Misdeeds at the Louisiana Windpool, Citizens Insurance

I have on occasion lamented the lack of transparency at the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association.  A visit to their website for example will not reveal the names of the governing board and very little else concerning their operations. What little I know comes from Commissioner Chaney and the occasional mention in the press.  You would think the powers that be behind insurance that costs so much yet pays so well would be proud to put their names behind the organization. I do know that David Treutel does not hide the fact he is on the windpool board. Dave, who hails from the supposed hotbed of anti-insurance land is a respected businessman and active member of the Bay-Waveland civic community. I can’t imagine he would object to being listed as a wind pool board member.

The lack of transparency has it’s bad effects.  Citizen’s insurance over in Louisiana similarly operated free from sunshine and in the dark for years.  It took a herculean effort on part of Legislative Auditor Steve Theriot to peel back the veil of secrecy to reveal what the premium dollars of the Louisiana insurance paying public was buying at Citizens. Continue reading “Misdeeds at the Louisiana Windpool, Citizens Insurance”

Laws Against Judicial Bribery and Jim Hood Redux

Some people like money, some people like power. People that like power go into politics. Me, I like money and money rents power so I get the best of both worlds. -Quote from a highly successful coast businessman to young Sop many years ago.

Early on the “Jim Hood is a crook campaign” struck me as a partisan political affair because no evidence has been produced against Mr Hood except guilt by association. One thing I’ve learned is that politicians of all stripes taking campaign ca$h from less than reputable characters is hardly new. It’s equally clear the goals of the parties to such transaction are manifestly differing; a politician lives to be re elected and ca$h is the mothers milk of that endeavor.  Donors expect their contributions to result in access though not necessarily for help in committing a crime certainly to further their interests.  While I’ll grant when the scandal hits the fan such arrangement do not look good it is also equally true that such arrangements do not imply a conspiracy between the parties in furtherance of criminal activities. In fact the more likely implication is simply the politician needed money and was willing to take it from whomever was willing to contribute. Continue reading “Laws Against Judicial Bribery and Jim Hood Redux”

Al Copeland, Fried Chicken and Courthouse Corruption

A week or so back I was reading some interesting chicken soup recipes on another blog and I chuckled as the outlanders simultaneously displayed both admiration and confusion over the 300 plus year old cultural traditions that make New Orleans and the Mississippi Coast both charming and an enigma to outsiders. In the old days, especially south of I-10 here in Mississippi we viewed ourselves as a world apart from the rest of Mississippi. In Waveland, we considered ourselves a suburb of New Orleans. Many of our Dads commuted daily to New Orleans to work; many New Orleanians has second homes or retired to Waveland, where our population would seemingly double in the Summer.

Most of our cultural traditions we hold close. For example, I never fully explained to Nowdy, for instance, that “Later” is a common substitute for “Good bye” down here. To understand the people and culture you really have to live the experience. Despite Mississippi’s own rich history of outragious politicians they seem minor league in comparison to characters like Earl Long or Leander Perez, who ruled Plaquemines and St Bernard Parishes for many years. Closure from the impacts of Perez family rule would many years later find my best friend escorting his Mom to Buras Pointe a la Hache to collect her share of the oil royalties her cajun family, like so many others, had been swindled out of by the Perez family.

This morning we learn of the passing of another cultural icon, Al Copeland. Al was equal part fried chicken king, speed boat racer, serial spouse and modern day Kris Kringle (not to be confused with Mr. Bingle 😉 ). His name was also associated with judicial bribery long before it became fashionable in Mississippi. Continue reading “Al Copeland, Fried Chicken and Courthouse Corruption”

The Real National Legal Scandal Buried in the Scruggs Saga Publicity

Once again Sam Friedman has written an excellent post to his blog on his observations about the insurance industry “trifecta” of losing their arch nemeses Elliot Spitzer, Dickie Scruggs and Melvyn Weiss in the space of a week. Though Cowboy won’t like this I’ve used one of his old labels for this post, “Crooks in Gucci Suits” because the shoe fits.

While Dickie Scruggs gained fame as the public face of the affiliated law group that took down big tobacco it was actually Ron Motley in South Carolina that was the heavy lifter in the group. It is easy to confuse being the public face for top dog but the associated PR from being the front man also put a big target on Mr. Scruggs, from lawyers here in Mississippi who envied his success to the business community who view trial lawyers in general as Satan incarnate. When I think about those at the pinnacle of their professions I am sometimes reminded of the famous John Lord Acton quote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Of course my life experience differs from painting “great” men with such a broad stroke as few of us are truly bad, even fewer absolutely good. Most are a mix of good and bad, even Dickie Scruggs and Joey Langston. In Melvyn Weiss’s case being in the background meant the publicity with his guilty plea would not be as great.  However, his transgressions far exceed “corruptly influencing” a small time country judge from BF North Mississippi as we’ll soon see. Continue reading “The Real National Legal Scandal Buried in the Scruggs Saga Publicity”

Breaking: Zach Scruggs Pleads Guilty

Reportedly Zach Scruggs has plead to the charge of Misprision of felony. More details as they develop.

