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Wildfire evacuees may be entitled to additional living expenses from insurance companies

July 30, 2010 1 comment

SACRAMENTO (Press Release)–California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner reminded residents who have been evacuated due to the recent wildfires (including the Crown Fire, West Fire and Bull Fire,) that they may be eligible for reimbursement for additional living expenses due to mandatory evacuations. Commissioner Poizner also encouraged all Californians to make sure their insurance policies are updated and to conduct a home inventory today.

“Anyone who has been forced to evacuate their home due to the recent wildfires should check their insurance policies. Many homeowners policies cover additional living expenses that result from mandatory evacuations – including hotel stays and extra food costs. If any evacuees have insurance questions, I encourage them to call the Department of Insurance at 800-927-HELP.”   

Many residential homeowners insurance policies cover what is known as ALE, or additional living expenses. This permits homeowners to maintain their normal standard of living by covering the increased living expenses incurred as a result of damage caused by the fire or a mandatory evacuation. ALE coverage typically includes extra food costs, increased housing costs, furniture rental, relocation and storage costs, telephone installation and extra transportation costs to and from school or work, after the deductible is reached.

A free home inventory guide is available on the Department of Insurance website or by calling the CDI Consumer Hotline at 800-927-HELP.  

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Preceding provided by California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner

Poizner announces rate reduction for Farmers Insurance policy-holders

July 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Steve Poizner announces rate reduction

LOS ANGELES (Press Release)–California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced on Tuesday that hundreds of thousands of Farmers Insurance customers are eligible to receive an average rate reduction of 14.5 percent and a one time 10 percent insurance premium rebate, worth a combined total of up to $100 million.

“Farmers Insurance’s $100 million rate reduction is great news for consumers who we know are feeling the brunt of the state’s faltering economy,” said Commissioner Poizner at a press conference overlooking a Los Angeles freeway. “Californians deserve to have as many insurance companies competing for their insurance business as possible. I’m glad Farmers Insurance is a part of this trend.”

Customers of Farmers Insurance are insured through one of their two major auto insurance subsidiaries, Farmers Insurance Exchange and Mid-Century Insurance Co. Tuesday’s rate cut announcement applies to those under the Farmers Insurance Exchange banner. Farmers Insurance customers insured by the subsidiary, Mid-Century Insurance Co., are already receiving the new lower rate.                                                                                                                             

Those currently insured by Farmers Insurance Exchange and renew their policies between July 15, 2010 and Jan. 15, 2011 will receive a one-time 10 percent rebate on their premiums. That rebate is estimated to be worth approximately $50 per insured car or $32 million. In addition, those same customers will also receive an ongoing rate cut of approximately 15 percent worth an estimated $72 million.

Below is a summary of the rate decrease by media market:

Media Market Percent Rate Reduction
Los Angeles 15.8%
San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose 16.1%
San Diego 14.9%
Sacramento 15.1%
Fresno, Visalia 9.8%
Palm Springs 16.4%
Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo 7.3%
Bakersfield 6.1%

Overall, Farmers Insurance insures about 2 million cars in California. Its Farmers Insurance Exchange subsidiary insures approximately 640,000 vehicles statewide.

 Since Commissioner Poizner took office, he has worked to ensure an efficient and competitive auto insurance market and auto insurance rates have decreased by more than $1.3 billion.

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Preceding provided by State Insurance Commissioner Poizner

California insurance companies already divesting Iran-related assets

July 1, 2010 Leave a comment

SACRAMENTO (Press Release)–On the same day President Obama is expected to sign a tough new law expanding sanctions against the Iranian government, California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced that his relentless focus on reducing the exposure of California policyholders to risky Iran-related investments resulted in insurers selling nearly one fifth of the assets the industry holds in the 50 companies the California Department of Insurance (CDI) has identified to be doing business with Iran’s nuclear, energy and defense sectors in the first quarter of 2010.

