Here’s an example of the litigation industry at work. The example is this free website known as the Ace Insurance Litigation Watch.
What’s the point of the website? To gather and organize information on lawsuits against Ace Insurance and its many affiliates. Among other things, the website presents a still-growing collection of information on 237 coverage lawsuits filed against Ace. For many if not all of the lawsuits, the website includes free access to complaints and other key litigation documents.
Who is Ace Insurance? It’s a massive, international insurance company with many affiliates – annual premiums exceed $ 19 billion. It’s also run by Evan Greenberg, son of Hank Greenberg of AIG fame. Both Ace and AIG entities have reputations for not paying claims. Among other stories covered by the website, one focuses on ACE having been sued in this RICO suit arising from failure to pay claims related to the BP oil rig disaster.
How do the website’s sponsors explain their mission ?
"Our goal is to help policyholders help themselves. Companies and individuals who unfortunately find themselves up against the ACE litigation machine understand the long and expensive effort required to gain justice against an adversary with ACE’s vast resources. Furthermore, individual litigants are normally isolated from each other even though they are often looking for the same information and asking the same questions. This gives ACE a significant advantage in the courtroom while the company acts through lawyers who excel at litigation by attrition.
Some of the index and other portions of the Ace Litigation Watch website are freely available to public visitors. However, other sections of the database are reserved for members of ACE Litigation Watch. Membership is reserved for ACE policy holders or other parties and their counsel who are either actively engaged in or eminently anticipating litigation against a member of the ACE Limited Insurance Group. The only price of admission is a pledge to participate in the growth of the index.
As for the FOIA project, the press release describes an aggresive effort to compile information on Ace. Thus, the press release states:
June 10, 2011 – ACE Insurance Litigation Watch, the online repository for lawsuits and other claims against the ACE Ltd. insurance company (NYSE: ACE) and its ACE Group subsidiaries, today announced that it is archiving up-to-date insurance regulatory documents from all fifty states and the federal government for free and easy public access.
The ACE Litigation Watch website aims to provide a secure and convenient platform through which policyholders and litigants can collaborate. By adding the information accumulated as a result of comprehensive FOIA requests to the ACE Litigation Watch databases, there will be a substantial expansion in the scope of information ACE Litigation Watch is able to make public.
The information that is being compiled from—among other places—State insurance regulators, the SEC, IRS, DOJ, and FTC, although technically considered public information, is often difficult and costly for the public to access. The process of taking that information and making it available to the public in a user-friendly format, whether the user is a financial analyst, a litigant, or a prospective policy-holder, should be a major step forward in achieving corporate transparency and accountability with respect to the Swiss insurance giant ACE Ltd.
ACE has a very extensive litigation history that spans across all U.S. jurisdictions. An analysis conducted by ACE Litigation Watch of available court records revealed more that 16,000 cases involving ACE Group companies. Many of those cases involve policyholders who contend that ACE claims specialists have improperly delayed, denied, or diminished the benefits owed under policies issued by ACE Group companies. For example, in the past year, lawsuits have involved such prominent companies as Pepsi (NYSE: PEP), Masco (NYSE:MAS), and NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG). Furthermore, ACE has recently been involved in litigation for failure to cover policyholders in the BP Oil Spill litigation, FEMA Toxic Trailer Cases, and numerous state Workers Compensation cases.
The ACE Group’s North American insurance operations are overseen by executive John Lupica. ACE Limited (NYSE:ACE), which is included in the S&P 500 index, is the ultimate parent of U.S. insurance companies ACE American Insurance Company, ACE American Lloyds Insurance Company, ACE American Reinsurance Company, ACE Capital Title Reinsurance Company, ACE Commercial Risk Services, ACE Employers Insurance Company, ACE Fire Underwriters Insurance Company, ACE Indemnity Insurance Company, ACE Insurance Company of Illinois, ACE Insurance Company of Ohio, ACE Insurance Company of Texas, ACE Insurance Company of the Midwest, ACE Property and Casualty Insurance Company, ACE Tempest Reinsurance USA, ACE USA, ACE Westchester, Allied Insurance Company, Atlantic Employers Insurance Company, Bankers Standard Fire and Marine Company, Bankers Standard Insurance Company, Century Indemnity Company, Century Reinsurance Company, Combined Insurance, Combined Life Insurance Company of North America, ESIS, Inc., Illinois Union Insurance Company, INA Surplus Insurance Company, Indemnity Insurance Company of North America, Insurance Company of North America, Pacific Employers Insurance Company, Rain and Hail Agricultural Insurance, Westchester Fire Insurance Company, and Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance Company.