Mercury Insurance Chair Refuses to Defend His Initiative, Prop 17

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 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, 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

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