Florida Gets a Big Fat F

Florida gets an ‘F’ for insurance system
from the South Florida Business Journal
February 6, 2008

Florida has one of the least-effective property and casualty insurance systems in the country, a new study that gave Florida and four other states an “F” grade said.

The joint project of the Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute rated all 50 states on nine criteria, including how prominent the states’ roles are in the auto and home insurance markets, and the concentration of insurance companies writing policies in a particular state. California, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas joined Florida in getting an F. Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Utah and Vermont got A grades.

Florida scored at or above average in seven of the nine categories. But Florida had the worst rating in the residual homeowners category, which measures how much of the market is served by government-provided insurance. Jacksonville-based Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run insurer of last resort, is No. 1 in statewide market share.

Florida also scored poorly in the regulatory environment category for having an outsized influence in the setting of rates.

I would love to see the formula. Florida is above average in 7 of 9 categories. But because the State Government holds a lot of the policies, they get an F. Apparently the fact that many insurers have not been interested in insuring Florida home owners does not matter. Amazing.

Texas, North Carolina, and California all have to deal with big natural disaster issues so I am assuming some form of state self insurance makes them a failure as well. Massachusetts probably banned personal property when Romney was governor in an effort to avoid paying out any insurance to anyone ever.

Bad Faith Insurance Bible: Screw the Common Man

This Cowboy has told ayone who would listen how big insurance companies intentionally screw their customers to save a buck to pay for some obscene executive bonus. Ole Michael Sasso over Tampa Tribune way tells the story of Allstate and what they is hidin’ from them insurance boys in Florida. Pull up a chair and learn more:

Secretive Allstate File Could Show ‘Bad Faith’

By MICHAEL SASSO, The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA – Behind the fight between Florida’s insurance commissioner and Allstate Insurance Co. is a mystery that could have come from a John Grisham novel.

Secret Allstate documents – known as the McKinsey documents – allegedly show how the insurance giant intentionally has made low-ball claims offers to its customers for years, netting Allstate billions of dollars in the process.

But the McKinsey documents have never seen the light of day.

Trial lawyers who have sued Allstate in recent years have eagerly sought them, and Allstate reluctantly has turned them over to lawyers under subpoena. However, each time a judge has prohibited lawyers from distributing them to the media and the public under a protective order.

Florida now is demanding the documents from Allstate and other insurers in a broad-based investigation of the companies’ business practices, including alleged collusion with other insurers and their claims handling procedures. The issue came to a head last week, when Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty suspended Allstate’s right to issue new insurance policies in Florida. A judge later lifted McCarty’s suspension.

Allstate spokesman Mike Siemienas said the company intends to turn over the documents, but Florida might not find them all that revealing. The McKinsey documents at issue concern auto insurance – not the hot-button issue of homeowners insurance. Some of the strategies laid out in the documents were just ideas and never became Allstate policy, Siemienas said.

Still, Whitney Buchanan, an Albuquerque, N.M., trial lawyer who has seen the elusive documents, said that if Florida’s insurance commissioner receives them, they could go a long way to showing that Allstate has not been playing fair.

“These documents are devastating to them in bad faith litigation,” Buchanan said.

The McKinsey documents were drafted in the early 1990s, when Allstate hired the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to review its business practices. Some of McKinsey’s ideas became company practice, said David Berardinelli, a Santa Fe, N.M., trial lawyer who has sued Allstate on occasion.

In the course of one 2001 lawsuit, a judge ordered Allstate to give Berardinelli the McKinsey documents for a short period. The documents bore a watermark that prevented them from being reproduced, but the lawyer took numerous pages of notes on what he saw. He later turned those notes into a book called “From Good Hands to Boxing Gloves,” which is marketed only to lawyers.

File Explains ‘Fast Track’ Strategy

One of Allstate’s strategies: a “fast-track” settlement offer. Berardinelli claims the documents reveal how Allstate would offer insurance claimants an extremely low offer during the first 90 days after an auto accident. During these initial 90 days people are the most in need of money and most likely to accept a low-ball offer, Berardinelli said. Allstate claims adjusters were expected to persuade a certain percentage of customers to accept these fast-track offers, Berardinelli said.

