We all dutifully write out checks for insurance coverage each month, assuming that if the worst should occur, we'll be protected financially. But what we don't know about the insurance business could - and most probably will - hurt us. "Vulture Culture" is a hard-hitting expose of the sorry state of the industry, from tales of rampant, widespread corruption to inconsistent state regulations and the inability - and often unwillingness - of the federal government to protect the rights of denied claimants.The book takes readers into a world of bid-rigging, fraudulent commissions, and secret payoffs, revealing shocking abuses and ominous new trends. Readers will hear about a rogue's gallery of shady executives, including a CEO whose massive claim denial schemes eventually got him fired ...at great cost to consumers. From the Hurricane Katrina fiasco of unpaid claims, to a revolving door in which former insurance executives regulate their own industry before returning to it themselves, this is a shocking account of an industry on the brink of collapse, and what must be done to fix it before it's too late.
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There are laws requiring that our homes and cars be insured, and we know it’s a good idea to insure our health and our lives as well. So we pay for our policies secure in the knowledge that if the unexpected happens, at least we won’t have to worry so much about where the money is going to come from.
But the cost we’re truly paying may be far more dear than we’ve ever imagined. Plain and simple, the insurance industry is at the breaking point. Rampant, industry-wide corruption entwined with weak and inconsistent state regulations and federal indifference has led to a deluge of unpaid claims, leaving untold numbers of trusting consumers suddenly (and sometimes literally) out in the cold.
Veteran attorney and insurance-industry observer Eric Gerst takes you on a tour of a mighty industry threatening to collapse under its own considerable weight. First, step into the offices of former New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, where an anonymous letter materializes and blows the lid off a pervasive bid-rigging scheme being perpetrated by the world’s largest insurance broker and several of its client carriers.
Next, Gerst cites sobering studies and his own eye-opening interviews with current and former officers with state insurance commissions and national consumer groups. The findings add up to a nightmare of regulatory lapses and abuses that directly affect both the individual policy holder and the stability of the industry as a whole. If, as Gerst suggests, insurance forms the backbone of our economy, the implications are grave indeed.
Gerst pulls no punches in identifying, by name, the executives and companies who are front and center in this mega-scam. His “Rogue’s Gallery” reads like a list of Hollywood plot summaries: multi-billion-dollar bankruptcies that seemingly came from nowhere; fat-cat executives fleeing the country with millions in cash, (plus jewels and girlfriends for good measure); and greedy vultures who systematically prey upon the faith, needs, and misfortunes of their customers.
Vulture Culture identifies twelve alarming trends, including the globalization of the industry, that threaten the ability of traditional state and national authorities to regain control. And Gerst outlines the discrepancies in state regulatory practice and the history of the legislation that gave states, not the federal government, control over “the business of insurance,” leading to 50 separate (and often conflicting) insurance “fiefdoms.”
But is all hope lost? Amazingly, the answer may just be “no.” The new awareness of the depth and breadth of insurance fraud and other problems has spurred loud calls for federal oversight of the entire industry, and the well-publicized state crackdowns, of which New York’s was the first, have put brokers, insurers, and their executives on notice that the party is over. Gerst’s book not only diagnoses the disease, it also prescribes the concrete actions that must be taken in order to stop a recurrence of the recent past—and to avoid a very bleak future.
In fact, Vulture Culture, for all its no-holds-barred revelations, is a powerful and positive advocate for change, offering practical solutions—including detailed sample legislation—designed to straighten out the insurance industry and protect the American consumer.
From the Back Cover:
First it was the energy company scandals. Then widespread accounting fraud. Telecommunications. The list is as impressive as it is long, but all these previous financial misdeeds may pale in comparison to what’s been happening at the very core of the nation’s economy—the insurance industry.
Insurance companies and the huge brokers who make deals for them have been colluding with one another, defrauding shareholders, and denying billions of dollars in legitimate claims submitted by their customers. All, it seems, in an effort to drive profits and line their own pockets.
Their actions have not only imperiled the futures of millions of policyholders, they have also brought the entire insurance industry itself to the edge of disaster. The consequences of a large-scale collapse could be nothing short of economic catastrophe for people, businesses, and even other industries.
Wholesale reform is the only answer.
Vulture Culture is the first book to look at what really goes on in the insurance industry, and at the effect it could have on every one of us. Author Eric Gerst not only sounds the alarm on this uncontrolled greed and government impotence, and not only does he identify culprits and the stomach-turning deeds they’ve done, he also shows the way out of what might seem an impossible morass.
Featuring impeccable research, candid interviews, shocking numbers, and (undeniably) a thrilling if horrifying plot, Vulture Culture may be our best weapon and best chance to stop the broadest, costliest, and most systemic business scandal in American history—before it’s too late.
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