Aiken v USAA Casualty Insurance Company Day 4: Expert Cross Examination

The trial continues as does the Sun Herald coverage. My own opinion based on the following story is that despite vigorous questioning from Mr. Copeland, the basic facts as introduced into evidence remain unchanged.

USAA trial testimony continues

Engineer: Tornado destroyed house
By PAM FIRMIN[email protected]

GULFPORT –Hours before Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge arrived, the Henderson Point home of David and Marilyn Aiken had been hit by a tornado and was long gone, forensic engineer Charles Ivy told the court Thursday morning.

He agreed reluctantly under questioning by Greg Copeland, attorney for USAA Casualty Insurance Co., that the surge would have been enough to destroy the house if the house were still there.

The report Ivy prepared to back up his findings went under the microscope with intensive questioning by Copeland, who lost patience with the witnesses’ often rambling responses and complained to U. S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr., “He is not responding in any way.”

“Repeat the question,” Senter instructed.

The Aikens, represented by George W. Healy IV, are suing USAA and Rimkus Consulting Group Inc., which was employed by USAA, for conspiring to defraud them. They seek full payment of their $680,000 homeowner-insurance policy with USAA, which paid them $178,000.

Earlier testimony came from Rimkus engineers. One inspected the Aikens’ property and the other later made changes to that report without communicating with its author, which is against the company’s policy.

Rimkus attorney David Ward read verbatim from Ivy’s pretrial statement that he got data for his report from a preliminary storm model, and questioned Ivy’s reasons for not updating it when better data became available as time went on.

Healy’s next witnesses were to be Rimkus employee Paul Coleman and USAA employee David Rummel.

Breaking News: Florida Expands Suspension of Allstate

This Cowboy hopes some folks up Jackson way are taking notes.

Florida Expands Suspension of AllstateThursday

January 17, 4:07 pm ET
By Brent Kallestad, Associated Press Writer

Florida Suspends Allstate From Writing All Sorts of New Policies in the State

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A day after telling Allstate Corp. to stop writing new car insurance policies in Florida, state regulators told the company to stop writing any new business in the state — including home insurance.

Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty had initially planned to clamp down on just the company’s auto business and its four companies doing business in Florida. But he expanded the suspension Thursday to include Allstate’s 10 companies nationally and all of its insurance lines.

McCarty abruptly ended a scheduled two-day meeting Tuesday after just two hours, angered that Allstate officials failed to fully comply with a subpoena seeking information on property coverage rates.

“We’re in the business of protecting homes, protecting automobiles and that’s what we want to do because that’s the role we play in this economy, in this marketplace,” Allstate spokesman Adam Shores said Thursday. “And we want to continue to do that.”

The suspended companies are Allstate Floridian Insurance Co., Allstate Indemnity, Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Co., Allstate Insurance Co., Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Co., Encompass Insurance Co. of America, Encompass Indemnity Co., Encompass Floridian Insurance Co. and Encompass Floridian Indemnity Co.

Gov. Charlie Crist applauded the expended supension, which will last until the state gets the materials it demanded with the subpoena.

“I don’t know why you’d want to keep ’em,” said Crist, a longtime antagonist of many insurance companies he believes have gouged Floridians since the hurricanes that struck the state in 2004 and 2005. “I don’t know why you’d want to pay them money for anything.”

Allstate shares fell $1.35, or 2.7 percent, to $49.58 in late trading Thursday amid a broad market pullback.

Aiken V USAA Casualty Insurance Company Day 3: The Experts

In our first post on the trial, testimony revealed Rimkus Engineering supervisor James Jordan altered the onsite engineer’s report on the Aiken site favorably towards Rimkus client USAA without consulting the onsite engineer, Roverta Chapa in direct violation of Rimkus procedure. The following Sun Herald story recounts the testiomony of two plaintiff experts, a metorologist and structural engineer who both introduced evidence supporting the conclusions of Rimkus onsite engineer Roverta Chapa who also found strong evidence of wind damage to the property:

Experts assert pre-surge tornado damage

Testimony in trial against insurer USAA

By PAM FIRMINmailto:[email protected]

GULFPORT –Testifying as expert witnesses, a meteorologist and a forensic engineer Wednesday afternoon described why tornadic force rather than storm surge was most likely responsible for the Katrina destruction of David and Marilyn Aiken’s home in Henderson Point.

