It does not take long to figure out that the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) is heavily controlled and influenced by the powerful insurance industry. While some say that the group is living up to the challenge of protecting Texas Gulf Coast residents, others insist that the group is being incircular and looking out for only themselves. Emails and documents obtained by a source close to TWIA seem to outline the corruption hidden not so far beneath the surface of the embattled group and a blatant disregard for not only Texas Coastal residents is obvious, but a disregard for even the Texas Legislature seems to be the norm.
When the TWIA Actuarial and Underwriting Committee met back in November to consider a possible rate increase for Coastal policyholders, it seemed to be apparent that the fix was already in and that the chairperson of the Committee was openly communicating with people trying to assure them that all would be just fine and that lawmakers were just simply trying to appease their constituents.
In the email that was sent during the open public meeting from a private email account apparently belonging to Chairperson Debbie King, she is quoted to mention State Representative Todd Hunter directly by name saying that he was just “fueling the fire.” King also went onto attack fellow committee member Stephen Alexander. Alexander had only hours earlier released a 7 page rebuttal that laid out the case as to why he felt there should not be a rate increase of any kind.
When reporters attempted to question TWIA and King about the legitimacy of the emails, they were told to simply told to go back and watch the taped meeting for answers to their questions. Aaron Taylor, Senior Legislative & External Affairs Specialist and Communications & Legislative Affairs staffer for TWIA made it clear that neither King nor other members of the committee were going to be made available for questioning.
The meeting was held on November 19 and by November 21st the South Texas Journal had made reference to having seen the documents and was in possession of them along with a copy of a letter signed by 18 State level lawmakers who had asked that the committee refrain from a rate increase recommendation.
That is when TWIA officials began attempting to obtain the emails from the Journal and identify the source of the email. TWIA has not further publicly commented on the emails nor have they addressed the issue at all.
Reporters were able to track down the person who originally received the King email. When they arrived at his office reporters were threatened with arrest and given the number to an attorney by the name of Christopher Martin who has represented major insurance companies and their interests in the past. It is unclear as to who Martin is representing, if actually anybody in the matter.
But it does not seem that the proverbial buck stops at King. In fact, another email obtained by reporters seems to show that TWIA Board member Mike Gerik, who also works for the powerful Texas Farm Bureau may very well have some explaining to do of his own.
Gerik apparently received an email back earlier this month asking him to provide some assurance to another person that he could in fact get a 5 percent rate increase. The sender then apparently tells Gerik that “they” (presumably the TWIA Actuarial and Underwriting committee) had “done their part.”
It would seem that Texas Farm Bureau would have a stake in the matter as the group pocketed some $4.5 million dollars in 2018 just from TWIA alone.
It should also be noted that Gerik’s wife, Cyndi also works for Texas Farm Bureau as the company’s comptroller and CFO.
We have also reached out to Texas Farm Bureau regarding the email to Gerik. They have also yet to respond.
Email sent to Board Chair Mike Gerik