“In the weeks before my order to disqualify risky Iran-related investments from their books took effect, insurance companies sold hundreds of millions of dollars of investments in companies that prop up the oppressive Iranian government,” said Commissioner Poizner. “This proves that insurance companies can do the right thing and make safe and profitable investments without having to resort to investing in companies that actively do business in rouge elements of the Iranian economy.”

As of March 31, 2010, CDI ordered statement disqualification for holdings in the 50 Iran-related companies. A detailed analysis indicates that at the end of 2009, insurers licensed to do business in California held $2 billion of investments in the 50 companies. As of March 31, 2010, those holdings had dramatically decreased to $1.6 billion. To put these numbers in context, in 2009 – prior to Commissioner Poizner’s initiative – insurers doubled their investment in Iran-related companies to $2 billion. In the first three months of 2010, insurers reversed course and sold 20 percent of these holdings.

In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iranian sanctions at the federal level had yielded only modest tangible results. At that time, existing U.S. sanctions had led to less than $43 million in Iranian money frozen – approximately a quarter of what Iran earns in oil revenue in a single day.

However, President Obama is expected to sign the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act today, a new law that punishes foreign financial and energy firms that invest in Iran. The United Nations and European Union have also both recently expanded their sanctions to increase pressure on the Iranian government.

Commissioner Poizner has taken the lead in protecting California consumers by encouraging insurers to reduce investment holdings in the 50 companies on the CDI investment list. In April, he announced that more than 1,000 insurers licensed in California had pledged to forgo future investments in the identified companies. At that time Commissioner Poizner also released a list of companies that would not agree to an investment moratorium. These insurance companies include MetLife, Safeco and Hartford. The complete list can be found by selecting this link.

Commissioner Poizner first announced his Terror Financing Probe in June 2009 to review compliance with a recently-enacted California law that prohibits insurers from investing in designated state sponsors of terror. As part of a data call issued by the Commissioner, insurance companies were required to identify direct investments in designated sectors of the Iranian economy and indirect investments in companies doing business in those sectors. In December 2009, the Department announced that insurers reported no direct investments in Iran and therefore were in full compliance with state law prohibiting those types of investments. A CDI review of insurer financial statements, however, uncovered billions of dollars of indirect investments in companies doing business with the Iranian oil and natural gas, nuclear and defense sectors.

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Preceding provided by California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner

 

Poizner lauds California’s ‘drive less, pay less’ insurance program

June 29, 2010 1 comment

SACRAMENTO (Press Release) –Insurance Commissioner Poizner announced on Tuesday  that the Automobile Club of Southern California has submitted an application to offer an innovative program that rewards California drivers who voluntarily drive fewer miles with lower auto insurance rates.

“The voluntary pay-as-you-drive initiative is a cutting-edge program that will allow insurers to offer plans based on more accurate mileage, so that people who choose to drive less will pay less for auto insurance,” said Commissioner Poizner. “The regulations I finalized last year allow insurers to offer this innovative option without compromising consumer privacy. I’m pleased to see that Auto Club of Southern California plans to offer this kind of coverage to policyholders. I hope other insurers follow suit.”

The Auto Club of Southern California is the second insurer to submit a rating plan in which drivers’ auto insurance rates will depend on actual mileage driven instead of estimated mileage. The new approach to rating has been made possible by the pay-as-you-drive regulations introduced by Commissioner Poizner. The regulations went into effect in October 2009.

Assuming that the Auto Club of Southern California obtains approval from the Department, its customers will have an option to remain under the current estimated mileage program, in which mileage is estimated by the policyholder and self-reported to the insurer, or they may move into one of two new verified mileage plans: “odometer verified” or “telematics verified.”

Customers who opt into the “odometer verified” plan will report their exact mileage to the insurer, as indicated by the odometer. Mileage will be less expensive under the “odometer verified” plan than under the current estimated mileage plan. Customers who opt to participate in the “telematics verified” plan will have their mileage verified through a technological device. Mileage will be less expensive under the “telematics verified” plan than under the “odometer verified” plan.