Overall, Allstate tried to standardize the claims process, by using computer models that offered low-ball estimates of the value of a person’s claim, Berardinelli said.

“They are charging people for coverage that they’re never going to get,” said Berardinelli, who has teamed up with Buchanan on occasion to sue Allstate. “That is fraud.”

Siemienas, the Allstate spokesman, said Allstate investigates the merits of each insurance claim and bases its payouts on its investigation. It has no such standardized approach to payouts, he said.

Word of the McKinsey documents’ existence spread among trial lawyers, and soon other lawyers began subpoenaing them from Allstate for their own insurance lawsuits.

Although some lawyers have received them, Allstate has gone to great lengths to prevent their dissemination to the public or the media. Four trial lawyers reached this week all said they are unable to give the documents to anyone else because of a protective order from the court.

Siemienas said Allstate seeks court orders because the documents contain trade secrets that could benefit Allstate’s competitors if they were released.

In an ongoing Missouri case, a judge has ordered Allstate to turn over the documents to an attorney without benefit of the court order. But Allstate has refused, causing the judge to fine the company $25,000 a day until the company turns over the McKinsey papers to the attorney.

Allstate’s fine in the Missouri case has grown to $2.4 million, according to new documents from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, which is watching the Missouri case. Rich Halberg, a spokesman for Allstate, acknowledged that there is a court order to produce the documents, but he said the judge hasn’t enforced it and that Allstate hasn’t incurred a fine.

What the documents mean – and how Florida’s insurance commissioner might use them – is debatable.

2nd File Deals With Homeowners Policies

The McKinsey documents that have raised such a fuss nationwide were developed for auto accident cases, Halberg said. They don’t relate to homeowners insurance, which has become such a major issue in Florida in recent years, he said. McKinsey & Co. created other documents for Allstate involving homeowners insurance, Halberg said, but they are not the documents that lawyers have targeted.

A spokesman for McKinsey, Mark Garrett, said in a telephone voice mail that McKinsey does not comment on matters relating to its clients.

Trial lawyers say the documents have become hot property in both auto and property insurance lawsuits.

William “Chip” Merlin, a Tampa trial lawyer, said he has subpoenaed the documents from Allstate on several occasions, and they have helped him secure settlements from the insurer on behalf of clients in auto and homeowners cases. The documents can show juries that a customer’s insurance claim wasn’t handled properly and that Allstate tried to keep unhappy customers from hiring attorneys, Merlin said.

Buchanan, the Albuquerque lawyer, said the documents helped him secure settlements from Allstate, too.

Still, Merlin said the documents alone aren’t enough to win a lawsuit against Allstate.

In Lexington, Ky., trial lawyer Dale Golden subpoenaed Allstate for the documents and filed a class-action lawsuit against the company on behalf of auto accident victims. Even though he had the supposedly damning documents, a judge declined to make the lawsuit a class action, meaning he could not represent a wide group of people. Golden also later lost the case when he brought it on behalf of a single client.

Golden said he is appealing. He said the length to which Allstate has gone to prevent public disclosure shows how damaging they are.

“What else is Allstate hiding?” Golden asked.

Allstate Before the Florida State Senate: Squealin’ Like a Pig!

Welp folks, them crooks at Allstate can run but they can’t hide and they is now before the Florida State Senate tryin’ to explain how they cook the books. From readin’ the story and comments after the story them boys best find a new shade of lipstick to slather on that Pig in the Poke they is tryin’ to sell, ’cause from the sound of it them Florida Senators ain’t buyin’ in to the BS. Hats off to our own Sop who pegged BS weather models as one way them crooks fleece the public. Them posts, includin’ the first one on this here blog are found here and here.

Allstate tells why it didn’t drop rates

BY BEATRICE E. GARCIA

As a special Senate committee began two days of hearings with state insurance officials and insurance company executives, Allstate Floridian’s chief executive explained that the company didn’t pass on savings from its reinsurance purchases directly to policyholders because Allstate’s rates already were inadequate.

