Mississippi representatives voting for it. The measure is the lone surviving piece of Hurricane Katrina insurance legislation. Several other insurance bills, which Coast lawmakers file annually, died with a Feb. 2 deadline to clear committee. Coast lawmakers have said the insurance industry carries much influence over the Legislature, which has contributed to the bills failing in the years since Hurricane Katrina.

However, House Bill 563, the subject of Sop’s recent post Watered down policyholder legislation still hanging on in the Mississippi  Legislature, passed the House with language Sop claimed would give insurers “free rein” still in the bill:

In addition to the rights that are specified by the commissioner and the provision regarding reasonable time frames, the Mississippi Homeowners Insurance Policyholder Bill of Rights must include the following provisions:  (a) Unless based on sound actuarial principles, an insurance company may not treat a policyholder differently from other individuals of the same class and essentially the same  hazard when evaluating a claim…(emphasis added)

Keep in mind that Sop is a CPA who knows “adjusting claims has nothing to do with “actuarial principles” and his related opinion is as worthy of consideration as that of those in other professions commenting on proposed insurance legislation:

Taken at its face that language essentially gives an insurer free rein to do whatever the heck they want provided they pay a shill like Robert Hartwig enough to concoct some whopper actuarial principle to justify why it is OK for an insurer to hose a policyholder on a claim.

Sop spoke for SLABBED when he pointed out the red flag language in House Bill 563 and I saw no need to add more until I read this paragraph in Merlin’s related post this morning:

I am certain many may think these efforts are a waste of time because the insurance lobby in Mississippi seems to be in control of the political process. Standing up for the right principle and social policy is always the right thing to do. Like water in a stream relentlessly influencing the earth, just social policy reflected in law will eventually happen. But this will occur only so long as we stand up to those with more significant wealth or power that are attempting to keep the unjust status quo in place.

It is not the strength of the insurance lobby that concerns me.  Instead, my consideration is framing insurance legislation as a matter of “social policy” when the “unjust status quo in place” is a matter of “public policy”.  The distinction is important. Continue reading “Merlin – Amy Bach and United Policyholders Supports Mississippi Insurance Protections”

The Daily Reveille sounds the bugle on LSU’s silence on the van Heerden lawsuit. Brings up an important public policy point we’ve tackled on Slabbed

With a tip of the hat to Editilla I’m highlighting yesterday’s oped from the LSU student newspaper for two reasons. First because we signed on to the van Heerden justice league and more important the editors tackled a public policy subject that we’ve also highlighted on Slabbed in the confidential settlement which we think is a tool for corporations to buy their way out of egregious behavior. I’ll link our post on the topic below the op-ed:

Those students, faculty and staff who were personally affected by Hurricane Katrina remember the frustration of the years that followed. Countless people across the Gulf South struggled to rebuild their lives, and figures across the spectrum of leadership pointed fingers at each other. We still aren’t exactly sure five years later what went wrong, why it went wrong or who was responsible.

One of the most high-profile — and important — battles from that time flared up again recently. And Louisianians have a rare, short window of opportunity to get some answers.

Ivor Van Heerden, a former University professor who made national headlines for his criticisms of the collapsed levees constructed and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, officially filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the University and several high-ranking administrators. Van Heerden claims he was forced out of the University because his criticisms of the Corps endangered federal funding. Continue reading “The Daily Reveille sounds the bugle on LSU’s silence on the van Heerden lawsuit. Brings up an important public policy point we’ve tackled on Slabbed”

Judge Vance has her Reasons – orders Nielsen to dance with Branch; band is playing fraud

Qui tam plaintiffs move to strike Fidelity’s Third-Party Complaint against its policyholders… Because Fidelity’s claims do not meet the appropriate standard under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and because third-party practice is considerably restricted in False Claims Act actions, the motion is GRANTED.

With 24-pages of Reasons supporting her Order, no one can call Judge Sarah Vance a party pooper for turning  down Nielsen’s “morally correct” [sic] Third Party Demand.

Fidelity has filed an answer to Branch’s complaint, and this answer includes a complaint asserting claims against third parties.1 R. Doc. 247. Specifically, Fidelity, acting in its “fiduciary capacity” as a “fiscal agent of the United States,” brings claims against certain of its own policyholders for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, as well as the common-law doctrine of payment by mistake. Fidelity proposes to sue those Fidelity policyholders whose property adjustments Branch put in issue in its complaint against Fidelity. Fidelity alleges that, if Branch proves that Fidelity overpaid its policyholders, these policyholders improperly received payments that are rightfully the property of the United States government.

In a footnote, Judge Vance point out, “These claims are brought by Fidelity only. None of the other defendants has brought a similar complaint against its own policyholders or has filed support for Fidelity’s.”  Surprisingly, however, Judge Vance goes no further.  Since she once again demonstrates mastery of a broad range of controlling decisions in discussing the Reasons for denial of Fidelity’s motion, the obvious assumption is she elected to spare the Company’s counsel, Gerald Nielsen, the embarrassment of revealing his apparent failure to read the Maurstad memo:

FEMA will not seek reimbursement from the company when a subsequent review identifies overpayments resulting from the company’s proper use of the FEMA depth data and a reasonable method of developing square foot value in concluding claims.

According to Nielsen, “Currently, virtually every major participant “Write-Your-Own Program” (“WYO”) insurance company in the NFIP utilizes Nielsen Law Firm, L.L.C. to handle its NFIP-related litigation on a national basis”  In that case, the embarrassment he was spared could just as easily been that his motion was an admission by omission.  In other words, Fidelity Fidelity did not properly use “the FEMA depth data and a reasonable method of developing square foot value”.

Whatever grace Nielsen was extended, however, was short-lives when Vance began the discussion of his motion on its merits: Continue reading “Judge Vance has her Reasons – orders Nielsen to dance with Branch; band is playing fraud”