A lawsuit filed by the Aikens seeks damages and full payment of their $680,000 insurance policy with USAA Casualty Insurance Co., which paid them $178,000 in structural and contents damage. The suit claims USAA and Rimkus Consulting Group Inc., which was employed by USAA, conspired to to defraud them. Earlier testimony revolved around whether changes to a property report by structural engineer James W. Jordan were made to downplay wind damage so USAA would owe less money.

On Wednesday, Day 3 of the trial projected to last several weeks, presiding U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. frequently tried to move proceedings along, one time telling attorneys who haggled over details of intricate meteorological documents that it was “not necessary to go over every bit of the document” and later that “everybody’s tired of hearing his jabbering back and forth.”

Documents were provided by meteorologist Charles Barrere of Norman, Oka., formerly of the New Orleans area, who said they showed a tornado being tracked by the National Weather Service in New Orleans around 3 a.m. Aug. 29 most likely passed directly over the Aikens’ house hours before the waters rose. The eight jurors were able to look at these on monitors in front of their seats.

Dr. Charles Ivy, a forensic engineer from Florida, said it was significant that 90 percent of the nails on surviving beams at the Aiken property were bent in a direction from north to south and that four sturdy frames still standing were “whipped toward the west, leaning toward the direction the water came from. If water caused the destruction, they would have been leaning toward the east.”

Court begins today with cross examination of Ivy by USAA attorney Greg Copeland and Rimkus attorney David Ward.

Breaking news: Another Massive Reinsurance Failure

Well folks, the crooks in Gucci suits have outdone themselves this time. Out of the blue here comes another ENRON type scam and business failure

Reinsurers with MBIA ties to record Q4 charges
Wed Jan 16, 2008 8:43pm EST

By Lilla Zuill

NEW YORK, Jan 16 (Reuters) – Bermuda reinsurers RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd (RNR.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and PartnerRe Ltd (PRE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Wednesday they will write off 3-year-old investments in Channel Re, a reinsurer formed solely to do business with MBIA Inc (MBI.N: Quote, Profile, Research), the world’s largest bond insurer.

The announcement comes after Channel Re notified the companies that fourth-quarter losses stemming from its business with MBIA are expected to exceed its shareholders equity.

RenRe said its investment in Channel Re carried a value of $126.7 million at the end of September. PartnerRe said it would take a $74 million fourth-quarter charge, equal to about $1.31 per share, to write down its investment.

Reinsurers effectively insure other insurers, spreading the risk of losses among more than one party.

Channel Re expects $200 million in credit impairments from a $3.3 billion mark-to-market charge at MBIA, according to Partner Re’s statement.

David Lilly, an outside spokesman for RenRe, declined to comment further on the Channel Re development. PartnerRe could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rising defaults in mortgage-related bonds have threatened to wipe out a significant amount of capital for bond insurers such as MBIA, putting ratings under threat of downgrade.

Last month MBIA took steps to shore up capital, securing up to $1 billion from private equity firm Warburg Pincus, and last week sold $1 billion of surplus notes.

Investors appear to still have doubts; MBIA shares fell 16.5 percent to $13.40 on Wednesday.

OFFSHORE PROTECTION

Channel Re was jointly formed in Bermuda in 2004 by MBIA, RenRe, PartnerRe and Koch Financial to do business exclusively with MBIA, which held a 17 percent stake. RenaissanceRe was the largest owner with about 33 percent, Koch owned roughly 30 percent and Partner Re, 20 percent.

