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
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.