The St. Petersburg Times ran a story regarding our firm’s involvement with influencing pro-policyholder legislation and regulation. One would think that if the insurance industry was truly most interested in their customers, they would support our efforts. The exact opposite is what happens, and my impression of the worst offenders in Florida are Citizens, Allstate and State Farm. These three insurance companies (Citizens is actually a governmental entity, by legislation it lobbied for) lobby our regulators and legislators to block laws that support and protect consumers as well as limit what few rights policyholders have through statute. Their financial and manpower resources are significant. These resources implemented through studied strategy along with well crafted propaganda in the news and ads make them formidable opponents to laws that would even the playing field for policyholders. Heck, they even have their bought for legislators use scare tactics if such pro-policyholder laws or enforcement of the same were to occur as exemplified in this past Thursday’s front page article regarding insurance reform.
We sent a letter in response to inaccuracies of the Times article.
In Response to State Senate panel awards $80,000 contract to law firm with attorney linked to anti-insurance group
First, my law firm is not "anti-insurance". We believe in the product and actively encourage individuals and corporations to be as fully insured as they can afford to be. We are a group of professionals who advocate against insurance companies that do not put the interests of their customers as their highest priority.
Jon Moyle was retained by the Merlin Law Group for three years to assist our efforts to promote legislation enhancing the rights of insurance customers and to counter the legion of insurance company lobbyists trying to do the opposite. Our aim is to level the playing field so consumers can trust in the "peace of mind" they seek to obtain from insurance companies.
When Mr. Moyle and his new firm were awarded work for the Florida Senate, he immediately resigned from representing our firm. This was clearly pointed out to Ms. Liberto, who was originally seeking to confirm that Moyle was still employed by our firm while working for the Senate.
Ms. Liberto also questioned our firm’s donations to Senator Atwater’s campaign. Senator Atwater is an honorable man and well respected leader in the Florida Senate. We will continue to support Senator Atwater’s diligent efforts to protect insurance policyholders’ rights. We also clarified with Ms. Liberto that the campaign contributions were made at a fund raiser.
It is smart for the Senate to want Mr. Moyle and his team– Mr. Moyle’s firm is familiar with big insurance claim practices, and they are the right firm for the job. Concerning the issues at hand, it would be foolish to hire lawyers that inherently protect insurance companies.
Ms. Liberto’s article conveniently comes at a time when a very important piece of pro-policyholder legislation sits on the Senate’s desk. It makes public claims practices documents detailing how Allstate, and presumably others, systematically reduce benefits to policyholders for the sake of profit. Obviously, Allstate, and countless other insurers, are shaking in their boots over the disclosure of how they actually handle their customers’ claims. If passed, these laws would force "big insurance" to finally do the right thing for Florida policyholders.
It is unfortunate to see my firm’s 25 years of focus on insurance law editorialized as "anti-insurance." Merlin Law Group protects and pursues policyholder rights. If "big insurance" would play by the rules and deliver on promises to policyholders, there would be no need for our services.
Ms. Liberto pointed out to us that it was the St. Petersburg Times‘ responsibility to report all the facts, which I agree with and am all for. But she clearly did not have the story she originally thought and decided to pursue a different approach.. The only beneficiary of this report is "big insurance" — and once again at the expense of policyholders.
William F "Chip" Merlin, Managing Partner, Merlin Law Group