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View Full Version : Progressive CEO sorry for spying on church goers


2jaded2care
Aug 24, 2007, 12:49 PM
"The head of one of the leading insurers in non-standard, high-risk personal auto insurance apologized on Thursday for some substandard behavior - spying in church on people who had the sued the company.

Progressive Corp Chief Executive Glenn Renwick apologized for the use of private detectives, who went undercover to join an Atlanta church group in order to discredit a couple suing the insurer..."

"The detectives talked their way into a private support group where members discussed abortions, sexual orientation and drug addiction, and taped the sessions, the newspaper said.

The targets of the abuse recently filed a lawsuit against Progressive and the detectives, charging them with invasion of privacy and fraud, among other issues, the paper said."

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN2326105820070823?feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews

This was in today's local paper. I thought it was pretty disgusting behavior, even by corporate standards. Hope they get hit with a huge fine, in addition to the lawsuits.

Guess I should at least give them credit for not trying to deny/obfuscate. A little credit, anyway.

IJ Reilly
Aug 24, 2007, 12:55 PM
I can think of a few names for this company that are more appropriate than "Progressive Corp."

leekohler
Aug 24, 2007, 01:18 PM
Wow- that's nuts. So, now they're spying on people in church? That's just great. I wonder how long before they convince PIs to get romantically involved with the people they spy on?

MacNut
Aug 24, 2007, 01:37 PM
Wow- that's nuts. So, now they're spying on people in church? That's just great. I wonder how long before they convince PIs to get romantically involved with the people they spy on?Haven't there been movies about that. I don't think the idea is that far fetched.:rolleyes:

notjustjay
Aug 24, 2007, 02:59 PM
"I hope everyone enjoyed tonight's Bible study. Any prayer requests?"

"Yeah, I'm committing insurance fraud, pray that they don't find me out..."

MrSmith
Aug 24, 2007, 08:05 PM
On the other hand, this is better than increasing everyone's premiums to cover fraudulent claims. And the fact they're God botherers is irrelevant.

2jaded2care
Aug 26, 2007, 11:35 AM
While you're at it, want to advocate bugging church confessionals and peoples' bedrooms to reduce insurance fraud and keep rates down?

Granted, the church group was too trusting/naive with this couple of bottom-feeding p.i.'s, but probably not many church-goers are going to suspect this type of behavior, especially at the instigation of a large corporation. I think they should all have had a reasonable expectation of privacy in this setting, in a private residence. And what about the other members whose personal issues were discussed and taped? Does "getting the goods" on one couple justify invading the privacy of the others?

I'm certainly not going to argue in favor of insurance fraud, but this conduct was so obviously beyond the pale, I suspect either a serious difference in privacy expectations in GB, or that your apparent dislike of "God botherers" has jaundiced your perception of the story.

IJ Reilly
Aug 26, 2007, 11:41 AM
While you're at it, want to advocate bugging church confessionals and peoples' bedrooms to reduce insurance fraud and keep rates down?

Hey if it works it works. Anything to ferret out insurance fraud.

MrSmith
Aug 26, 2007, 11:52 AM
While you're at it, want to advocate bugging church confessionals and peoples' bedrooms to reduce insurance fraud and keep rates down?

Granted, the church group was too trusting/naive with this couple of bottom-feeding p.i.'s, but probably not many church-goers are going to suspect this type of behavior, especially at the instigation of a large corporation. I think they should all have had a reasonable expectation of privacy in this setting, in a private residence. And what about the other members whose personal issues were discussed and taped? Does "getting the goods" on one couple justify invading the privacy of the others?

I'm certainly not going to argue in favor of insurance fraud, but this conduct was so obviously beyond the pale, I suspect either a serious difference in privacy expectations in GB, or that your apparent dislike of "God botherers" has jaundiced your perception of the story.
If they bug Mr God botherer A and Mr non-God botherer B then argue the case on its own legal merits, not according to whether Mr A/B practice religion or not. The point of this article was that these people went to church and - oh my goodness - they were treated like other people, for right or wrong. A bedroom is private property, a church is not. If you argue PIs should not exist, fine. If you argue they can exist except in churches (that would be Christian churches, of course ;)) then that is not fine IMO.

yg17
Aug 26, 2007, 11:56 AM
Having been in a car accident and being sued by the old hag I hit who was faking injuries, I'm backing Progressive on this one. Just because you go to church doesn't mean you're allowed to commit insurance fraud. If the PIs had been investigating these people at the grocery store, no one would say a thing, but because it's a church, everyone's throwing a fit. It's still a public place, insurance fraud is still illegal.

