Breaking News: Allstate Stonewalls Florida Insurance Regulators (Updated)

What a day folks and now we have breaking news. Allstate has been less than forthcoming with insurance regulators and them boys are hoppin’ mad over Tallahassee way. First the AP news story and a copy of the subpeona Allstate saw fit to ignore.

Fla. Regulators Cut Off Allstate HearingTuesday
January 15, 4:45 pm ET
By Brent Kallestad, Associated Press Writer

Florida: Frustrated at Allstate, Regulators Shorten Insurance Hearing

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida insurance regulators angrily and abruptly ended a hearing with Allstate executives Tuesday, upset that the company and its attorneys failed to fully comply with a subpoena demanding information on property coverage rates.

The hearing was scheduled to last two days but state officials cut it short after just two hours during which company officials and lawyers were badgered by regulators about why they hadn’t supplied all the documents the state wants, and whether they are following a new law meant to lower premiums.

Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said he planned to bring the Illinois-based insurance giant back later this year when it has answers to the state’s questions.

McCarty said the company faces severe sanctions, including the possibility of losing its license to operate its four Florida companies if it fails to comply again.

“We will take appropriate enforcement actions,” McCarty said. “Their certificates are certainly under review.”

Allstate’s response to some requests as “irrelevant” was “a slap in the face to the regulatory agency,” McCarty said.

Allstate’s legal team and company executives, who were under oath, largely avoided questions about whether it has complied with a Florida law passed last year to give consumers premium relief. That infuriated McCarty.

“What have you got to hide?” McCarty asked as the hearing opened.

Regulators were looking for information on Allstate’s relationships with insurance rating and risk monitoring companies and insurance trade associations.

The panel focused on a new hurricane model that Allstate began using to calculate its rates after Florida lawmakers passed new insurance legislation in January 2007. Under the new model, rates went up, although the company said that wasn’t its intent. That model wasn’t approved by the state.

At one point before taking a 10-minute break halfway through the testy testimony, McCarty laughed aloud at the response to one of the committee’s questions.

“Clearly they’re frustrated with the situation,” Allstate spokesman Adam Shores said. “And we’re frustrated too. We want to have an open and active dialogue to work this thing out.”

Allstate Floridian Indemnity and Allstate Florida Insurance Co. have requested rate increases of 28.3 percent and 41.9 percent respectively. Encompass Floridian Indemnity requested a 38.4 percent increase, and Encompass Floridian Insurance Company requested a 39.7 percent increase

While Allstate told McCarty it planned to drop its request for double-digit rate increases, that did little to assuage him or Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach. Atwater is chairman of a newly created Senate panel investigating why so few companies have complied with the insurance law.

Atwater wasted little time inviting five insurance executives, including Joseph Richardson, Allstate Floridian Indemnity’s chief executive officer, to testify under oath at a Senate hearing Feb. 4-5.

House Democrats also want in the act.

Rep. Dan Gelber, the Democratic leader from Miami Beach, asked Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, to schedule hearings and put insurance executives under oath to find out what’s causing the delays.

“The Florida House should not foster the perception that we are a ‘safe house’ for insurers,” Gelber wrote in his letter to the House insurance committee chair. “We have done very little to prove otherwise.”

Update: the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow morning. Rumors are swirlin’ that Allstate will be kicked out of the State!

Follow the Money Part II: Putting the Screws to the Common Man

Folks this Cowboy saw this in today’s Sun Herald and would like to give a big tip of my 10 gallon hat to Anita Lee over Sun Herald way. Our work raising insurance awareness would not be possible without the bang up job done by Ms. Lee covering these issues and this Cowboy would like to thank Ms. Lee for her dedication to this issue. Notice who represents USAA. It’s none other than our boy Greg Copeland who has his fingers in every insurance pie here in Mississippi.

Today we see her story on the Aiken lawsuit against USAA and once again the hos at Rimkus and their proclivity to change on site work sight unseen is on display. Don’t worry folks them boys are telling us all these changed engineering reports are just an honest mistake…..and if you believe that I got some gold spray painted Pig Scat I wanna sell you for $400/ounce. The story in it’s entirety:

Structural engineer testifies in USAA trial

By ANITA LEE
SUN HERALD

GULFPORT –A structural engineer admitted he changed a report that detailed Hurricane Katrina damage to a homeowner’s property, but told a jury he did so for accuracy and clarity rather than to downplay wind damage so USAA Casualty Insurance Co. would owe less money.

