Los Angeles, CA – Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara’s office will delay disclosure of the Commissioner’s calendar or records of his meetings with insurance companies to August 31st, according to a communication sent to Consumer Watchdog.
Commissioner Lara said that he would disclose his calendars in response to revelations that he took $54,300 in campaign contributions from insurance executives and their spouses, took actions that benefited the insurance company connected to three of those donors, and met with the company’s CEO.
The delay comes after a new report in the San Diego Union-Tribune this week that Commissioner Lara’s Department of Insurance was the source of legislation that will benefit a pet insurance company connected to the fourth donor. The bill, AB 1535, was signed by the Governor Wednesday.
Read the Union-Tribune story here: https://www.consumerwatchdog.org/news-story/new-actions-state-insurance-commissioner-appear-benefit-another-campaign-donor
Read Consumer Watchdog’s AB 1535 veto letter to Governor Newsom: https://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2019-08/LtrGovNewsomVetoAB1535%207-26-19.pdf
Politico also reported this week on a speech Lara gave to insurance industry lawyers behind closed doors where he said he was “receptive” to their ideas for, among other things, allowing insurers to connect unsafe tracking technology to cars’ safety-critical systems.
Read the Politico story here: https://www.consumerwatchdog.org/news-story/lara-tells-insurers-hes-receptive-their-ideas-including-vehicle-data-use
“The imperative for Commissioner Ricardo Lara to release his calendars has grown with new revelations that his Department of Insurance sponsored legislation that benefitted a campaign donor, and after the Commissioner’s own pandering to the industry in a closed-door speech,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog. “Commissioner Lara wants to let insurance companies tap into a car’s brakes and steering to track the way we drive, using systems that are protected by nothing more than smartphone level technology. Yet he’s unwilling to use his own smartphone for the reason it was created and take a few screenshots to make his calendars public today. What plausible reason could there be for delay if the Commissioner has nothing to hide?”
Consumer Watchdog issued a report on Tuesday, “Kill Switch,” that revealed how the auto industry is placing us all at risk of a fleet-wide hack by connecting cars’ safety-critical systems to the internet using insecure technology developed for smartphones. In his speech to the industry, Commissioner Lara embraced insurers’ use of telematics technology that would also allow insurers to remotely connect to safety-critical systems in our cars and leave us at greater risk of hacks.
“We are very disappointed and concerned that the Department is delaying production on Request 1 (Conferences) and Request 2 (out-of-state travel) until August 31, 2019,” wrote Consumer Watchdog litigation director Jerry Flanagan in response to the Department. “Please explain why the Department proposes another month of delay until any responsive documents are produced. Given that the Public Records Act requires records to be produced promptly, Consumer Watchdog calls on the Department to produce responsive records on an on-going basis as they are identified, including producing all currently identified documents immediately.”
In the nearly two months that have passed since Consumer Watchdog submitted its Public Records request, on June 5th, Commissioner Lara’s office has produced a total of 31 pages of records that are unrelated to the Commissioner’s calendar or travel. More than half are emails from Consumer Watchdog to the Department, and relate to his rejection of two petitions submitted by 70 consumer, environmental and civil rights groups to: 1) End discrimination based on job and education in auto insurance pricing, and 2) respond to the climate change crisis by requiring disclosure of insurance companies’ fossil fuel underwriting and investments.
Read the communications regarding the August 31st delay here: https://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2019-08/Aug%201%20email%20to%20CDI.pdf
Read the original Public Records request here: https://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2019-08/PRA%20to%20CDI_Commissioner%20Lara_June%204.pdf
Link added 8-5-19 Read Consumer Watchdog’s response to the Insurance Commissioner’s initial refusal to provide his calendars, and narrowing of the Public Records Request to records reflecting meetings with individuals connected to the donors and insurance companies Commissioner Lara’s actions benefited: https://consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2019-07/LettertoCDIJuly11.pdf
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