IJ Reilly
Aug 26, 2007, 12:04 PM
A bedroom is private property, a church is not. If you argue PIs should not exist, fine.

Of course a church is private property. It belongs to the church, not the government.

Just because you go to church doesn't mean you're allowed to commit insurance fraud.

Which of course must have been happening, because the insurance company was looking for it.

Oh, the assumptions we make.

yg17
Aug 26, 2007, 12:13 PM
PIs and investigations aren't cheap. Progressive wouldn't be doing all of this if they didn't think something fishy was going on.

MrSmith
Aug 26, 2007, 12:20 PM
Of course a church is private property. It belongs to the church, not the government.
Ingenuous. You know what I was getting at. With the necessary legal authority government reps have the right to enter your home and do whatever is necessary to maintain the rule of law. Same goes for churches, mosques, whatever.

IJ Reilly
Aug 26, 2007, 12:41 PM
PIs and investigations aren't cheap. Progressive wouldn't be doing all of this if they didn't think something fishy was going on.

Actually, they wouldn't be doing it if they didn't think they could find grounds to refuse coverage. Which, if you think about it, is a very different matter. Read the article again. The investigators talked their way into this church to dig dirt.

Ingenuous. You know what I was getting at. With the necessary legal authority government reps have the right to enter your home and do whatever is necessary to maintain the rule of law. Same goes for churches, mosques, whatever.

No, I didn't know what you were getting at, but that hardly matters -- these were private investigators, not government authorities, so they've go no such rights. When the company was caught at it, even they had to admit that their behavior was pretty creepy.

MrSmith
Aug 26, 2007, 12:55 PM
No, I didn't know what you were getting at, but that hardly matters -- these were private investigators, not government authorities, so they've go no such rights. When the company was caught at it, even they had to admit that their behavior was pretty creepy.
I thought I'd been pretty clear. Unless I'm wrong, PIs have certain legal rights to investigation; otherwise they wouldn't exist. If they choose to exercise those rights in a church as opposed to, say, the local bingo hall then what's so newsworthy about it? Are religious folk above the rest of us?

xsedrinam
Aug 26, 2007, 01:10 PM
I thought I'd been pretty clear. Unless I'm wrong, PIs have certain legal rights to investigation; otherwise they wouldn't exist. If they choose to exercise those rights in a church as opposed to, say, the local bingo hall then what's so newsworthy about it? Are religious folk above the rest of us?
I'm not so sure those legal rights are broad enough to incorporate lying and false pretense. Are PI's above the rest of the rest? Committing fraud to expose fraud seems like a double, double. So the bad, good guys go after the good, bad guys. It's getting greyer by the moment.

IJ Reilly
Aug 26, 2007, 01:10 PM
I thought I'd been pretty clear. Unless I'm wrong, PIs have certain legal rights to investigation; otherwise they wouldn't exist. If they choose to exercise those rights in a church as opposed to, say, the local bingo hall then what's so newsworthy about it? Are religious folk above the rest of us?

It's not a question of rights, and far from anyone being "above" anyone else. Look, even the company was embarrassed by what these investigators had done in their name, when they were found out. It looks sleazy, because it is. It can only look something better than sleazy if you make the huge assumption that the insurance company had very good reasons for what they were doing.

yg17
Aug 26, 2007, 01:11 PM
Actually, they wouldn't be doing it if they didn't think they could find grounds to refuse coverage.

And like I said....if Progressive thought they had grounds to refuse coverage, there was probably something going on. If every insurance claim got this sort of investigation, claims would never get paid and insurance companies would go out of business. The fact that Progressive went through all this makes me think that they had a legit reason to question this couple.