Structural engineer James W. Jordan reviewed several changes he made to the report completed by engineer Roverta Chapa, who actually inspected the property at Henderson Point on the Bay of St. Louis in Harrison County. Chapa and Jordan did not communicate before Jordan made the changes, which was against policy established by Jordan’s employer, Rimkus Consulting Group Inc.

Policyholders David W. and Marilyn M. Aiken claim Rimkus and USAA conspired to defraud them. They want their insurance claim paid in full, plus extra damages to punish the companies. Their lawsuit will resume this morning with testimony from Chapa.

Rimkus and USAA claim the Aikens are seeking more money than they deserve because federal flood insurance paid them policy limits for tidal surge damage, while USAA offered a check to cover what the wind could have destroyed. USAA and other insurance companies exclude such flood damage from coverage, which has led to hundreds of disputes between policyholders and insurers. However, this is the first case with claims of fraudulent engineering reports to reach trial in federal court.

The Aikens maintain a tornado destroyed their vacation home before 25 feet of water inundated the property.

USAA attorney Greg Copeland told the jury during opening arguments that the Aikens simply wanted to maximize their payments for Katrina damage. Their flood coverage totalled $278,000. USAA paid $178,205 in structural and contents damage on a policy that provided more than $680,000 in coverage.

But the Aikens’ attorney, George W. Healy IV, told the jury that evidence would show the companies “intentionally and with forethought came up with a plan to deny legitimate claims.”

Rimkus attorney David Ward said testimony will show the Aikens hired their own engineer because David Aiken accompanied the Rimkus engineer on his inspection and knew the engineer thought water had caused most of the damage. Ward told the jury they would hear firsthand about communications between Rimkus and USAA, so they should not believe Healy. “You can be the judge of the facts,” he said, “not the allegations.”

Follow the Money Pardners to The Fox in the Henhouse

Now this Cowboy has known for a long time that the insurance industry was in charge of the Mississippi Insurance Department, especially when George Dale was in charge and layin’ down with them crooks. Now they is becoming more brazen as one of them hired guns has sashayed out of hiding to do the bidding of his master USAA Insurance Company. His name is Greg Copeland and when he ain’t hepin’ his pay master to keep people homeless or lobbyin’ against the little man for his pay master at big insurance or representing George Dale in court he is is eating at the public trough over at the Mississippi Windpool. Ole Greg sure does get around folks.

Take a look at the windpool website and see if you can tell who runs it? Them boys sure must not be proud of their work up there or else they’d tell us who was on the Board of Directors and such beyond, “The MWUA is administered by a Board of Directors and all rules and regulations are subject to the review of the Commissioner of Insurance. The Board of Directors consists of eight members, five (5) to be representatives of the member companies and three (3) representatives of agencies from the coast area appointed by the Commissioner of Insurance.”

This Cowboy is reminded of the cockroach theory (tip of the 10 gallon hat to Sop for that one) when it comes to that bunch at the windpool. Nothing but bad news and ohhh dawgie do they hide from the sunshine. This Cowboy wonders how much wind pool premium went to things like lavish travel and commish for Greg and the gang? Like Sop pointed out to me after he looked at their financial statement for 2006 that these folks must not have an annual audit. Even worse is the fact that almost 22% of the premiums collected from us good folk in the 6 coastal counties went to commissions in 2006. It don’t take no financial expert to smell the stink on Crane Ridge Drive in Jackson. That smell is so bad this Cowboy can smell it all the way down here on the coast and it stinks worse than pig shit mixed with dead fish!

So this Cowboy is gonna give the folks reading us a two-fer Tuesday as Mr. Copeland and his band of greedy corporate lawyers who make money keeping folks homeless deserves two posts. I also challenge the good folks reading us in New York, Jackson and Washington to follow their nose to the stink this Cowboy describes.

Sunday Bonus Post: Excellent Scruggs Coverage

We have been debating internally whether to cover certain aspects of the ongoing Dickie Scruggs saga as it relates to the insurance litigation here on the coast. To this point we haven’t necessarily had the opportunity, as Mr. Scruggs withdrawal from the old Scruggs Katrina Group occurred before our effort here commenced.

Keeping up with those events in detail is imperative however, due to the huge ramifications for current litigants, especially those using the re-formed law venture once fronted by Mr. Scruggs, the Katrina Litigation Group.

Events in the ongoing federal investigation are now moving forward quickly with the confirmation that Mr. Joey Langston has plead guilty and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Those keeping a closer watch already knew this bit of information well in advance due to the hard work and dedication of Lotus and her excellent group of knowledgeable Mississippi based commenters at the Folo blog.

