State Farm was a topic of my speech yesterday at the First Party Claims Conference when an audience member, and then half the room, said State Farm was refusing to accept emails about claims. I am certain many otherwise mature State Farm claims employees must be embarrassed by this unique bad faith claims practice.
I couldn’t believe State Farm claims managers would require this until Judith Vickers, who is an officer of the Georgia Public Adjusters Association, forwarded me an email confirming the practice. This practice should be investigated by all Departments of Insurance and, for numerous reasons, severely sanctioned. Here is the email:
From: Bruce Mulkey <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: September 5, 2013 at 9:48:02 AM EDT
To: Judith Vickers
We have new guidelines which prevent claim reps from having e-mail communications with Public Adjusters. This was effective 9-4-2013. Please call or fax information to me in the future.
I would love to see the memo and internal emails discussing the candid reasons for this new guideline.
Robert Trautman of our Red Bank, New Jersey office was also in the audience. He told me that he was instructed State Farm would no longer accept emails from New Jersey attorneys representing State Farm customers with Superstorm Sandy claims. All I could say was, "you have to be kidding."
Another person in the audience said a State Farm claims person told him it was because State Farm was concerned about virus issues. The question is why this lie would be made, because the rest of the company is using emails to communicate.
Maybe State Farm should advertise that it will accept premium payments by digital wire and premium inquiries by email – but, if you have a claim and hire a professional to help, you will be discriminated against and have your claim delayed. A company that refuses to communicate in a normal fashion clearly has something to hide.
As I expressed in Should the Rust Family Stay in State Farm’s Power and Ownership Given the Recent Record of Policyholder and Corporate Citizen Ethics; State Farm’s Freakoutnomics; Is the State Farm Policy Really Worth Anything? and State Farm Allegedly Defrauded the Illinois Supreme Court and Gave Millions to a Judge Who Would Overturn a Billion Dollar Verdict Against It, there appears to be an ethical failure at the highest levels of State Farm’s management.
Who would allow a culture to exist where management of an entire claims organization would refuse to communicate in the normal course of commercial conduct? The possible answers are obvious and most that I talked to said that they involve dishonesty or incompetence.