Ralph Nader is accusing Lloyd's of London of using "strong-arm tactics" to raise U.S. insurance rates and prevent injury victims from collecting large awards in damage suits.
"The American people had better start getting concerned," said a report issued by the Center for Study of Responsive Law, which Nader heads.Nader accused Lloyd's of "destabilizing" property and casualty insurance coverage and "compromising" with other insurers "to erode the rights of sick and injured victims in the United States."
Lloyd's, considered the world's leading reinsurance syndicate, helped create a "phony" lawsuit crisis as part of a plan to raise rates and earn higher profits, Nader said.
"You have a syndicate that's profitable but wants to make even more money," he told reporters at a press conference here.
Donald Greene, who represents Lloyd's for the New York law firm of LeBoueuf, Lamb, Leiby & MacRae, said his client hasn't seen the report and therefore cannot comment on it. "Wait a day or two and I'm sure there'll be a reaction," he said.
The 154-page Nader report was prepared by lawyers Joanne Doroshow in Washington and Adrian Wilkes in London.
Rep. John LaFalce, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, said the report shows that the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which exempts the insurance industry from antitrust law, should be repealed.
"Congress should use these findings as a basis of inquiry into Lloyd's and the reinsurance industry," LaFalce said.
Lloyd's, which began 300 years ago as an insurer of ships to the Orient, is essentially a reinsurer, which means it reduces risk by providing backup insurance to insurance companies. It also writes insurance no other insurer will write.
Nader contends that no foreign company "remotely compares" with Lloyd's in its influence on the U.S. economy.
"Lloyd's dictates to a remarkable degree rate and policy decisions to the U.S. property/casualty insurance industry," Nader said. "It has been able to influence whether local governments, day-care centers, health care professionals and small businesses can obtain reasonably priced insurance or any insurance at all."
Liability insurers, who lost money in the early 1980s, have campaigned-- sometimes successfully-- to set limits on how much money accident victims can collect in personal injury cases.
Insurance rates for risky occupations skyrocketed in 1985 and 1986. Some lines of insurance were unavailable at any price.
Nader has sided with trial lawyers in the controversy, arguing that lawsuits and million-dollar awards, when adjusted for inflation, are no more common now than in the 1970s.
The insurers, according to Nader, would like to go back to the bare-bones British system in which punitive damages, pain and suffering awards and contingency fees for lawyers are forbidden.
The report issued Wednesday under the title, "Goliath: Lloyd's of London in the United States," recommends that:
-Lloyd's and other reinsurers be required to release financial data and meet U.S. licensing standards.
-Alternative reinsurance programs be set up by the states or the federal government.
-The insurance industry antitrust exemption be repealed.
-Insurers be subject to civil suits for unfair practices.