Joseph Richardson, who was appointed to his current position last March, explained that the 2004 and 2005 storms wiped out the company’s surplus. While capital was replenished by its parent company, the Florida-based insurer sought to rebuild that capital through higher rates.

A massive insurance reform bill passed last January required insurers to pass on savings achieved by buying less-expensive back-up insurance from the state’s catastrophe fund.

The purpose of this special committee’s investigation is to determine why rates haven’t fallen as expected.

The bill expanded the state’s catastrophe fund to provide less expensive backup insurance for insurance. Insurers who bought this reinsurance were required to pass on the savings to policyholders in the form of lower rates. Only 68 percent of the 118 home insurers in the state have lowered rates so far.

Senators spent more than four hours questioning Allstate officials about how the company factored profits into its rates, how it used the computer models to determine how much of a rate increase it needed, and how much and what it paid for reinsurance in recent years.

The panel asked again and again why Allstate bought insurance and asked for a large rate increase last year, even though it has dropped about half of its homeowners policies since 2005.

Allstate requested a 42 percent increase when it provided its final rate filing required by the new law last September. In a preliminary filing in March, Allstate had said it would lower rates an average 14 percent.

The company is also showing a loss of $47 million for the first nine months of 2007, though there were no major storms. Allstate reported net income of $28 million in 2006.

Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach and co-chairman of this panel, said it was ”just a little perplexing” that the company has perceived greater risk, despite insuring few homes, many of which have withstood many, many hurricanes or are built to the higher standards of states building code.

”Every time you drop someone on the coast, you are reducing risk and profit is increased. You’ve set up for the worst-case scenario,” said Sen. Bill Posey, chairman of the Senate and Banking Committee.

Bonnie Gill, Allstate Floridian’s vice president, explained that Allstate’s rate-making process is based on losses it expects to incur on customers in the next year. It doesn’t include customers that the company will no longer carry on its books.

Indeed, Allstate had about 500,000 homeowners policies in 2004. Now the company has about 200,000 homeowners policies.

Belinda Miller, deputy insurance commissioner, said that was one of the reasons that the Office of Insurance Regulation questioned Allstate’s profit factor in its rate filing because it has dropped so many policies and intends to drop more.

”That should theoretically produce a decline in rate need,” said Miller.

Ron Stouffer, Allstate Floridian’s assistant vice president, said the company spent more for reinsurance in 2007 than in 2006 because the company perceived greater hurricane risk.

The senators were concerned about Allstate’s use of a computer model used for forecasting future hurricane losses that wasn’t approved by Florida. This model uses a shorter-term outlook and could produce a forecast of bigger losses because it incorporates more recent hurricane activity. The state approved model looks at hurricane activity over 100 years or more.

Allstate executives said the company had adjusted its rate filings in 2006 and 2007 with data from the unapproved short-term computer model.

Richardson said the company believes Florida statutes don’t specifically preclude using an unapproved model.

There no silver lining in the gold fields

From IOL online news:

‘Power cuts may damage insurance industry’
February 04 2008 at 04:35PM

Power cuts in South African mines will have a negative impact on the global insurance industry, risk assessment company Alexander Forbes warned on Monday.“If hundreds of South African mines were each to claim up to R250-million for business interruption caused by power outages, the impact on the local and international insurance markets would be profound,”Debbie Geraghty, Head of Risk Services at Alexander Forbes said in a statement.Given that South African mining and industrial debt was re-insured globally, the potential sums called upon to cover South African power-related loss could cause a global re-insurance shock, Geraghty said.

What makes those greedy minors think they can soak up all our huricane/earthquake relief money? Something just isn’t working right here.

Men working at 2,000′ below in South Africa’s Kimberley Diamond Mine. Taken a few years ago.

