Maryland Insurance Agencies Accuse Erie Insurance of Discriminatory Practices

By | January 21, 2021

Three Maryland independent insurance agencies contracted with Erie Insurance have filed complaints with the Maryland Insurance Administration alleging Erie engaged in discriminatory practices against low-income and minority communities in the Baltimore area.

The complaints were filed by Baltimore, Maryland-based Baltimore Insurance Network, Windsor Mills, Maryland-based Ross Insurance Agency, and Baltimore, Maryland-based Welsch Insurance Group.

The three agencies claim Erie has systemically discriminated against clients and potential clients by refusing to underwrite insurance policies based on the client’s race, ethnic origin, geographic location and/or socioeconomic status.

In their complaints, the agencies say they were restricted from offering insurance policies underwritten by Erie to residents of primarily Black communities. They say that Erie threatened and executed actions against them for challenging what the agencies refer to as discriminatory redlining policies at Erie. The agencies claim these retaliatory actions impacted and continue to impact their business.

Specifically, Baltimore Insurance Network states in its complaint that Kristopher Marrion, vice president and Silver Spring, Maryland, branch manager at Erie, began taking increasingly aggressive action against the agency as retaliation for issues it raised about Erie’s discriminatory practices. Baltimore Insurance Network claims it was harassed to write less business even though the business generated by Erie’s online leads program included qualified individuals under Erie’s published policy guidelines. The agency also claims Marrion retaliated by closing Baltimore Insurance Network’s Bowie, Maryland, office without explanation or notice.

Welsch Insurance Group also says in its complaint that in August 2019, Erie terminated its 12-year agency relationship with Welsch, citing poor underwriting practices, unacceptable policyholder service and broken trust.

Matthew Cummings, public relations and social media manager at Erie Insurance, told Insurance Journal that Erie will respond as appropriate to the Maryland Insurance Administration to directly address the complaints, adding that Erie’s underwriting standards comply with state insurance laws and regulations.

“The claims and accusations made within them are baseless, and we will vigorously defend our business practices,” he said.

Cummings said Erie is committed to the fair and equitable treatment of all prospective and existing customers.

“Erie Insurance was founded on the core values of dignity and respect, and these values have been central to our success for more than 95 years,” he said. “We strive to create an environment where customers, agents and employees reflect the diversity of the communities where we all live and work.”

In their complaints, the three agencies state this isn’t the first time Erie has been accused of racial discrimination. The agencies pointed to a 2009 federal lawsuit in which Erie agreed to pay a $225,000 settlement to the Fair Housing Council of Central New York after it filed a lawsuit alleging Erie was discriminating against Black individuals in Syracuse, New York.

The three agencies are requesting that the Maryland Insurance Administration take actions including granting administrative relief, banning Erie from using discriminatory redlining practices, imposing a financial penalty that includes attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses and awarding damages to the agencies.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Erie agreed to a $225,000 settlement with the Fair Housing Council of Central New York in 2009, not 2019 as previously written.

About Elizabeth Blosfield

Elizabeth Blosfield is the East region editor for Insurance Journal. She can be reached at eblosfield@wellsmedia.com. More from Elizabeth Blosfield

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