Mercury Insurance Chair Refuses to Defend His Initiative, Prop 17

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This Wednesday morning, two legislative committees will hold a joint
hearing on Proposition 17, funded by Mercury Insurance. But it looks
like Mercury’s Chairman George Joseph is not going to bother showing up
for it.

The founder of Consumer Watchdog, Harvey Rosenfield, has challenged
Joseph to attend the hearing in Sacramento to publicly defend his ballot
initiative. 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

Joseph has already spent $3.5 million on Prop 17 to advance his
greedy cause. So what’s up George, why won’t you put your mouth where
your money is?

Harvey Rosenfield wrote to Joseph late last week urging him to stop
hiding behind his public relations flacks, front groups and radio ads
and attend the 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

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

In the letter, 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.

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 $1000
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

We were wondering if Joseph was going to step up after reading the
letter, so earlier today I called Coby King, who serves as Mercury’s
communications director, to ask if Joseph would be flying to Sacramento –
but alas, no response.

More information at:

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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