Channel Re had a triple-A rating, with a stable outlook, from McGraw-Hill Co’s (MHP.N: Quote, Profile, Research) rating firm Standard & Poor’s.

Bermuda, an offshore reinsurance center, is home to more than 1,500 insurers and about half a dozen bond reinsurers, including another that counted MBIA as a large customer, Ram Reinsurance Holdings (RAMR.O: Quote, Profile, Research).

Separately, RenaissanceRe said it will also take a $55 million charge in the fourth quarter to increase its incurred, but not realized, reserves for subprime-related exposures in its casualty clash reinsurance business.

RenRe said it expects to post a profit in the fourth quarter and for the full year despite the charges. It is due to report quarterly earnings on Feb. 5.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Suspends Allstate Insurance Co.

Here is the text of the press release just issued by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty today announced that he is suspending the certificate of authority of Allstate Companies to write new insurance in Florida until they fully comply with the subpoenas served Oct. 16 by the Office of Insurance Regulation (Office).

Today’s decision by the commissioner follows Tuesday’s action when he abruptly halted the scheduled two-day hearing into the Allstate Companies’ reinsurance program, their relationships with risk modeling companies, insurance rating organizations and insurance trade associations.
“In view of Allstate’s ongoing, blatant disregard of our subpoenas, I have little choice but to take an action that will send a clear message about how seriously I am taking this issue,” said Commissioner McCarty. “Suspending their certificate of authority to write new business in our state should make my point.

“If Allstate is willing to pay $25,000 per day in fines to a Missouri court for its ongoing failure to provide similar documents, it’s obvious to me that it will take more than a monetary sanction to get them to comply with our subpoenas.”

Allstate was to have provided all appropriate company documents related to the above topics at or before Tuesday’s hearing, but failed to do so. Instead, the Office received 51 pages of objections to the subpoenas.

The suspension applies to Allstate Insurance Co., Allstate Indemnity Co. and Allstate Property and Casualty Co., and it only suspends the companies from writing new business in Florida.

Existing policyholders will not be affected. Allstate must continue to service them and the companies must make all required statutory filings including, but not limited to, audited annual financial statements, quarterly financial statements and rate filings.

“The duration of the suspension is up to them,” added McCarty. “It will be lifted when I am satisfied that we have received each and every document we need to properly investigate the important issues before us.

“It continues to trouble me that Allstate has not complied with our subpoenas and is not willing to explain to us their relationships with rating agencies, modeling companies and trade groups and how these relationships might have influenced the huge rate increases they have requested. This clearly cannot be in the best interests of Florida consumers.”

This is the first time the Office has suspended a company for failure to “freely” provide documents as required by Florida law.

A copy of the subpoena is available to review.

Allstate Floridian Indemnity and Allstate Floridian Insurance Company 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.

About the Florida Office of Insurance RegulationThe Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (Office) has primary responsibility for regulation, compliance and enforcement of statutes related to the business of insurance and the monitoring of industry markets. Business units within the Office are organized based on regulatory expertise and include the areas of life and health, property and casualty, specialty lines and other regulated insurance entities. It is within the Office that the mission of public protection is implemented through regulatory oversight of insurance company solvency, policy forms and rates, market conduct performance and new company entrants to the Florida market.

Allstate facing Florida Sanctions: “The Dance is Over”

Well folks, here in Mississippi our politicians kowtow to crooks in Gucci suits and let State Farm pull out of the homeowners market yet continue their lucrative business lines in Auto Insurance. The difference in Florida is huge as the GOP leadership down there must not be on the insurance payroll. In fact them boys actually put the interest of the people ahead of the big campaign contributions big insurance gives it’s faithful waterboys. For Allstate today is the day of reckoning over Tallahassee way and the betting money is them crooks are gonna be shown the door, just like we should have done State Farm after they pulled out of the homeowners market. (Edited by Sop – This problem with our politicians transcends political party here in Mississippi.)