IJ Reilly
Aug 26, 2007, 01:20 PM
And like I said....if Progressive thought they had grounds to refuse coverage, there was probably something going on. If every insurance claim got this sort of investigation, claims would never get paid and insurance companies would go out of business. The fact that Progressive went through all this makes me think that they had a legit reason to question this couple.

Sigh. Okay, trust the insurance industry. They've earned it.

xsedrinam
Aug 26, 2007, 01:27 PM
From what I've read, the only ones guilty 'til proved innocent are those who've already 'fessed up. Progressive got their hired hands caught in the carburetor jar.

yg17
Aug 26, 2007, 01:52 PM
Sigh. Okay, trust the insurance industry. They've earned it.

I don't trust either of them.


The person I'm really sticking up here for is the poor person at the other end of the claim who's probably facing a huge premium increase over injuries that may not exist. Been there, done that.

IJ Reilly
Aug 26, 2007, 02:12 PM
The person I'm really sticking up here for is the poor person at the other end of the claim who's probably facing a huge premium increase over injuries that may not exist. Been there, done that.

I don't see anywhere in this story where insurance fraud is alleged. The insurance company itself was the target of the lawsuit at issue, presumably over a claim they refused to pay. As the article states, the investigators lied their way into this church group and taped meeting surreptitiously in order to discredit the people suing, i.e., to dig up dirt on them. You know, nasty personal stuff to say about them in court. Now the insurance company will probably be sued again for fraud and invasion of privacy. Yup, they sure did their customers a big favor. They're just looking out for us.

yg17
Aug 26, 2007, 02:32 PM
I don't see anywhere in this story where insurance fraud is alleged. The insurance company itself was the target of the lawsuit at issue, presumably over a claim they refused to pay. As the article states, the investigators lied their way into this church group and taped meeting surreptitiously in order to discredit the people suing, i.e., to dig up dirt on them. You know, nasty personal stuff to say about them in court. Now the insurance company will probably be sued again for fraud and invasion of privacy. Yup, they sure did their customers a big favor. They're just looking out for us.

No, the story doesn't mention insurance fraud. But Progressive probably had a decent reason for not paying it out first. I know insurance companies can't be trusted, but the few people I know who've been involved in accidents and had legitimate claims didn't have any trouble getting their settlement. Refusal to pay claims is the exception, not the norm, and typically, there's a good reason for it.

1. Lied their way into the church. Perhaps they did, but what are they supposed to say? "Oh, hi there, I'm a private investigator for the insurance company and I'm investigating you. We think you may be trying to fraud us"

2. Taping. Don't you need evidence for court? "Your honor, I heard that man over there say that he was going to the gym after church and then he was running a marathon next week. Oh, and that neck brace seemed to be missing too. Injured my arse..." "And do you have any proof of this, sir?" "Uhhh....well maybe god heard it? I hear he likes to hang out at churches. You trust god, right??? God, please tell the judge what this guy said"...*crickets chirping*

3. Nasty personal stuff. Again, isn't that a part of court. I can't watch an episode of Judge Judy without hearing a bunch of personal stuff about someone's life.


Like I said before, if this wasn't a church, but rather a restaraunt or grocery store where the PI was doing his work, no one would be saying anything. But because it's a church, people have their panties in a bunch. Perhaps I'm biased because of my experience (and my hatred for religion doesn't help, but that's for PRSI), but I really don't see what the PI did wrong.

gnasher729
Aug 26, 2007, 04:00 PM
No, the story doesn't mention insurance fraud. But Progressive probably had a decent reason for not paying it out first. I know insurance companies can't be trusted, but the few people I know who've been involved in accidents and had legitimate claims didn't have any trouble getting their settlement. Refusal to pay claims is the exception, not the norm, and typically, there's a good reason for it.

1. Lied their way into the church. Perhaps they did, but what are they supposed to say? "Oh, hi there, I'm a private investigator for the insurance company and I'm investigating you. We think you may be trying to fraud us"

2. Taping. Don't you need evidence for court? "Your honor, I heard that man over there say that he was going to the gym after church and then he was running a marathon next week. Oh, and that neck brace seemed to be missing too. Injured my arse..." "And do you have any proof of this, sir?" "Uhhh....well maybe god heard it? I hear he likes to hang out at churches. You trust god, right??? God, please tell the judge what this guy said"...*crickets chirping*

3. Nasty personal stuff. Again, isn't that a part of court. I can't watch an episode of Judge Judy without hearing a bunch of personal stuff about someone's life.


