Branch Consultants vs Multiple Insurers and Adjusting Firms Whistleblower case thrown out by Judge today!

Here is breaking news on the Branch Consultant case which is the case involving 4 unnamed adjusters alleging under the False Claims Act that a multitude of carriers and multiple independent adjusting firms moved wind damages to the flood program improperly charging them with wind damages by attributing the damage to flood.

Here is the news article today on this case indicating the judge threw out the case.

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/10/17/business/NA-FIN-US-Katrina-Insurance.php

Here is a 2nd article that came out tonight which reveals for the first time that I have seen in any articles the name of one of the adjusters:

“Kanner said that he believes that the only hope of a real investigation of possible overbilling of the National Flood Insurance Program is for someone in Congress to invite his key adjuster, Max Johnson, to testify about his findings and demand to know why the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of the flood program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, isn’t doing more. ” Read the rest of the linked article for additional comments by Branch’s attorney, Mr Kanner.

http://blog.nola.com/tpmoney/2007/10/whistleblower_lawsuit_alleging.html

* Note this link above also discloses many more reasons why Judge Beer dismissed the case because of the Rigsby/Renfroe/State Farm case. Simply interesting for those of us in the adjusting community. This link is a must read. Also from this link you’ll see a list of the carriers and adjusting firms that were named in the suit but read farther down in my blog entry for the article that says Allied adjusting firm was the 5th adjusting firm also named in the suit:

“The Branch case involved Allstate Insurance Co., State Farm, Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co., Fidelity National Insurance Co., Fidelity National Property and Casualty Insurance Co., American National Property and Casualty Co., American Reliable Insurance Co., Standard Fire Insurance Co., Pilot Catastrophe Services Inc., Crawford and Co., NCA Group Inc., Simsol Insurance Services Inc., and Colonial Claims Corp.

The Rigsby case was filed against State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide Insurance Co., USAA Insurance Co. , Forensic Analysis Engineering Corp., Exponent Failure Analysis, Haag Engineering Co., Jade Engineering, Rimkus Consulting Group Inc., Structure Group, Renfroe and several individuals.”

I hope Rossmiller’s blog  provides more in depth review of the activity today and links to the court documents. I’ll post more information as other news is released on this case.

Here you will find some links to a history of articles on the case and the court documents:

US Attorney won’t intervene in the case:

http://channels.isp.netscape.com/pf/story.jsp?floc=FF-APO-1333&idq=/ff/story/0001%2F20070531%2F1734614259.htm&sc=1333

May Times- Piscayne article “Insurers accused of overbilling the federal Government”

http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/05/whistleblower_suit_accuses_ins.html

June article (not part of this case but related) saying Government Accountability office (GAO) did not find problems alleged:

http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/06/flood_insurance_relies_on_priv.html

Just totally for the human interest of it..here’s Kanner’s picture- the attorney who represented the whistleblowers:

Here’s Kanners profile/picture:

http://www.kanner-law.com/CM/Custom/AllanKanner.html

I found the Kanner Law firm website- note on his publications page he sites a forthcoming article on Property Damage Claims and Business Interruption losses. While there are links to many cases they have handled, I don’t find one for this suit:

http://www.kanner-law.com/CM/Custom/TOCPublications.html

Dr Michael Birzon’s of the University of Central FL’s earlier blog on the case:

http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-4lk2FhszcrRr.5PFKQg9lJQ-?cq=1

The earlier articles above didn’t name the 5th adjusting firm but this article does list Allied as the 5th adjusting firm and goes into much more details on the fines:

We now have the 5th name in this National Underwriter article- Allied out of Ft Lauderdale:

http://www.propertyandcasualtyinsurancenews.com/cms/nupc/Breaking+News/2007/05/31-FLOODSCAM-dh

There is much more in this article also about 8 billion in fraud and 11,000 fines,etc…

Here’s a 2nd article that listed Allied Adjusting:

http://www.propertyandcasualtyinsurancenews.com/cms/nupc/Templates/website/PrinterFriendly.aspx?%7B79E60F75-0D0E-49FF-9FEF-D1E9F993470E%7D

Next was the important action in July 2007 by Judge Beer’s requesting the US Justice Department become involved:

http://blog.nola.com/tpmoney/2007/06/judge_in_whistleblower_case_de.html

I found the article specifying how much these whistleblowers stood to gain- here is what it says so if the federal government had gotten involved, they would get reduced fees but it would still be a huge windfall to these whistleblowers due to the extent alleged to be involved:

“If whistleblowers are successful in pursuing the suit without the U.S. attorney’s intervention, they could be awarded as much as 30 percent of the proceeds if the suit is victorious. If the U.S. attorney’s office decides later to take over the investigation and the effort is successful, the whistleblowers’ take is reduced to 15 percent to 25 percent of the proceeds, Dugas said, because the government is the one doing the heavy lifting.

Under the False Claims Act, anyone who knowingly submits fake bills to the government is liable for three times the amount of damages sustained by the government, according to the Branch suit. There is also a civil penalty. “

http://www.nola.com/timespic/stories/index.ssf?/base/money-3/1180597383262250.xml&coll=1&thispage=4

It’s on page 4 of this 6 page story.