Update:

Here is the breaking news C-L Story:

OXFORD — Oxford lawyer Zach Scruggs — the son of Dickie Scruggs, Mississippi’s wealthiest trial lawyer — pleaded guilty today to failing to report a felony in connection with a judicial bribery scheme involving his father. Continue reading “Breaking: Zach Scruggs Pleads Guilty”

Buying the Judicial Process: Was Dickie Scruggs Simply Following the State Farm Model?

I was catching up with my reading on Sam Friedman’s blog and found his piece on Dickie Scruggs one of the more even handed blog treatments of this subject I have run across online. All the more interesting is that Friedman is an insurance guy and frankly is the last place one would expect to find the balance on this subject sought by Steve Eugster at Wikiscruggs. The reason Mr. Eugster has not found balance is because he has not looked in the right places.

Bellesouth for example was run off the anti-Scruggs/Jim Hood blogs because she dared to disagree with the party lines but neither fairness or balance were the goals at the sites where Belle previously posted. The reason I’ve always enjoyed reading Friedman is his even handed treatment of the subject matter; you can learn about the insurance business and not be subject to the hidden agendas of aspiring authors or non stop legal practice marketing and the industry pandering it entails.

So after Mr Friedman had his say on Dickie Scruggs the first comment to his entry from Insured Consumer was eye catching. Continue reading “Buying the Judicial Process: Was Dickie Scruggs Simply Following the State Farm Model?”

Miscellaneous other before I disappear back to “Taxland”

This has been one of those weeks insurance companies would love to forget. Since November 2007, Washington State voters overwhelmingly passed R-67, the Insurance Fair Conduct Act, Florida is trying to bar Allstate from doing business there, two executives at insurance giant Marsh and McLennan have been found guilty of price fixing, five executives at AIG and General Re were found guilty of fraud, Allstate was fined the $250,000 maximum in Louisiana for bait and switch policy cancellations and the GAO has exposed massive flaws and conflicts of interest in NFIP.

This week the pace has picked up with California finding Allstate has been overcharging for auto insurance there, Michigan’s legislature is moving to stop the use of credit scores in auto insurance underwriting, Senators Cochran and Wicker join Senators Landrieu and Vitter in placing holds on industry backed S. 2284, and Florida is moving to suspend American General Life Insurance’s license for violating Florida’s “Freedom to Travel Act”.  All in all this is not shaping up to be a good week for big insurance.

In other news AM called me and asked for help in publicizing Gene Taylor’s campaign website, especially the insurance reform page.  Gene was fighting for us on insurance issues long before it became fashionable in certain GOP circles but he still needs our help to have multi peril insurance enacted for us.  Please visit Gene’s website and click on the “Click here Become a Partner in Insurance Reform” hyperlink on the right side. Lobbying the Senate is the key; Gene and coastal people in this country need your help to make that promise a reality.

Clarion Ledger Editorial Reveals Behind the Scenes Politicing

I read today’s Clarion Ledger Op-Ed in support of HR 3121 and found some very interesting tidbits buried in the piece most notably that Senator’s Cochran and Wicker have joined Louisiana Senators Landrieu and Vitter in placing a senatorial hold on S. 2284, the re-authorization bill for the National Flood Insurance Program. As we previously noted, S. 2284 does not bring structural change to NFIP and does not contain the multi peril wind provisions found in HR 3121. While the old saying “better late than never” certainly applies to Senator Cochran and his newly found zeal to represent the interest of his coastal constituents we do appreciate both he and Senator Wicker joining the fight to solve our coastal insurance crisis. Continue reading “Clarion Ledger Editorial Reveals Behind the Scenes Politicing”

Mississippi Windpool Rates Going Down. Commissioner Chaney Makes Good on his promise to Coastal Residents

Today is a very busy news day with unrelated but very newsworthy items. The windpool premium reductions are one of a three news stories we are tracking related to Katrina issues, the other two being State Farm further restricting coverage in Alabama and the Hancock County press conference today involving Haley Barbour, Gene Taylor and Roger Wicker.

Yesterday afternoon we were greeted with breaking news that the Mississippi windpool was reducing rates for coastal residents.  I read today’s Sun Herald story and was reminded of Commissioner Chaney’s Insurance Forum on March 4. Though I have not recapped either that forum or Gene Taylor’s Issues+Answers lecture on February 29th as both were lost in the corporate tax shuffle I was reminded of a post I penned on the Yahoo! Allstate Message Board about Commissioner Chaney’s Forum when I read Anita Lee’s story today.

Mr Shumaker with the wind pool was also enlightening but also exhibited what is wrong with the current system. The wind pool was not created to be palatable for it’s members but neither was it created to hold wind insurance for people living in Pearl River County. I got the impression Mr Shumaker didn’t understand how much structural change has occurred in his market since 8-29-05. Continue reading “Mississippi Windpool Rates Going Down. Commissioner Chaney Makes Good on his promise to Coastal Residents”