The Allstate Battle in Florida: An Update

The Florida District Court of Appeals last week kept a temporary stay in place against the suspension of Allstate from Florida by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. The ruling is a double edged sword in that the expedited appeals process puts pressure on Allstate to produce records on its business practices; records it has been unwilling to produce in the past. According to Kevin McCarty, Commissioner of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation Allstate has become more diligent in producing the subpoenaed records:

All the documents requested in our October subpoenas were due at the Jan. 15 hearing, but I am encouraged that as a result of my suspension order Allstate within a week produced about 25,000 pages of documents.

“I remain ever committed to Florida consumers to get to the bottom of this issue and to ensure that Allstate is held accountable to the law.”

The timetable for the expedited court appeal points to a resolution in early March, 2008. A copy of the court order that contains the milestones can be found here.

sop

Breaking News: Hood Fires Back

Jim Hood has made the news today with his Friday court filings in response to State Farm trying to prevent a new grand jury from looking into alleged wrong doings on their part in how Katria claims were adjusted here on the coast. I write this post with a heavy heart as we have just learned of Jody Compretta’s untimely passing in a parade accident last night in New Orleans. Our thoughts and prayers are with JP and his family.

The AP story:

A lawsuit filed by State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. that accuses Attorney General Jim Hood of using the threat of criminal charges to force settlements in civil lawsuits is based on “lies, speculation, and innuendo,” Hood said in court papers.

State Farm sued Hood in September, claiming he violated his part of a January 2007 settlement in which the attorney general’s office agreed to end its criminal investigation over the company’s handling of Hurricane Katrina claims. A judge ordered Hood to temporarily shut down the probe.

The accusations in court documents have intensified over the past week as both sides prepare for a hearing on Wednesday.

“Before allowing State Farm to use this court as a three ring circus to parade its inflammatory evidentiary rhetoric of innuendo, guilt by association, and smears, there should be some factual basis alleged to support a conclusion of retaliation and/or harassment,” Hood said in papers filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Jackson.

Jonathan Freed, a State Farm spokesman told The Associated Press on Friday, that the insurer is ready to “proceed with our case and we’re looking forward to airing these issues in court.”

Hood asked the court to dissolve the restraining order and allow him to resume his investigation. Hood’s 19-page filing came just days after State Farm used some of the strongest language yet in accusing the second-term attorney general of wrongdoing.

The company claimed Hood and wealthy plaintiffs attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, who is facing corruption and contempt charges in other cases, participated in an “extortion conspiracy” by trying to force the company to settle civil litigation with private attorneys.

The court battle heated up when State Farm began urging a judge to allow the company to question Scruggs under oath. Hood has called Scruggs his “confidential informant” and has said Scruggs provided allegedly incriminating information about State Farm.”

General Hood is clearly concerned that his co-conspirator will either tell the truth or invoke the Fifth Amendment on specific questions related to their extortion conspiracy,” State Farm said in a motion filed Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills on Friday ordered Scruggs to submit to the questioning by 5 p.m. Monday. Scruggs will likely invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination when questioned because of the pending charges against him.

Scruggs, one of the most influential plaintiffs lawyers in the country, is facing federal charges that he conspired with several associates to bribe a judge in an unrelated dispute over $26.5 million in fees from a mass settlement of Katrina claims. He’s facing contempt charges in Alabama for allegedly violating a federal judge’s order by giving leaked Katrina assessment documents to Hood rather than returning them to the company from which they were taken.

Scruggs has denied wrongdoing in either case. Scruggs is not a party to the lawsuit State Farm filed against Hood, but the company claims he worked in collusion with Hood.

The January 2007 agreement that State Farm claims Hood violated by resuming a criminal investigation was part of a broader settlement that called for State Farm to reopen and possibly pay thousands of policyholder claims. However, a federal judge refused to sign off the terms of deal and State Farm later entered into another agreement with George Dale, who was then Mississippi’s Insurance Commissioner.

In August 2007, State Farm received a new subpoena for records from a grand jury. Less than a month later, the company sued Hood in an effort to stop the grand jury’s investigation.Hood claims he wasn’t reopening the same investigation, rather he was probing new claims.Hood has argued that he never provided “blanket immunity” from future investigations.

