On December 10, 2019 at the Omni Hotel in Corpus Christi there was a hotly contested public meeting where members of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association Board of Directors were deciding on the issue of a potential rate hike that was recommended by the organization’s own Actuary and Underwriting Committee. Members of the public spoke for over four hours telling their stories hoping to influence the Board’s decision. State lawmakers delivered fiery speeches and in the end, the Coastal Bend won the battle with the Board voting no rate hike through 2020. But it did not come without a fight from the powerful insurance lobby.
At 2:38:22 into the meeting the insurance lobby had their moment in the sun via lobbyist and insurance industry activist Joe Wood with American Property Casualty Insurance Association. Towards the end of what was an obviously pro-insurance industry speech, Wood explains to the Board, in a last ditch effort to pray for their favor, he said that “Knowledgeable” people would not deny a rate increase and “Knowledgeable” parties would not oppose it based on numbers. Wood’s remarks were met with boos and anger from the crowd, but Wood was there to do a job and attempt to do it he did.
Wood is a seasoned lobbyist who is not afraid of the people or their elected officials. He serves as the VP of State Government Relations at what was formerly known as the Property casualty Insurers Association of America. In 2018 there was a merger making the new group. But after repeated attempts to contact Wood or a member of the group for comment–they would not and have not responded.
But that is no big shocker coming from a lobbyist who is registered here in Texas whose employer is based way up in none other than the good old windy city of Chicago. In fact, the company that Wood works for represents 7 of the 10 worst insurance companies in the United States, according to the American Association for Justice. So it would remain pretty clear just who they are looking out for. To further the point home, Wood and his employer have had back channel meetings regarding TWIA policies with Texas Farm Bureau. TWIA Board member Michael Gerik also serves as an Executive Vice President for Texas Farm Bureau, which seems like no real coincidence.
Insiders who formerly worked with Texas Farm Bureau, including a former Executive Assistant to Michael Gerik confirm that on numerous instances Gerik met with both TWIA Director John Polak and representatives from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association at the company’s compound in Waco. She also confirms that Gerik, Polak and Wood had private meetings together at the Elite Cafe in Waco, which could cause some to raise ethics questions.
But Joe Wood has been a defender of TWIA for about as long as anybody can remember. In fact, in the weeks following Hurricane Harvey, Wood was seen in an op-ed to the Texas Tribune defending TWIA and attacking Recovery Czar John Sharpe, who made critical comments about the Windstorm insurer early on in the crisis.
So while according to Joe Wood, Coastal residents and anybody who speaks out against rate increases might “not be very knowledgeable,” it is clear that we can at least put the pieces together as to who he is out to protect.
To watch Joe Wood’s “no knowledgeable person” remark, please click the link and forward to 2:42:06 on the tape. His entire remarks begin at 2:38:22.