Category Archives: justice

Drinks, Dinners, Junkets and Jobs: How The Insurance Industry Courts State Commissioners

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shady-state-politicsToday’s blog post comes from Michael J. Mishak’s article in The Center for Public Integrity, which is located at publicintegrity.org.

The headline says a lot about the article. Though it’s a lengthy read, the article is worth the time it takes to digest it.

Nebraska and Iowa are the two states that we are most concerned with, as that’s where our lawyers are licensed to practice. In addition, these two states are important nationally because many insurance companies have their corporate headquarters in Nebraska and Iowa. I found it very illuminating that there are stories about both states regarding relationships and experiences that government officials who are insurance regulators have with insurance industry executives. Iowa also seems to be a mixed bag, with the same person asking for “more funding to buoy regulators” but at another time, splitting hairs on the state’s definition of lobbying.

I have written on how the “Workers’ Comp Industrial Complex” harms workers, which was based on an expose in ProPublica. It may be time for media coverage that looks into the overlap, favors and cozy ties that insurance companies have with the government regulators who are supposed to hold them accountable.

“The stakes are enormous,” Mishak writes in the CPI article.

“Because Congress has long left regulation of the insurance industry to the states, these little-known regulators, one per state, wield immense power over one of the largest segments of the U.S. economy. Charged chiefly with protecting consumers, commissioners review rate changes, investigate complaints and make sure insurers have enough money to pay claims.”

Consumers who rely on their insurance to protect them need to be able to trust that insurance commissioners with so much power and so little transparency will still have consumers’ best interests at heart, instead of prioritizing the interests of commissions’ friends in the insurance industry.


Who’s Calling the Shots in State Politics?

Drinks, dinners, junkets and jobs: how the insurance industry courts state commissioners

Center probe reveals cozy relationships, revolving doors and shady financial ties

By Michael J. Mishak

When the Arkansas insurance commissioner weighed the merits of a hospital’s billing complaint against United Healthcare, her interactions with one of the nation’s largest health insurers extended far beyond her department’s hearing room.

During months of deliberations, Commissioner Julie Benafield Bowman met repeatedly with United Healthcare lawyers and lobbyists over lunch and drinks at venues such as the Country Club of Little Rock.

“I had a blast with you Monday night,” Benafield emailed United Healthcare lawyer Bill Woodyard, himself a former state insurance commissioner. “Thank you so much for entertaining us.”

Commissioner Benafield ultimately decided the case in United Healthcare’s favor — a 2008 ruling that stood to save the company millions of dollars. Nearly two years later, by the time a judge vacated the commissioner’s orders because there was “an appearance of impropriety in the proceedings,” Benafield had moved on: She was working for United Healthcare, having joined at least three of her predecessors representing insurers in Arkansas.

Read more at The Center for Public Integrity.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Government, Iowa, justice, Money, Nebraska and tagged , , , .

Is the Rule of Law Under Attack?

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Chinese Rights Lawyers Wang Yu (top) and Bao Longjun (bottom)

Chinese Rights Lawyers Wang Yu (top) and Bao Longjun (bottom)

Our colleague in North Carolina recently wrote a blog post about a terrorist attack on lawyers in Pakistan that killed 60 lawyers. It was an attack on the rule of law. A less bloody, but no less brutal, campaign against the rule of law is taking place in China under the increasingly authoritarian rule of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Jinping has targeted so-called “rights lawyers,” or lawyers who, like United States’ plaintiffs’ lawyers, represent individuals against major institutions such as corporations and the government. In rhetoric echoing attacks on U.S. trial lawyers, Chinese rights lawyers have been described as “abusing courts to create personal gain and ‘social chaos’.”

Chinese rights lawyers make up a small part of the 270,000 lawyers in China, but in China, there also so-called “barefoot lawyers” who aren’t lawyers at all but are usually self-taught workers and peasants who have learned the law. Barefoot lawyers often advocate for employees in industrial work injury and wage-dispute cases. These barefoot lawyers have frequently been victims of these abuses as well. China’s industrial workforce is similar to the U.S. workforce in the respect that many workers are vulnerable to exploitation because of their legal status. In the United States, undocumented immigrants are vulnerable on the job. In China, residents of rural provinces who move to industrial urban provinces have a lesser legal status in those provinces because of the hukou system. Barefoot lawyers often come from the same rural background as their clients. Like the better educated and credentialed “rights lawyers,” barefoot lawyers are also subject to harassment and repression from the state.

Though U.S. lawyers are generally free from official harassment, some corporate litigants have resorted to totalitarian tactics against plaintiffs’ attorneys. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff smacked down Uber for hiring a former CIA agent to investigate an attorney prosecuting a class action suit against the ride-hailing company. Investigation tactics included using fake reporters to try to probe the plaintiff’s attorney for personal information.

So while the rule of law is much more secure in the United States than it is in many other countries, it is still threatened by overheated rhetoric and underhanded tactics.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in employment law, Government, justice, Legislation and tagged , , , , .

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Labor Department

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Today’s post was shared by the U.S. Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

Happy belated 103rd birthday to the department that helps keep workers safe and paid fairly for their efforts on the job. The Labor Department includes 28 agencies like the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), which is of great interest to our lawyers and staff members, as we advocate for injured workers in Nebraska and Iowa.

The historical pictures in this post are quite enlightening, and it’s nice that some of the points have links for additional information about the people or situations featured. Have a safe and productive week.

In honor of the Labor Department’s 103rd birthday on March 4, here are some facts we bet you didn’t know.

  1. President William Howard Taft signed the Organic Act creating the U.S. Department of Labor literally during his last few hours in office on March 4, 1913. Taft signed reluctantly, figuring incoming President Woodrow Wilson would create the department anyway. Labor organizations and advocates had been pushing for a seat at the president’s table for decades.President-elect Wilson and President Taft were photographed at the White House just before Wilson's inauguration ceremony. Credit: Library of Congress.That same day, President-elect Wilson and President Taft were photographed at the White House just before Wilson’s inauguration ceremony. We’d love to know what was so funny. Credit: Library of Congress.
  2. During World War I, a War Labor Administration was created within the fledgling Labor Department to organize labor production. It was so effective that many New Deal programs and the World War II labor program were modeled after it.Patriotic art was commissioned to inspire workers to join wartime efforts, including this like this awesome painting by Gerrit A. Beneker – pictured here with his model.Patriotic art was commissioned to inspire workers to join wartime efforts, like this awesome painting by Gerrit A. Beneker – pictured here with his model.
  3. The first woman in the president’s Cabinet was Frances Perkins, Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary of labor from 1933-1945. Among her accomplishments: the 40-hour workweek, Social Security and Unemployment Insurance.Frances Perkins at her desk wearing a tricorn hatPerkins’ signature look – a tricorn hat – was the result of this advice from her mother: “Never let yourself get a hat that is narrower…

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The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in day care, Department of Labor, Ernest Wilkins, Frances Perkins, fun facts, justice, Martin Luther King Jr., War Labor Administration, women and tagged .