Pee on My Leg and Say It’s Raining Part 3: Marsha Thompson Joins Kevin Drawbaugh in the Drive by Reporting Craze

Since Lotus at Folo brought this report that aired on WLBT to my attention, I filed it away for further commentary, not only for its glaring factual inaccuracy (EA Renfroe is a claims adjusting firm not engineers), but also because of the sheer silliness of the logic used to frame the Rigsby sisters as document purloining perverts. I had to chuckle thinking of the State Farm commercial which no doubt aired at some point during the broadcast, informing us the good neighbor stands ready to sell us life and auto insurance; contracts that people such as Dr Leroy McFarland discovered post Katrina really were not worth the paper they were written on.

I filed Ms Thompson’s revealing report away as I was vetting the first Reuters story on the GAO report past some ordinary people off the coast to gauge their reactions to it and the context which it was framed. This is the paragraph that repeatedly came up in the feedback I received.

Study after study has come back with the same results, showing there is no evidence insurance companies improperly attributed wind damage from Hurricane Katrina to water,” said Justin Roth, senior federal affairs director at the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, an industry group.

“We fully expect this report to reach the same conclusion,” Roth said

Mr Roth’s artful wordsmithing must be appreciated in PR circles for its sheer intellectual dishonesty as is Mr Drawbaugh’s apparent willingness to serve as a mouthpiece instead of his stated vocation of reporter in the finest traditions of misinformation that would make Dr. Goebbels proud.

So how could Mr Roth be so confident in his statement, issued one day before the GAO report was released? Easy, the Three Wise Monkeys work for FEMA, and Mr Roth knew FEMA did not collect wind damage payment data in flood claims thus they had no way of knowing if NFIP was improperly charged for wind damage. This is what the GAO had to say on that exact subject:

FEMA officials stated that they did not have the authority to collect wind damage claims data from insurers. But without the ability to examine claims adjustment information for both the wind and flood damages, NFIP cannot always determine the extent to which each peril contributed to total property damages and the accuracy of the claims paid for losses caused by flooding.

FEMA cannot be certain whether NFIP has paid only for damage caused by flooding when insurers with a financial interest in apportioning damages between wind and flooding are responsible for making such apportionments.

However, when the public adjusters in Louisiana peeked under the hood of flood claim adjusting in New Orleans, they found a far different story than was conveyed by Roth and Drawbaugh:

“….a group of former insurance adjusters, identified only as the Georgia company Branch Consultants LLC, say they have reinspected 150 properties with flood and wind damage. In all cases, private insurance companies overcharged the federal flood program for storm damage while they underestimated wind damage.

“Every single one of them,” said Allan Kanner, a New Orleans attorney representing the insurance and construction experts as they pursue what they say is a violation of the False Claims Act on behalf of the federal government. “There’s a pattern here.”

In one striking example, the suit claims that 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.”

WLBT Jackson Joins in the Drive By Reporting Craze

In their anchor captioned report “Sex, Lies and Theft” WLBT tries their hand at character assassination. The story teller, Marsha Thompson, dutifully informs her viewers of Kerri Rigsby’s sex life and that the Rigby’s were “Stealing documents without State Farm’s knowledge or permission and then furnished copies to the Attorney general, US Attorney and Scruggs without permission.”

Following Ms. Thompson’s logic the Rigsby sisters, who publicly stated they believed they have witnessed crimes known in some legal circles as Racketeering, should have asked permission before calling the authorities. Following the Thompson logic means we should also obtain the permission of an armed robber before calling in a bank robbery. Thompson logic also evidently means the sex lives of witnesses to a crime are fair game too.

Is it any wonder around 26% of the public finds local TV news “believable” or that so few white collar crime witnesses are willing to come forward as whistleblowers. WLBT should hang their head in shame.

Fade out to the “Good neighbor” ad…..

sop

Insurance firms set to stump up billions

Insurance firms set to stump up billions

2008-02-02
By Hu Yuanyuan (China Daily)Updated: 2008-02-02 08:57

Chinese insurers are expected to pay 3.52 billion yuan ($489 million) in damages to companies and people in central and eastern China as a result of the worst snowfall in almost half a century, the nation’s insurance regulator said on Friday.