For those interested in Scruggs mania and ongoing development in what could ultimately develop into one of the biggest cases of judicial and political corruption seen in this Nation’s history (I sincerely do not believe I am overstating that). I highly recommend pulling up a chair at Lotus’ cyber table and pouring yourself a cup of joe. Warning: The posts and commentary there is highly addictive.

sop

Saturday Two for the Price of One: Consumer Federation Report Blasts Insurance Industry Practices

The Consumer Federation of America released it’s 2007 study of industry profits along with it’s analysis of the reasons behind the numbers. Those of us on the Mississippi Coast can readily identify with the conclusions of the study, conducted by former Texas Insurance Commissioner Robert Hunter. This document is well worth reading and I highly recommend it for those wondering why the 2004 tort reform promise of cheaper insurance after passage has largely never materialized.

“State and national consumer organizations joined the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) today to release a new study concluding that the property/casualty insurance industry continued in 2007 to systematically overcharge consumers and reduce the value of home and automobile insurance policies, leading to profits, reserves, and surplus that are at or near record levels. The study estimates that insurer overcharges over the last four years amount to an average of $870 per household.

The report provides extensive data demonstrating that property/casualty insurance companies are paying out lower claims in relationship to the premiums they charge consumers than at any time in decades. The pure loss ratio, the actual amount of each premium dollar insurers pay back to policyholders in benefits, was only 54.6 cents in 2007. Over the past 20 years, the amount paid back as benefits has dramatically declined from over 70 cents per premium dollar, indicating a huge loss in the value of insurance to consumers.

“Consumers ultimately pay the price for the unjustified profits, padded reserves, and excessive capitalization that exist right now in the insurance industry,” said J. Robert Hunter, the Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and author of the study. Hunter is an actuary, former state insurance commissioner, and former federal insurance administrator.

“The insurance industry reaped record profits in 2004 and 2005, despite significant hurricane activity,” said Hunter. “Profits in 2006 rose to unprecedented heights and 2007 may set a fourth consecutive profit record,” he said. “Unfortunately, a major reason why insurers have reported record-high profits and low losses in recent years is that they have been methodically overcharging consumers, cutting back on coverage, underpaying claims, and getting taxpayers topick up some of the tab for risks the insurers should cover,” said Hunter.

In the last several years, insurers sharply increased premiums for homeowners and commercial insurance and reduced or eliminated coverage for tens of thousands of Americans in coastal areas. Insurers have succeeded in convincing Congress to continue taxpayer subsidies for terrorism losses and are seeking additional subsidies for catastrophe insurance”

Insurance Commissioner to Open Office in Gulfport

I found this Sun Herald article interesting and refreshing. Mr. Chaney is opening an office in Gulfport which is a great move. I would urge the windpool to locate closer to it’s customers as well.

New commish aims at wind-pool rates
Chaney will open Coast office
By ANITA LEE[email protected]

Commercial and residential policyholders in South Mississippi could see a decrease this year in state wind-pool rates, plus policyholders will for the first time have a state insurance office on the Coast.

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said between meetings Friday he’s busy but tired after two weeks in office.

“It’s a lot of work,” Chaney said. “I think the people in the department are dedicated to the people that pay the policy premiums. It’s been a learning curve for me… I’m going to do my best.”

He said the job has already proven to him “how staggering a responsibility I’ve got to the people of Mississippi.”

Chaney said Friday he is working with state legislators, who convened their 2008 session Tuesday, and state wind-pool officials to lower wind-pool rates that increased 90 percent for homeowners and 162 percent for businesses after Hurricane Katrina. Chaney said it is too early to discuss details, but he has met with the Coast legislative delegation and is talking to other lawmakers about insurance needs in South Mississippi.

Chaney said his top priority is to stabilize the property and casualty market so insurance is available and affordable. Working to improve the wind pool, insurer of last resort for South Mississippi, also will help stabilize the insurance market statewide, he said.

He said lawmakers from other parts of the state are getting the message that South Mississippi needs stability in its insurance market for economic recovery from Katrina’s devastation.

The Republican commissioner defeated Democratic challenger Gary Anderson in the November election, after Anderson ousted longtime Commissioner George Dale in the party primary.

Chaney also plans to open a Coast insurance office, tentatively Friday. The office will be at 1701 24th Avenue, across from the Gulfport courthouse. Chaney said he is opening the office full time, primarily as a service to consumers who have questions or complaints about insurance.

Chaney said he also will lend support to a state policyholders’ bill of rights, with some revision, and is encouraging U.S. Senate candidates to support a multiple-peril insurance bill co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor. The bill would add wind coverage to the federal flood insurance program, but would require rates be set at levels appropriate for the risks insured.