Like I said before, if this wasn't a church, but rather a restaraunt or grocery store where the PI was doing his work, no one would be saying anything. But because it's a church, people have their panties in a bunch. Perhaps I'm biased because of my experience (and my hatred for religion doesn't help, but that's for PRSI), but I really don't see what the PI did wrong.

I guess Hewlett Packard's lawyers might want to hire you as a consultant.

Comparing church vs. restaurant or grocery is nonsense. You should compare church vs. a meeting of AA or a therapy group. And "taping to get evidence" is nonsense. They can tape as much as they like, whatever was said in that church would be hearsay and inadmissible in court, and if it violates someone's privacy, the insurance company would get into deep **** just for trying to mention it at court.

Another addition: You don't have to take my word for it, why don't you check what the CEO of the insurance company said: "What the investigators and Progressive people did was wrong - period," Renwick, head of the third-largest U.S. auto insurer, said in a statement. "I personally want to apologize to anyone who was affected by this." and Renwick, who heads the company with a market capitalization of $16.2 billion, said he was appalled by the story, but had found it was essentially accurate. He said that the company's current guidelines would prohibit any type of misrepresentation.

IJ Reilly
Aug 26, 2007, 04:46 PM
3. Nasty personal stuff. Again, isn't that a part of court. I can't watch an episode of Judge Judy without hearing a bunch of personal stuff about someone's life.

I don't know about Judge Judy (I can't watch an episode, period), but attempting to impeach a witness is very much within bounds in a trial court proceeding. Just having some dirt on a plaintiff could be enough to force a settlement out of court.

I don't assume that insurance companies have good reasons for anything except making money. Keep in mind that insurance fraud is a crime, and that these investigators were not police. The insurance company was sued, for what reasons and how legitimately we don't know. What we do know is that their response was to go fishing in the plaintiff's personal lives using underhanded means. I don't know why that doesn't give you a serious case of the creeps. It sure does me.

Abstract
Aug 26, 2007, 07:57 PM
I hear God is spying on us all the time. And Santa.

nbs2
Aug 26, 2007, 10:04 PM
If the PIs had been investigating these people at the grocery store, no one would say a thing, but because it's a church, everyone's throwing a fit. It's still a public place, insurance fraud is still illegal.

I have to agree with gnasher - taping those meetings was more like taping an AA meeting or a group therapy session. if this was taping the church social, I think you could compare it to the book club or some other setting people gather among those that they think are "friendly". The problem with a grocery store is at the store you have several random people, and conversations are unlikely to stray far beyond "do we get the turkey bacon or the regular bacon." When people are among those that they are more likely to trust, they will be open. I think going to a church social should inspire the same discomfort that the government going to an ACLU meeting to find "rabble-rousers" would inspire.

PIs and investigations aren't cheap. Progressive wouldn't be doing all of this if they didn't think something fishy was going on.

Lawsuits aren't cheap either. The PI probably cost a lot less than any potential payout. All the more reason to go to whatever lengths you feel necessary.

They can tape as much as they like, whatever was said in that church would be hearsay and inadmissible in court, and if it violates someone's privacy, the insurance company would get into deep **** just for trying to mention it at court.

I don't think it would be hearsay if the company could introduce it as a party admission. Recording the couple saying "we really aren't injured" or whatever, would likely be admissible. As for invading the privacy, I don't think it was violated. I'm sure you could argue otherwise, but if the meeting was open to the public, privacy would be irrelevant. The psych privilege may be a better bet, if they can argue that the meeting was closed and that the leader was an approved by some approvally organization and that the group sessions were considered part of the treatment (and that the PI faked some psych problem). A stretch, but I think you could convince a judge.

mcarnes
Aug 27, 2007, 10:17 PM
This does not surprise me at all. I deal with insurance companies every day and they lie every chance they get. I'm sure this kind of behavior is routine for them, they just got caught this time.