TALLAHASSEE, FL, May 5, 2011 – The American Consumer Institute today called on Tampa plaintiff’s lawyer Sean Shaw and his group “Policyholders of Florida” to demonstrate “truth in advertising” and acknowledge their financial self-interest in opposing property insurance bills that will benefit consumers and Florida’s economy.
Shaw is a plaintiff’s attorney for a law firm in Tampa – which specializes in suing insurance companies – who previously served as Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate.
Earlier this spring, Shaw announced he was creating a group called Policyholders of Florida and acknowledged after media questions that its members include trial attorneys and public insurance adjusters – two special interest groups that stand to lose millions of dollars in annual fees and profits if the Florida Legislature passes much-needed property insurance reforms this session.
“It’s time for Sean Shaw and his group to demonstrate a little truth in advertising,” said Steve Pociask, President of the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, a 501(c)(3) educational and research institute. “Shaw continues to attack good bills under the guise of being a “consumer advocate,” when in fact he’s no longer in that business. In reality, he’s in the plaintiff’s attorney business and wants to make it easier to sue insurance companies, which doesn’t do anything for consumers except drive up their insurance costs.”
The Policyholders of Florida website was, in fact, registered by Shaw’s law firm. Among the group’s other members are two activist organizations that appear to align with their financial supporters – trial attorneys and labor unions – to fight pro-consumer and pro-business legislation in Tallahassee.
Among the bills that Shaw and his group oppose is Senate Bill 408, which would eliminate unnecessary cost drivers in Florida’s homeowners’ insurance system and rein in a costly explosion of questionable sinkhole claims that have been fueled by plaintiff’s attorneys and public insurance adjusters in the absence of any hurricanes hitting the state since 2005.
In reality, Shaw supported an earlier version of these bills – Senate Bill 2044 – in 2010 while he served as Insurance Consumer Advocate, but the bill was later vetoed by former Governor Charlie Crist.
Addressing unnecessary cost drivers in Florida’s homeowners’ insurance market is critical to strengthening property insurer solvency and restoring a healthy market that benefits consumers, according to state Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty. His office recently told a House panel that between 2006 and 2009, public insurance adjusters and plaintiff’s attorneys amassed $21.4 million in fees in closed sinkhole claims – clearly, pursing sinkhole claims is big business for Shaw’s allies.
Shaw and his group also oppose bills (SB 1714 and HB 1243) that would require government-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to accelerate its efforts to charge its policyholders rates that are sufficient to actually cover their homes, and to bar Citizens’ policyholders from hiring public insurance adjusters who then fight the state over settlements. Shaw labels these bills anti-consumer while failing to acknowledge that all Floridians are subsidizing Citizens’ inadequate rates, because whenever the state insurer runs out of money, consumers are taxed on their home, auto, motorcycle, boat and business policies to cover the losses.
“Sean Shaw and his group want to maintain a status quo in which plaintiff’s attorneys and public adjusters reap huge fees, but that doesn’t truly benefit consumers by creating more choices and competition in homeowners’ insurance,” Pociask said. “We’re calling on Sean Shaw to come clean in his opposition to these bills. He should tell the media, the Legislature and the public how plaintiff’s lawyers and public insurance adjusters will be impacted if these good property insurance bills win passage this spring in the Legislature.”