Top Insurance Journal Midwest Stories of 2017

By | December 29, 2017

A bad broker, classic cars that got destroyed in a fire and insurer rating downgrades were among the most widely read news stories in Insurance Journal’s Midwest region in 2017.

Broker Gone Bad

One story that generated much interest among retail agents in the Midwest and beyond concerned a wholesale insurance broker that many agents had accused of taking their money and their clients’ money unlawfully.

Todd Jeremy Fendler of Rockford, Illinois, the owner of multiple property/casualty insurance operations in northern Illinois was indicted for the second time in August 2017 on charges of defrauding more than 100 clients of over $800,000. He had previously been charged in February 2017 in connection with a scheme to defraud former insurance clients of his businesses. The August action superseded the previous indictment and charged Fendler with 19 counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud in connection with his alleged fraudulent activity.

Fender owned and operated various insurance entities in Rockford, including Northern Illinois Insurance Agency Inc., Northern Underwriting Managers (NUM) and Surplus Market Solutions LLC.

NUM previously advertised with Insurance Journal and its affiliate, MyNewMarkets.com. IJ first became aware of the situation with NUM via complaints submitted to both sites that mirror those described in the indictments, as well as the two orders of revocation issued by Illinois — which Insurance Journal obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request — and Missouri’s non-renewal orders, which are accessible on the insurance department’s website.

The status of the pending charges against Fendler is unknown at this time.

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Other stories that captured the attention of IJ’s Midwest readers in 2017 concerned:

Charred Classic Cars

Dozens of antique vehicles were destroyed when a fire swept through a garage outside the southern Illinois community of Staunton in August.

Staunton Fire Protection District Chief Rick Haase says about a third of the building that served as Country Classic Cars’ showroom and warehouse was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

GuideOne Insurance Ratings Downgrades

A.M. Best has downgraded the Financial Strength Rating (FSR) to A- (Excellent) from A (Excellent) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Ratings (Long-Term ICR) to “a-” from “a” of GuideOne Mutual Insurance Co. in West Des Moines, Iowa, and its wholly owned subsidiaries: GuideOne Specialty Mutual Insurance Company; GuideOne America Insurance Company; GuideOne Elite Insurance Company; GuideOne National Insurance Company; and GuideOne Property & Casualty Insurance Company.

The outlook of these credit ratings (ratings) is negative. All companies are domiciled in West Des Moines.

American Family Insurance’s Agent Employment Classification Battle

A federal jury in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 18 determined that thousands of agents with Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family Mutual Insurance are employees, not independent contractors.

According to a news release from plaintiff attorneys involved in the case, a jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio returned a unanimous decision in the case following a two-week trial.

Litigation over Pizza Labeled ‘Halal’ in Michigan

A judge dismissed a $100 million lawsuit against Little Caesars Pizza that alleged that pork was sold as “halal pepperoni” at a restaurant in a Detroit suburb that has a large Muslim population.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Susan Hubbard threw out the lawsuit filed by Dearborn resident Mohamad Bazzi against Little Caesars Pizza, the Detroit Free Press reported. But the judge allowed a second lawsuit against the pizza chain over the pepperoni to move forward.

Chubb’s Exposure in Ohio Mansion Fire

A dispute over a multi-million-dollar insurance claim for a suburban Cincinnati mansion that burned down in 2014 settled weeks before a trial was scheduled to start.

A federal court filing says attorneys for Jeffrey and Maria Decker and their insurer informed the judge the matter was settled, but the document doesn’t offer details.

Holmes Murphy’s Time Off Policy

Des Moines, Iowa-based Holmes Murphy team members across the nation have overwhelmingly embraced the independent insurance brokerage’s Responsible Time Off program.

Holmes Murphy said it began a redesigned, more flexible time off practice for exempt employees on July 1, 2016, with positive results across the board.

Planned Cuts to Federal Ag Subsidies

Farm groups and some members of Congress from farm states decried proposed cuts to crop insurance and other safety net programs for farmers included in President Donald Trump’s budget.

The proposed cuts come even as farmers are facing their fourth straight year of falling income, and could particularly affect farm states such as Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska that helped Trump win the November election.

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