Additional details on the type of device used in the “telematics verified” plan are not yet available, although CDI regulations explicitly prohibit insurers from using a technological device to gather vehicle location data for rating purposes.

The filing is now under review by the Department of Insurance. This new plan proposed by Auto Club of Southern California must be approved by Commissioner Poizner before being placed on the market for consumers to purchase.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance submitted an application to sell this kind of insurance in May 2010. The filing is currently under review.

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Preceding provided by California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner

A good day for Jewish incumbents, but not for other Jewish candidates

June 9, 2010 Leave a comment

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – Jewish incumbents on San Diego County ballots won election or renomination to their seats in California’s primaries on Tuesday, but most Jewish candidates running for open seats fell short of the mark, or placed second for runoff spots. San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis won outright reelection in a nonpartisan race. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Congress Members Susan Davis and Bob Filner, and State Assembly member Marty Block all won renominations in their respective Democratic party primaries. Howard Katz, in an unopposed Democratic primary, won the right to oppose Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, setting up a contest between members of the Jewish and Lebanese-American communities.

Among Jewish hopefuls falling by the wayside were State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner who lost in an expensive Republican primary contest for governor to Meg Whitman; Orly Taitz, who sought the Republican nomination for Secretary of State; Mike Schmier who placed way back in the GOP race for attorney general; and David Nussbaum who was well behind the pack in the nonpartisan contest for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

That trend held up in local contests as well: In the 36th State Senate District, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone came in second to Assemblyman Joel Anderson for the Republican nomination; in the 76th Assembly District, Naomi Bar Lev placed third for the Republican nomination, and in the 6th San Diego City Council District race, Howard Wayne placed behind Lorie Zapf. Because neither Wayne nor Zapf had a majority, they will have a runoff election in November to replace termed-out City Council Member Donna Frye.

In contests in which major Jewish figures played behind-the-scenes roles, there were mixed results. Former County Sheriff Bill Kolender saw his hand-picked successor, Bill Gore, win easy election as sheriff. On the other hand, San Diego City Council member Marti Emerald was unsuccessful in persuading the voters to block the proposal to make the “strong mayor” system of government permanent and to return instead to having a city manager serve as the chief executive of the municipality.

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Most insurance companies agree not to invest in companies doing business with Iran

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

SACRAMENTO (Press Release)–California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner on Thursday announced that 1,010 insurance companies – more than 75 percent of insurers licensed to do business in California — have agreed to forgo future investments in 50 companies identified as doing business with Iran’s nuclear, energy or defense sectors.

“This is a great victory for California consumers and sends a strong message to the regime in Iran,” said Commissioner Poizner. “More than 1,000 insurance companies have done the right thing and agreed that not another dime of their investments will go towards propping up that oppressive regime.”
 

As of March 31, 2010, the California Department of Insurance (CDI) disqualified an estimated $6 billion in holdings in the 50 Iran-related companies. This estimate is based on 2008 data, the most recent available information to be analyzed.

“With Tehran continuing its headlong rush to go nuclear, with Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad threatening genocide against Israel, with millions of Iranian people seeking to free themselves from the yoke of the Ayatollahs, it is outrageous that these companies have decided that it’s business as usual and will continue to invest in companies that actively support the Iranian government,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“Commissioner Poizner should be commended for his leadership on this issue. All we have seen from the United Nations and the Obama administration and Congress is mostly talk. In California, we have real action and tangible results.”

Insurer investment in the 50 companies on the CDI investment lists totaled $1.8 billion during 2008 and averaged approximately $1 billion per year from 2005-07. Given this record, the decision by more than 1,000 licensees to agree to the investment moratorium means hundreds of millions of investment dollars will likely be diverted from these companies in the coming years.

California has the 4th largest insurance market in the world – and as a whole, insurers are the largest investor group in the global economy, with an estimated $3 to $4 trillion in investments.

Commissioner Poizner also released a list of companies who would not agree to the moratorium. These insurance companies include MetLife, Safeco and Hartford. 

