Our long-time friend and colleague Mike Mattoch died suddenly at his desk last week. He was 66 years old.
Mike was a hero in every sense of the word. He was a veteran, serving in the Army and later the California national guard. For our cause, holding insurance companies accountable to policyholders, he did more than his duty — from the inside where he worked in the belly of the beast to his role for years as our lobbyist in Sacramento on the outside.
When Mike was the insurance company USAA’s lobbyist in Sacramento and deputy general counsel, he got USAA to oppose the Mercury insurance ballot measure to gut Prop 103’s protections against people being charged more when they dropped coverage, even if they didn’t have cars. The provision attacked veterans and Mike’s offense was to the benefit of drivers— the split in the insurance industry helped us to defeat the initiative at the ballot box twice against great odds.
It took courage to stand up to Mercury Insurance’s billionaire CEO George Joseph on principle and put his job and reputation on the line. Mike had no shortage of courage. He served as an informant in high profile Justice Department sting campaigns and his connections, information, and talents helped preserve Prop 103 and accountability for politicians and companies of all stripes.
He served California well as an honest broker and quintessential public servant in jobs with Pete Wilson’s Department of Corporations, John Garamendi’s Department of Insurance and as principal consultant to the Assembly Insurance Committee. In the Assembly Insurance Committee job, Mike made his mark on the state’s workers compensation overhaul. He would recall with that classic smile and chuckle how Senator Pro Tem John Burton, who shepherded the reform bill, used to call him ”Matlock.”
Mike told me time and again how it was the honor of his life to work directly for Consumer Watchdog after a career in government and industry. I can say we were the honored ones to have worked beside him and called him friend.
At Consumer Watchdog, Mike was integral in our efforts to hold insurance companies accountable in the legislature and prevent them from them from gaining more leverage over consumers. For example, Mike single handedly stopped State Farm from gaining the right to steer accident victims to its captive auto body shops. Mike was instrumental as well in the landmark 2022 victory to change the 45 year old limits on medical malpractice victims’ rights. As former lobbyist for the medical lobby, Mike came forward in a documentary called “Making A Killing” to offer testimony as a whistleblower about how the lobby used its money and power to preserve the cruel law. As our man in the capitol, he held pro-industry appointees accountable when it came time for their Senate confirmation hearings.
Mike was the kind of guy people called with problems, and he always helped if he could, because he liked to help and believed in justice. We once spent a Memorial Day weekend trying to get a veteran air lifted out of a country he was stranded in with a health care problem because he believed right was right.
Mike was always at the ready with a smile and a joke. He was the guy you wanted right next to you in combat. We will miss him greatly and so will the cause of justice.