Lobbyists Told State Insurance Chief They Represented Company at Center of Campaign Scandal, New Filing Says

Two former state lawmakers now working as lobbyists spoke personally with California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and his senior deputy, contrary to what state officials have said in a public-records lawsuit unfolding now in a Los Angeles courtroom.

In a sworn declaration filed last month, former state Assemblyman Rusty Areias said he told Lara in 2019 that he had been hired by the workers’ compensation firm Applied Underwriters and may be reaching out to Lara in the future.

At the time Applied Underwriters was seeking state approval from Lara’s office for a change in ownership.

Areias said in the declaration that he spoke repeatedly with Deputy Commissioner Bryant Henley, one of the senior Department of Insurance officials who intervened in department
proceedings to benefit Applied.

“During the course of assisting the clients on this matter, I had multiple phone calls with Bryant Henley of CDI regarding CIC and Applied Underwriters,” Areias said in the sworn declaration filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

CIC is an acronym for California Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Applied. CDI stands for the California Department of Insurance.

“In our telephonic conversations, Lazlo Komjathy at CDI was always on the line but never said anything,” Areias said. “In these calls I informed Henley and Komjathy, among other things, that I was representing CIC and Applied Underwriters.”

The declaration is significant because state insurance regulators typically are not supposed to take up the cause of companies they regulate. Henley at least twice overruled administrative law judges who decided cases in favor of Applied policyholders.

Henley also was the official in charge of responding to the California Public Records Act requests filed by a group called Consumer Watchdog.

Consumer Watchdog in 2020 sued the Department of Insurance for emails and other communications related to Applied Underwriters after The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in 2019 that Lara had accepted thousands of dollars in political donations from insurers, despite promising during his 2018 campaign not to do so.

At the time, Lara publicly apologized for accepting political contributions from people associated with Applied or other insurance companies, and he returned more than $80,000 to insurers and other donors with business before state regulators.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune

Speak Your Mind

*