What is odd is that the insurers appear to be paying claims to people who did not even have insurance. Apparently they view their work as a service to their country. What an odd concept.

Passengers walk past a row of Chinese soldiers near the railway station, in China’s southern city of Guangzhou, on February 2. China warned the worst was not over in its national weather crisis as desperate crowds trying to get home jammed transport hubs and others braved the frigid cold without power or water.

FEMA Code Violation on Fisher Island Potentially Threatens National Flood Insurance Participation for Miami Beach residents

From Fox Business News
Thursday, Jan. 31 2008

FEMA Code Violation on Fisher Island Potentially Threatens National Flood Insurance Participation for Miami Beach residents

Unchecked violations of Floodplain Management regulations could cause FEMA to put Miami Beach on probation and eventual suspension from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which currently provides a 15% discount on flood insurance premiums for property owners in Miami Beach. If the city fails to enforce its regulations, it could result in higher flood insurance rates for policy holders. In suspended cities where flood disasters occur, certain types of disaster assistance from the federal government are not available at all.

The City of Miami Beach is currently rated as Class 7 out of 10 (with 10 being the lowest) on NFIP’s Community Rating System. This rating entitles property owners in Miami Beach to receive a 15% discount on flood insurance premiums. NFIP bases its ratings on local governments’ compliance with federal requirements and on local government efforts to eliminate or mitigate exposure to flood damage through regulation. Each 1-point increase in class rating represents an extra 5% discount on premiums, with a Class 1 rating carrying a 45% discount and a Class 10 carrying no discount at all. As of November 2007, Miami Beach had 48,233 flood insurance policies in effect, insuring $7,491,479,400 of property.

I know there is a Miami Valley in Ohio (named after the Miami Indians). But is there a Miami Beach Ohio? Is it just west of Cleveland on Lake Erie? Because if they are talking about a Beach in Florida, why on earth are they getting a discount?

Just Before Sunset

Miami Beach, OH

How the Other Side Lives

…other side of the Pacific that is.

Although large natural disasters outside of the United States are often associated with “less developed” nations needing our help, the reality is that a variety of disasters do strike within the 1st world economies. The European heat wave of 2003 has been estimated to have killed 14, 800 Frenchmen alone, and the Kobe earthquake of 1993 killed 5,100 people in an area of the country thought to be relatively safe from severe earthquakes.

I did run across an interesting piece that described US Government issued flood insurance policy with the earthquake insurance issued by the Japanese government.

“Insurance Issues of Catastrophic Disasters in Japan: Lessons from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina Disaster” written by Hiroaki Tsubokawa.

What is interesting is that there are so many parallels between the two countries responses to the threat of large scale catastrophe.

Both countries offer government funded catastrophe insurance, and in both countries insurance is taken only by a limited group of people.

In the US, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), 41% (2,181,930) of policies are issued in Florida (as of April 2007), followed by Texas, and then Louisiana. Given that Florida has 7.05 million households (per the US census), even if only half of them are non-renters, that would put flood insurance ownership by home owners at 62%.

In Japan, the number also varies by region, but nationwide 38% of insurance policy holders have earthquake insurance.

In both countries the lack of participation drives up the cost of insurance. At the time of this study the average NFIP annual premium was $438: very high with respect to its limited benefits. One reason (though not the only one) benefits are limited is that it helps keep the premiums down. Japan actually caps the total amount that will be paid out across the country and in any case they limit the payout on earthquake insurance to ½ the value of the underlying fire insurance policy. What is also interesting is that after the Kobe earth quake, they had a large battle between the insurers and insured because fire insurance did not cover earthquake damage: yet many building burned down as a secondary effect of the earthquake.


Much of the Japanese reaction was somewhat similar to the US. They discussed more national funding of insurance policies to take care of disaster situations, and they became much more interested in accurately mapping out a natural hazard map. It is not clear from this paper that they did anything much more concrete.