Earlier this year, Commissioner Poizner announced that 100 percent of the 1,306 insurance companies licensed in California responded to his request to provide data on their investments with companies doing business with Iran’s, nuclear, defense, and energy sectors.

Commissioner Poizner first announced his Terror Financing Probe in June 2009 to review compliance with a recent California law that prohibits insurers from investing in designated state sponsors of terror. As part of a data call issued by the Commissioner, insurance companies were required to identify their direct investments in designated sectors of the Iranian economy and indirect investments in companies doing business in those sectors. In December 2009, the Department announced that insurers reported no direct investments in Iran and therefore are in full compliance with state law prohibiting those investments. But the Department uncovered billions of dollars of indirect investments in companies doing business with the Iranian oil and natural gas, nuclear and defense sectors.

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Preceding provided by California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner

Poizner announces arrests in alleged auto collision scams

April 22, 2010 1 comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced on Wednesday the arrests of eight suspects in connection with an auto fraud ring case.  The individuals arrested under Operation Hit and Run are suspected of faking traffic collisions and filing fraudulent personal injury claims with insurance companies. Since October 2009, 11 suspects were arrested in connection with this fraud ring.
“Criminals who involve themselves in elaborate and dangerous schemes to make an extra buck are endangering their own lives and the lives of other drivers,” said Commissioner Poizner. “I am pleased with the hard work of CDI investigators and fraud task force members who uncovered this fraud ring.”
 

On April 21, the San Diego Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force arrested eight suspects. The arrests relate to a series of staged accidents where suspects faked traffic collisions, were transported to a local hospital for treatment and filed personal injury claims with the insurer. Based on arrest warrants obtained on October 29, 2009, the San Diego Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force arrested a total of 11 defendants in relation to this investigation and charged 83 felony counts. 
The arrests are tied to five separate staged traffic collisions. The collisions all have a similar fact pattern of a vehicle being struck by an abandoned vehicle that was previously reported stolen. The suspects to be arrested are all connected by family relationships, police contacts, and connections to the primary suspect in this case, Jay Stoney Anderson.

In all five traffic collisions, there were identical motives and facts of loss. The collisions were allegedly staged and police were called to the scene. When the police arrived, the vehicle at fault was always determined to be abandoned at the scene and had previously been reported stolen by the registered owner. In each case, the suspects claimed to be injured and were transported via ambulance to a local emergency room for treatment. The suspects each filed personal injury claims with the insurer and failed to reimburse the hospital for the outstanding bill. The total loss in this case exceeds $200,000.

CDI launched an investigation when Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Progressive Insurance Company notified the Department of possible fraud. The Special Investigation Units of these companies met with representatives of the San Diego Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force to share information. The information provided later identified a criminal ring suspected of staging more than eleven collisions over a one-year period. Additional information in support of this investigation was provided by Special Investigation Units from Republic Western Insurance Company, AIG, 21st Century Insurance Company, GEICO Insurance, and Nationwide Mutual Insurance.

The comprehensive investigation revealed multiple alleged connections between the suspects and Jay Stoney Anderson and the abandoned vehicles. In two of the collisions charged, the suspects allegedly used a rented U-Haul that was later reported stolen and used to stage the traffic collisions.
 
Arrested on April 21 were: Tamar Bradley, Wade Bradley, Michael Jones, Jiaire Martin, Rodney Martin, Shareese Spence, George Thomas, and Frank Torbert III.

The office of San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is prosecuting this case. All suspects are expected to be arraigned in San Diego Superior Court.

The San Diego Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force is made up of members from the California Department of Insurance, San Diego District Attorney’s Office, California Highway Patrol-Border Division, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Commissioner Poizner oversees sixteen CDI Enforcement Branch regional offices throughout the state. Nearly 2,800 insurance fraud-related arrests have been made by CDI since Commissioner Poizner took office in 2007 – more arrests than have been made during any other three year period, under any previous insurance commissioner.

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Preceding provided by Steve Poizner, now a Republican candidate for governor.  He and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis both are members of the Jewish community.

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