BATON ROUGE, La. - Outgoing Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti left a present for several insurance companies Thursday -- a lawsuit.
Foti filed suit against 10 insurance companies in New Orleans Civil District Court, alleging they violated the state's Monopolies Act by rigging the value of property damage claims paid in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"This alleged scheme gave insurers an unjust advantage over policyholders, which they used before, during and after one of the greatest disasters this country has ever suffered, by reaping huge profits from the misfortunes of persons whom they pledged to protect from the risk of loss," said Foti, who last month finished third in a three-person primary by Democrat Buddy Caldwell and Republican Royal Alexander.
Unlike Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's lawsuit, which centered around the alleged misrepresentation of flood damage (covered by a federal program) and wind damage (covered by the company), Foti says the companies used damage-estimating software programs to horizontally fix prices, limiting the amount of each damage claim payout while increasing profits for the companies.
That method of doing business, Foti said, existed before the hurricanes.
The defendants are Allstate Insurance Company, Lafayette Insurance Company, Xactware, Inc., Marshall & Swift/Boeckh, LLC, Insurance Services Office, Inc., State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, USAA Casualty Insurance Company, Farmers Insurance Exchange, Standard Fire Insurance Company and McKinsey & Company.
In Mississippi, State Farm reached a settlement of its Katrina claims with Hood in January, but it was later rejected by a federal judge. Since then, Hood has sued the company to force it to make the settlement work, and State Farm has sued Hood over his threats of a criminal investigation.
The citizens of Louisiana will vote on Foti's replacement on Saturday. Caldwell was the leading vote-gainer during the primary.
Caldwell is quoted in a report by the New Orleans Times-Picayune as saying he would have to first see the suit before making a decision on whether to pursue it, if elected.
"I've seen so many things done by this Attorney General's office that did not have merit, I wouldn't want to comment," he said. "That doesn't mean it's not worthy, but I've got to make my own determination.
"I would be very cautious about his personal work product, but at the same time, I wouldn't hesitate to do something if it had merit."
Alexander, meanwhile, could not be reached by the paper. He is a former insurance defense attorney.