Wind Claim Dumping on the Flood Program: The Mechanics

Folks, Sop used actual photographs to explain the concept of claims dumping on his earlier post on the topic, the visual account of which set a site visit record for our little corner of the Internet. Now this Cowboy is gonna explain how big insurance did it, dumping their contractual wind obligations of the U.S. taxpayer. In a whistle blower lawsuit filed over New Orleans way the public adjusters projected that if the error rate they found held true, us taxpayers were bilked out of over $9 BILLION dollars by big insurance. Some examples found by the public adjusters include:

“a group of four-plex apartments in eastern New Orleans were compensated for flood damage with taxpayer money even though they experienced no flooding. Each building in same complex was paid only a pittance for severe wind damage on its regular property insurance policies. American National Property & Casualty Insurance Co., or ANPAC Louisiana Insurance Co., paid the owner of several buildings in the Versailles Gardens subdivision on Alsace Street about $95,000 in flood damages, or about half the value of each property’s individual $200,000 flood policy, even though no flood waters got inside the buildings.”

Over here in Mississippi, State Farm used faulty and on occasion even altered engineered reports to dump their wind obligations on us. Take a look at these two engineering reports, the first one authored by engineer Paul Monie and verified by him as his work product. The second one was altered to let State Farm off the hook without his knowledge or consent. After Steve helped Mr. Beckham track down Paul Monie and it was brought to light that State Farm and their lackeys at Rimkus engineering had no problem defrauding a 70 year old man guess what happened next? You got it folks, State Farm experienced a Come to Jesus moment and paid Mr. Beckham. In fact they paid him so much money he can’t talk about it any more. This Cowboy can talk about how them crooks tried to steal from an old man though and he just did. :)

In fact, thanks to Congressman Gene Taylor we got us a whole list of examples of how crooks in Gucci suits and their scalleywag corporate lawyer enablers tried to screw the good folks on the coast who lost their houses out of big money. We started with ole man Beckham cause Steve knows him but he ain’t the only one by a long shot.

Gene Taylor in his Own Words

Folks this final installment of our Gene Taylor Youtube series is courtesy of Kdreporter, a news intern with the ABC affiliate in Santa Barbara California who interviewed Gene last summer. So lets climb on in the FEMA trailer and hear Gene on Katrina, FEMA and Multi-peril insurance in his own words.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-YpGgR2KVw]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EylfwpqNB0]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uNy4wHzkb8]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW9oQtzulIs]

US Represenative Gene Taylor on Concurrent Causation

Following is yet another clip from Gene Taylor’s town hall meeting which touches on the heart of why so many people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast feel as though they have been swindled by their insurer: The Anti Concurrent Clause. Pictured in this New York Times story from 2006 that explains the concept is Marilyn Haverty, a lady I’ve known since I was a child growing up in Waveland with her children back in the 70’s and 80’s. Miss Marilyn and people like her are the reason this blog exists.

There’s no question that the anti-concurrent clause is bad for policyholders,’’ said Adam F. Scales, an associate professor who teaches insurance law at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, in Lexington, Va. “It’s not fair because it defeats policyholders’ reasonable expectations.’

Robert Hunter, former Texas Insurance Commissioner and Director with the Consumer Federation of America contends consumers do not understand such clauses buried in the fine print of their policies. George Dale seemed to agree in an interview he gave the Sun Herald that ran back in March 2006, when he claimed ignorance that insurers would use the clause to deny coverage: (The Sun Herald link is long gone but thanks to Anita over at the Did we survive Katrina or Not? blog we have this quote from the story.)

Q: So, you might not have realized how this was going to be interpreted when it was approved?

A: Oh, I’m admitting that with just the volume of the number of type policies – and there are hundreds of them in the course of a year that comes through my rating division – there may be other things that are in policies that would have gotten approved by my department by accident.That’s just the volume of the business that they do. Let’s hope it’s a minimal number of things that were approved.

I would submit that if this nation’s *longest serving insurance commissioner and his staff of lawyers had little clue to the meaning of this language then consumers had no chance of understanding the language. In fact most down here feel such language is a scam as the reason they bought the policy in the first place was to cover the one event insurers now claim it didn’t cover, a Hurricane.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyhHP6Emgfk]

* – Mr. Dale was soundly beat in the party primary in August 2007 thus ending his term of service to the insurance industry.

sop

US Representative Gene Taylor on his Multi-Peril Insurance Bill HR3121

Following is an interview Gene Taylor gave WLOX TV on HR3121 and the politics involved in passing the measure out of the House of Representatives. He also addresses bogus claims the bill will place an unfair burden on the taxpayers.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mURh6q-fWVk]