State insurance regulators cut short a two-day public hearing when Allstate executives failed to provide detailed answers to their inquires and failed to produce all subpoenaed documents.

BY BEATRICE E. GARCIA
[email protected]

TALLAHASSEE —

There was some sizzle, but Florida insurance regulators cut short a two-day public grilling of Allstate company officials when they failed to provide specific documents and answers.

Frustration was high for the regulators since Allstate Floridian and several sister companies had three months to comply with subpoenas for documents and prepare for Tuesday’s hearing.

”To say we have come with a contrite heart and say some day in the future we’ll negotiate simply isn’t satisfactory,” said Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, who called off the hearing after just two hours.

McCarty noted the insurer did have time to file a 51-page objection to the subpoena issued by the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Steve Parton, OIR’s general counsel, said Allstate’s objection asserted that most of the 59 areas where the agency sought documents and information were considered trade secrets by the company and thus couldn’t be turned over to regulators.

During the hearing, George Grawe, Allstate Floridian’s general counsel, complained repeatedly that OIR’s subpoena was “breathtakingingly broad.”

McCarty said many of the documents provided by Allstate already were public because they had been included in rate filings.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who has made lowering insurance rates one of his mantras in the past year, was taken aback by Allstate’s behavior at the hearing.

”I find it stunningly arrogant and I can’t believe they would actually do that and if there’s anything we can do from the governor’s office that can help . . . we stand at the ready to do,” Crist said.

Regulators and lawmakers have been eager to question Allstate because they want to know why the company failed to comply with a new insurance law passed last year.

That bill expanded the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to give insurers access to cheaper back-up insurance, even though the state would be shouldering big losses if another massive hurricane hits the state. Then, insurance companies were to apply the savings to lower rates.

Allstate initially indicated it would drop rates. But last fall, the company filed for a massive rate hike averaging nearly 42 percent.

”This dance is over,” said State Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, who sat through the hearing Tuesday morning and was clearly disturbed by Allstate’s refusal to provide detailed answers to just about every question posed by OIR.

Both McCarty and Atwater asked if Allstate’s intent was to limit the scope of OIR’s investigation by selectively producing documents and the witnesses it brought to the hearing.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Grawe pointed out that Allstate provided OIR with 30,000 pages of documentation so far and would continue turning over documents. But neither Grawe nor the two other company officials and its outside attorney would answer questions from the OIR panel on how Allstate decided which documents to turn over and which ones to withhold.

”Consumers are going to get relief and they will also get justice,” Atwater added. The senator will be chairing a joint Senate committee that will also investigate why many insurers haven’t complied with the new law and lower their rates.

Tuesday’s unprecedented inquiry was meant to examine Allstate’s reinsurance program and how it deals with agencies that rate its financial strength and the companies that have developed sophisticated computer models to help gauge exposure to future losses.

Though the OIR hearing was postponed for now, the heat on Allstate — and the industry — hasn’t been turned off.

McCarty said he will call Allstate back to testify — and hopefully get more information.

But given Allstate’s track record in Florida and other states, he wasn’t too optimistic. That leaves the insurance commissioner to consider what remedies OIR can take to compel Allstate to meet the state statute. One possibility: fines of $10,000 a day until the company delivers the documents and information the OIR is seeking. The ultimate sanction would be to revoke Allstate’s license to sell insurance in Florida.

OIR also is holding a news conference Wednesday morning to discuss an important property insurance issue. No other details were released.

The joint Senate committee, meanwhile, issued a list with its first witnesses for hearings on Feb. 4 and 5: Nationwide Insurance, Hartford Insurance, American Strategic Insurance, Florida Farm Bureau — and Allstate.

Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, called for hearings in the Florida House as well.

”I am also extremely concerned that the clock will run out on any savings because the enhanced reinsurance capacity of the CAT fund will soon expire,” said Gelber, noting that the expansion of the state CAT fund was set up for one year.

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.