It’s hard to imagine a more transparent epistle than the one Sean Shaw sent to the Tallahassee Democrat. He was attempting to recast an op-ed from Steve Pociask with the American Consumer Institute which pointed to Shaw as being, well…transparent.

Pociask alleged that trial lawyers, especially the former state Insurance Consumer Advocate, were manipulating the insurance system for their own benefit–timely, but…not the most shocking of revelations.

Later, my blog titled; Lawyers & Money…More Than Meets the Eye”, proved Pociask was not only right but, that Shaw’s firm, the Merlin Law Group, was at the forefront.

In one of the most melodramatic diatribes I’ve read in a while, Shaw portrayed himself, and his fronting organization, Policyholder’s of Florida, as the Dudley Do-rights rescuing policyholders from Snidely Whiplash’s evil clutches. He chided the industry to… “Just Stop” because….he and his “…bipartisan, organized and effective” group of “real people” would not.

Excuse me, I feel nauseous!

Read it, you decide. But, as you do..keep the following in mind.

1) Shaw boasts about the effectiveness of his front-group because it was successful in lowering the price of a coverage his firm profits from. But, Shaw knows that potency wasn’t the issue; his motivations were. Pociask implied Policyholder’s of Florida was formed to benefit trial lawyers and Public Adjusters. Shaw had to ignore that claim just as Bill Newton and others continue to ignore my proof that lawyers are making a killing off of sinkholes. Their failure to fess up, of course, only highlights already suspect motives. For what it’s worth; records show that one firm filed over $40 million in sinkhole claims, in just one year, just for Citizens, and that 70% of claimants don’t need the money. That’s apparently okay with consumer advocate’s like Bill Newton.

2) Public documents showed that Merlin Law Group was the fourth largest sinkhole law firm; responsible for well over $8.4 million in total incurred losses from just Citizens. Instead of asking insurers how many claimants spend money on repairs, why can’t Chip Merlin tell us how many of his firms clients spent their payoff on something other than what they (or their firm) alleged they needed it for?

3) Another group making millions off of sinkholes is Public Adjusters. Often they’re the onsite protagonists who solicit, promote and sometimes pressure homeowners into filing claims for driveway cracks. In February 2011, the OIR testified that, between 2006 and 2009, public adjusters pocketed $8.2 million in sinkhole fee’s. In 2010, OIR reported that the average payment to a public adjuster was $22,384 per sinkhole case. Guess who founded the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA)? Sean Shaw’s boss…Chip Merlin!

Insurance companies, while far from being saints, are hardly the villains Shaw portrays. They are too clumsy and obvious. The real Snidely Whiplash would be far more sneaky. Like too many similar organizations Policyholders of Florida is just a trial lawyer utensil. It wasn’t forged by consumers to help consumers. It was contrived by trial lawyers, to benefit trial lawyers; at the expense of consumers. Snidely knows that a greedy pulpit looks more benevolent in front of a hungry congregation!

Maybe members of Policyholders of Florida should ask their rescuer how much he stands to make if sinkhole coverage is cheaper for them to buy. Maybe someone should ask the Policyholders of Florida what it feels like to be used.

4) In an email to Shaw before the Tampa sinkhole hearing, I pointed to several false contentions he and his troop were spreading. He said he would address them. He never did. He said he believed that I was wrong in saying that only one bank required the purchase of sinkhole coverage; the cornerstone of the rate campaign he and Senator Fasano waged. I proved them wrong, still…no response. He tried it again in his op-ed rant; knowing it to be false.

Fact is, no homeowner has ever been foreclosed for not having sinkhole “activity” coverage; (if I’m wrong send proof). Even borrowers of the only lender to require it, US Bank, are told they don’t have to purchase it after the difference between Catastrophic Collapse and Sinkhole Activity coverage is explained. Frankly, if I lived in Sinkhole Alley, and considering the price and that repairs must now be made, I would never buy sinkhole activity coverage.

Sean Shaw can bluster that he “scared” insurers if he wants. He can blame lawmakers that he says are “…more concerned with money than values and principles”. Heck…he can even rescue Sweet Nell from the railroad tracks; but…until he comes clean on how much he and his conspirators make off of frivolous claims he’ll always be the villain in this production.

By the way, like Sean Shaw, I don’t intend to stop either and I hope Steve Pociask and the industry will continue exposing exactly who’s making the real killing off of sinkholes.


By Scott Johnson scott

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