Here is a link to the original complaint filed:

http://www.insurancecoverageblog.com/Branch%20Consultants%20complaint.pdf

Here was an article coming out of Mobile, AL quoting Pilot Catastrophe Services attorney on the case:

http://www.al.com/news/press-register/index.ssf?/base/news/1181467015194040.xml&coll=3&thispage=1

Congressman Gene Taylor’s website comments on the allegations of carrier abuse:

http://www.house.gov/genetaylor/OIHearing.Docs.htm

Another June article out of LA on the reliance on private insurers involved in flood:

http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/06/flood_insurance_relies_on_priv.html

This July Claims Journal article advised Scottsdale Insurance had been dropped from the suit:

http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2007/07/02/81384.htm

Here was a July Bloomberg.com article quoting several other carriers involved in the suit:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601203&refer=insurance&sid=a9GhCOEreUzM

Forbes.com wrote a July 9, 2007 article which said in part that the request for Justice Dept involvement was withdrawn ( link is no longer working but with Forbes subscription I’m sure you can find it based on topic and having date written-below is a quote from that article):

http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/07/09/ap3895535.html

“A federal judge on Monday withdrew an order challenging U.S. Attorney David Dugas for not intervening in a whistleblowers’ lawsuit that accuses insurance companies of overbilling the federal government for flood damage from Hurricane Katrina.”

Here’s another article..sounds like the 2 folks who commented on the article are ready to shout “guilty” against the insurance industry as they have no understanding of the NFIP directives to carriers:

http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/07/federal_judge_withdraws_order.html

Now here’s some of the best info I’ve seen on the whistleblower case and what happened  explaining it all with links to the US attorney’s brief and the original request..very interesting:

http://www.insurancecoverageblog.com/archives/first-party-insurance-united-states-asks-judge-beer-to-vacate-show-cause-order-denies-judges-authority-to-order-us-to-join-whistleblower-katrina-suit.html

Here is the US Attorney’s brief filed Friday:

http://www.insurancecoverageblog.com/Branch%20Consultants%20memorandum%20by%20United%20States%20in%20response%20to%20show%20cause%20order.pdf

Homeland Security Report- 18 pages worth reading- their survey and findings on the files. Make sure to note that this says they have subpeoned the wind files from the WYO carriers:

http://www.insurancecoverageblog.com/Branch%20Consultants%20preliminary%20report%20of%20DHS%20on%20NFIP.pdf

Here is Branch’s response to the court on IG brief filed:

http://www.insurancecoverageblog.com/Branch%20response%20to%20U.S..pdf

Links to various states whistleblower acts on False Claims Act- I didn’t realize they varied by states- some allow only for False claims involving health issues- anyway- here is the state by state guidelines:

http://www.phillipsandcohen.com/CM/StateFalseClaimsLaws/StateFalseClaimsLaws152.asp

And here is other information on the False Claims Act in general:

http://www.phillipsandcohen.com/CM/Custom/TOCFalseClaimsAct.asp

That’s the entire history of articles I had on this case. I will post the pdf document for the dismissal as soon as it’s located. This is an important case for adjusters to study and learn from.  I hate to think of the dollars wasted on E and O and other defense costs involved by the adjusters, adjusting firms, and carriers who had been named in the suit. No one in the claims industry including policyholders had anything to gain on this case as the expense all results in higher premiums for us all down the road. Make sure you read what these whistleblowers stood to gain in the links provided above. The hard part is to know the adjusters  making the allegations were anonymous and still out there working for carriers and/or adjusting firms. Cases like this cost all independents jobs…..we’ve all watched as carriers have increased their numbers of staff adjusters since this case and the Rigsby/Renfroe/State Farm case also involved independent adjusters.

The initial news article posted at the top of this blog addresses the possibilty of an appeal so this may not be over yet. After 30 years in the property claims business, I find it very tough to believe the allegations in this case but by viewing all information posted publicly on the case, I’m trying to learn both sides of the issue and hope that you will also by viewing all information available to us  like that found in the links above. I would imagine I’ll have lots of supplemental comments to this blog as new information becomes available this week.

**************

**Update 10/18- I knew David Rossmiller of the Insurance Coverage blog would come through with an update on this. Here is today’s entry which ties all of this together for us and also mentions the connection with this case and the Rigsby whistleblower case:

http://www.insurancecoverageblog.com/archives/industry-developments-federal-judge-beer-dismisses-katrina-whistleblower-suit-in-louisiana-how-this-case-fits-in-with-usa-v-dickie-scruggs.html

Also, Dr Michael Birzon of the University of Central FL wrote the following blog last night found here:

http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-4lk2FhszcrRr.5PFKQg9lJQ-?cq=1&p=285

I’ll continue to update this throughout the day if any significant new things are learned. We only have 1 of the 4 adjuster’s names thus far and if I find the other 3 I’ll post it immediately.

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2 Responses to Branch Consultants vs Multiple Insurers and Adjusting Firms Whistleblower case thrown out by Judge today!

  1. [...] located info over at FOLO that the Branch Consultant group has now filed an Appeal on the case. Here is a link to our former blog with all the details on this Whistleblower case alleging adjusters improperly [...]

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