Consumer Advocate Challenges Insurance Executive Behind Prop 17 to Debate Initiative at Legislative Hearing

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Harvey Rosenfield to Mercury Insurance Chairman: Put Your
Mouth Where Your Money Is

Santa Monica, CA — The founder of Consumer Watchdog today challenged
George Joseph, the founder and chair of Mercury Insurance, to show up to
a legislative hearing in Sacramento to publicly defend his ballot
initiative, Proposition 17. Prop 17, which would allow insurance
companies to raise premiums on drivers based on their history of buying
auto insurance, is 99% funded by Mercury and a particular focus of
Joseph’s decades long effort to evade accountability to consumers.

Harvey Rosenfield wrote to Joseph today urging him to stop hiding
behind his public relations flacks, front groups and radio ads and
attend next Wednesday’s joint hearing of the California Assembly
Insurance Committee and Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee
to explain why voters in California should trust Mercury Insurance and
its quest to enact Prop 17.

In his letter to Joseph, Rosenfield points out that the insurance
executive has privately defended his initiative in recent calls to
several people who have spoken out against Prop 17.  Now Joseph has an
obligation to come forward and publicly defend this culmination of a
decade-long attack on state consumer protections, Rosenfield writes.

“The time has come for you to stop hiding behind your paid surrogates
and defend your Captain Ahab-like quest to surcharge and discriminate
against motorists before the public…This is not like one of those
legislative hearings where you can do your dirty work through lobbyists
and donations to the politicians. Will you be there to defend publicly
what you are saying privately, or will it be another one of your
flunkies who does your bidding?

“I’ll be waiting to see if you have the courage to face me and our
publicly elected officials. If you don’t, sir, you have no business
sponsoring a ballot measure in this state.”

In the letter, which can be found at,
Rosenfield notes state agency reports on Mercury’s history of
discrimination, fines by state regulators and that Mercury ranks at the
bottom of the most recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey: 27th of
32 large auto insurers.

Rosenfield suggests that Joseph fears voters will not trust his
campaign to pass Prop 17 if Californians learned more about the company
funding the initiative.

“Are you hiding because you are concerned that your sorry record
might actually affect the public’s view of your initiative?…Come out
from behind the gilded boardroom doors and let’s have an honest and
thorough public discussion about Prop 17.”

Proposition 17 would create an insurance surcharge on drivers,
including soldiers and seniors, who have had a lapse in car insurance
coverage for virtually any reason during the past five years, or who
missed a payment.  Under the measure, people who stopped driving and
didn’t need insurance for a time would be required to pay up to a
thousand dollars more for car insurance when they sought to restart
coverage.  Currently, insurance companies are prohibited from imposing
the surcharge in California.

The initiative is opposed by consumer and citizen groups including
Consumers Union, Consumer Watchdog, Consumer Federation of California,
California Alliance of Retired Americans and

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Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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