Around the insurance world today

  • Florida still hasn’t decided whether it is going to act to save its no-fault auto insurance system from sunsetting.  This Miami Herald story is a very good update on the latest developments, which, surprisingly, include Gov. Charlie Crist deciding to keep mum.  That’s kind of like Wimpy going cold turkey on hamburgers, Yosemite Sam writing a book on etiquette or the Tasmanian Devil slipping on a top hat and tails — stuff you just never thought you’d see. The story’s headline — "Who’s fault is no-fault mess? — gives an indication to the observant of why Gov. Crist is resting his vocal chords: he’s not about to get blamed for what’s coming.
  • With limited deregulation of the Massachusetts auto insurance market, some companies are set to return, including Geico.  This Boston Globe interview with Gerald Fels, CEO of the Commerce Group, caught my eye because he doesn’t like the Geico caveman, which is one of my favorite ads of the last 10 years.  Commerce Group, which provides about a third of Massachusetts auto policies under the existing system where rates are set by the state, apparently is feeling a little edgy about competition:    

Q What do you think of the Geico caveman? It sounds like we might be seeing a lot more of him around here.

A It’s not my kind of commercial. From our marketing standpoint, I wouldn’t want to characterize our customers that way.

Q What’s wrong with that kind of advertising?

A Obviously it works, but our distribution model works a bit differently. We distribute our products through independent agents. We’ve always felt that when someone buys insurance, it’s a serious purchase. We try to make sure the coverages they buy are the right coverages for their lifestyle. That’s far more important than having catchy phrases or a strange character.

No accounting for tastes.   

  • Speaking of Boston, this is a fascinating story from the Globe about a state court judge who collected $3.41 million from the Boston Herald as a result of a libel suit, is now demanding $6.8 million from the Herald’s insurer for alleged bad faith (the insurer has countered with an offer of $100), and who himself faces ethics questions relating to the libel suit and other issues.  My favorite part of the story:

Though [Judge] Murphy won his case against the Herald, he has not emerged unscathed. The Commission on Judicial Conduct filed charges last month with the Supreme Judicial Court alleging that Murphy sent letters to the Herald that constitute "willful misconduct which brings the judicial office into disrepute."

Murphy sent the letters to Purcell after the verdict, requesting a private meeting to discuss getting more money from the tabloid, according to the commission.

"You will bring to that meeting a cashiers check, payable to me, in the sum of $3,260,000," wrote Murphy in a handwritten letter on Superior Court stationery. "No check no meeting. You will give me that check and I shall put it in my pocket."

In another letter, Murphy wrote, "It would be a mistake, Pat, to show this letter to anyone other than the gentleman whose authorized signature will be affixed to the check in question. In fact, a BIG mistake." A date has not yet been set for Murphy’s hearing on the misconduct charges.

Earlier this month, Governor Deval Patrick rejected an appeal by Murphy to retire early with a lucrative disability pension based on his contention that he has post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the defamation case.

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One Response to Around the insurance world today

  1. Drew

    What is it about judges that manifests itself in such hubris? The judge in Boston is merely one more example of the profession who seems to think that the authority they wield in their **own** courtroom(s) should be recognized throughout society.
    First, we have the “pants judge” in Washington who thinks that alterations to his pants are worth millions. This is followed by the Supreme Court Justice in New Jersy who apparently thinks that it is not unseemly for him to intervene in a spat between his son and another kid on the high school football team by contacting the county prosecutor (again, using what appeared to be “official” stationery) in order to press a criminal complaint.
    The judges seem to get carried away with their own importance; as a result, the rest of society must (apparently) defer to their wishes.
    I hope the Boston judge gets what he wants – some sort of justice. However, this time, he shouldn’t get to fight his fight on “home turf”. Rather, let’s see a court in another jurisdiction (perhaps federal?) make the ground rules even.