Insurance industry fraud and collusion by executives, agents, brokers, lenders, and others is one of the most costly crimes in the United States. Some experts have estimated that annual cost of white collar crime in the insurance industry to be over $120 billion nationally. Recent legislative proposals seek to curtail anticompetitive behavior within the industry. However, in the absence of comprehensive regulation, Robbins Geller has played a critical role as private attorney general in protecting the rights of consumers against insurance fraud and other unfair business practices within the insurance industry.
Specifically, Robbins Geller attorneys have long been at the forefront of litigating race discrimination issues within the life insurance industry. For example, the Firm has fought the practice by certain insurers of charging African-American and other people of color more for life insurance than similarly situated Caucasians. Robbins Geller recovered over $400 million for African-Americans and other minorities as redress for civil rights abuses, including landmark recoveries in McNeil v. American General Life & Accident Insurance Company; Thompson v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; and Williams v. United Insurance Company of America.
The Firm’s attorneys also fight on behalf of elderly victims targeted for the sale of deferred annuity products with hidden sales loads and illusory bonus features. Sales agents for life insurance companies such as Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Midland National Life Insurance Company, and National Western Life Insurance Company targeted senior citizens for these annuities with lengthy investment horizons and high sales commissions. Robbins Geller recovered millions of dollars for elderly victims and seeks to ensure that senior citizens are afforded full and accurate information regarding deferred annuities.
Robbins Geller attorneys also stopped the fraudulent sale of life insurance policies based on misrepresentation regarding how the life insurance policy would perform, the costs of the policy, and whether premiums would “vanish.” Purchasers were also misled about the financing of a new life insurance policy, falling victim to a “replacement” or “churning” sales scheme where they were convinced to use loans, partial surrenders, or withdrawals of cash values from an existing permanent life insurance policy to purchase a new policy.
Robbins Geller has taken a leading role in many insurance fraud cases, including:
- Brokerage “Pay to Play” Cases. On behalf of individuals, government entities, business, and non-profits, Robbins Geller has sued the largest commercial and employee benefit insurance brokers and insurers for unfair and deceptive business practices. While purporting to provide independent, unbiased advice as to the best policy, the brokers failed to adequately disclose that they had entered into separate “pay to play” agreements with certain third-party insurance companies. These agreements provide additional compensation to the brokers based on such factors as profitability, growth, and the volume of insurance that they place with a particular insurer, and akin to a profit-sharing arrangement between the brokers and the insurance companies. These agreements create a conflict of interest since the brokers have a direct financial interest in selling their customers only the insurance products offered by those insurance companies with which the brokers have such agreements.
Robbins Geller attorneys were among the first to uncover and pursue the allegations of these practices in the insurance industry in both state and federal courts. On behalf of the California Insurance Commissioner, the Firm brought an injunctive case against the biggest employee benefit insurers and local San Diego brokerage, ULR, which resulted in major changes to the way they did business. The Firm also sued on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco to recover losses due to these practices. Finally, Robbins Geller represents a putative nationwide class of individuals, business, employers, and governmental entities against the largest brokerage houses and insurers in the nation. To date, the Firm has obtained over $200 million on behalf of policyholders and enacted landmark business reforms.
- Discriminatory Credit Scoring and Redlining Cases. Robbins Geller attorneys have prosecuted cases concerning nationwide schemes of alleged discrimination carried out by Nationwide, Allstate, and other insurance companies against African-American and other persons of color who are purchasers of homeowner and automobile insurance policies. Such discrimination includes alleged redlining and the improper use of “credit scores” which disparately impact minority communities. Plaintiffs in these actions have alleged that the insurance companies’ corporate-driven scheme of intentional racial discrimination includes refusing coverage and/or charging them higher premiums for homeowners and automobile insurance. On behalf of the class of aggrieved policyholders, the Firm has recovered over $400 million for these predatory and racist policies.
- Senior Annuities. Robbins Geller has prosecuted numerous cases against insurance companies and their agents who targeted senior citizens for the sale of deferred annuities. Plaintiffs alleged that the insurers misrepresented or failed to disclose to senior consumers material facts concerning the costs associated with their fixed and equity indexed deferred annuities and enticed seniors to buy the annuities by promising them illusory up-front bonuses. As a result of the Firm’s efforts, hundreds of millions of dollars in economic relief has been made available to seniors who have been harmed by these practices. Notable recoveries include:
- Negrete v. Allianz Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., No. CV-05-6838 (C.D. Cal.). Robbins Geller attorneys served as co-lead counsel on behalf of a nationwide RICO class consisting of over 200,000 senior citizens who had purchased deferred annuities issued by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America. In March 2015, after nine years of litigation, District Judge Christina A. Snyder granted final approval of a class action settlement that made available in excess of $250 million in cash payments and other benefits to class members. In approving the settlement, the court praised the effort of the Firm and noted that “counsel has represented their clients with great skill and they are to be complimented.”
- In re Am. Equity Annuity Practices & Sales Litig., No. CV-05-6735 (C.D. Cal.). As co-lead counsel, Robbins Geller attorneys secured a settlement that made available $129 million in economic benefits to a nationwide class of 114,000 senior citizens.
- In re Midland Nat’l Life Ins. Co. Annuity Sales Practices Litig., MDL No. 07-1825 (C.D. Cal.). After four years of litigation, the Firm secured a settlement that made available $79.5 million in economic benefits to a nationwide class of 70,000 senior citizens.
- Negrete v. Fidelity & Guar. Life Ins. Co., No. CV-05-6837 (C.D. Cal.). The Firm’s efforts resulted in a settlement under which Fidelity made available $52.7 in benefits to 56,000 class members across the country.
- In re Nat’l Western Life Ins. Deferred Annuities Litig., No. 05-CV-1018 (S.D. Cal.). The Firm litigated this action for more than eight years. On the eve of trial, the Firm negotiated a settlement providing over $21 million in value to a nationwide class of 12,000 senior citizens.