I don’t like Progressive insurance company. Why not? Because I don’t like the way in which its Chairman and former CEO Peter Lewis uses the profits he’s reaped from this family owned enterprise:
Peter B. Lewis is the current Chairman (and former CEO) of the Progressive Insurance Company, which was co-founded in 1937 by his father, Joseph Lewis. According to Forbes magazine, Peter Lewis today possesses a fortune worth an estimated $1.1 billion. A strong supporter of the Democratic Party and its agendas, Lewis first became active in politics when he served as the Ohio finance chairman for George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign. “I did it essentially because I hated Richard Nixon,” Lewis recounts. Over the years, Lewis has used his immense wealth to fund a host of leftist political campaigns, organizations, and causes.
Lewis is particularly interested in promoting the legalization of marijuana.
In 1999, Hoover’s Handbook of American Business described Lewis in print as “a functioning pot-head.” In 2000, Lewis was arrested after customs agents found 1.7 ounces of marijuana and two ounces of hashish in his luggage at an airport in New Zealand. The charges were dropped when the billionaire, who said he was carrying the drugs for “medicinal purposes,” agreed to make a donation to a drug-rehabilitation center.
The reclusive Lewis does not grant interviews to the press and is rarely photographed. According to a Jane Mayer article in the New Yorker, Lewis “spent much of 2004 discreetly directing millions of dollars to liberal groups allied with the Democratic Party … while cruising the Mediterranean Sea on his two-hundred-and-fifty foot yacht, Lone Ranger.”
During the 2004 election cycle, Lewis was the second leading donor to the non-party organizations known as “527s” — named after a section of the U.S. tax code that permitted unlimited “soft money” donations to groups pledging to use the funds not for the “express advocacy” of any particular political candidate, but rather for “voter education,” “issue-oriented” political advertising, and other nebulous enterprises. Lewis donated nearly $23 million to such organizations in 2004, including $16 million to the Joint Victory Campaign, $2.9 million to America Coming Together, and $2.5 million to Move On.Org.
All of the above doesn’t mean that I demand that the government shut Progressive down, but it does mean that I exercise my right as a consumer not to buy insurance from that company.
The naive might think that, given the Chairman and former CEO’s liberal propensities, Progressive would be run on exceptionally humane and victim-oriented principles. I’m sorry to say, though, that those cherishing those thoughts must prepare themselves for disappointment. It takes a lot of dough to be a limousine liberal and Progressive isn’t the first insurance company to make somewhat ugly pragmatic decisions in order to preserve that dough.
As someone who spent most of her legal career working on the defense side of the street, I’m often sympathetic to the calls insurance company’s have to make to preserve financial viability. Here, though, that the oh-so-politically correct Progressive insurance company has gone from pragmatic to immoral — even if its particular immorality might be countenanced by the law:
Baltimore resident Kaitlynn Fisher, 24, was involved in an automobile accident which stole her life on June 19, 2010. She was struck at an intersection by Ronald Kevin Hope III, who ran a red light. Hope had minimal insurance, but Fisher’s policy had a special clause which called for her insurer, Progressive Insurance, to cover the difference if and when she was involved in an accident with someone who was under insured. Rather than pay Fisher’s $100,000 life insurance policy Progressive opted to aid in the defense of her killer, in hopes that if found innocent they would not be required to pay out her policy. This is despite a witnesses account that Hope struck Fisher.
As it happens in the state of Maryland, it is not legal for a private party to sue an insurance company if they refuse to pay out a policy. Instead individuals must sue the offending party in civil court, and if they win a judgment they are then allowed to use the judgment as leverage to sue the insurance company.
Following the law, the Fisher family did sue Mr. Hope. Matt Fisher details that his family did not want to do this, as they knew Hope was a man of little means. However, Kaitlyn had numerous outstanding student loans from earning an engineering degree from Johns Hopkins University. If a person dies while still indebted with student loans it is common practice for the loan companies to attempt to collect the debt from surviving family members. Therefore, the family was seeking to recoup that money through a lawsuit, or to phrase it in another way — they planned to use her insurance policy to pay off her student loan debt. It is not as if, for example, the family was planning to buy a new vehicle or take a vacation. Their intentions for wanting their daughter’s policy money was honorable.
When the court date finally came it has been reported by The Daily Mail that Ronald Hope’s defense was assisted by Progressive Insurance’s in-house attorney Jeffery R Moffet. Hope lost the case, and was found to owe the family over $760,000 in damages.
Progressive claims they did not aid in Hope’s defense. In a statement published on August 14, at 2 pm the insurance company stated that Ronald Hope was not defended by Progressive. This is in direct opposition to details that have been released by multiple news outlets. At this point what seems to be in dispute is what constitutes “aiding” in the defense.
What the insurance company did is business. If it’s legal, it probably seemed like smart business at the time, even though the company ended up having to pay out on the policy at the end of the day. (Of course, there’s no telling whether the bad PR will make the books go flipsy-wopsy.) I just enjoy the irony of a “Progressive” business entity screwing the little guy for a buck.