Mike Pickens, a former Arkansas insurance commissioner whose private law practice now includes representation of an insurance agent contesting Insurance Department termination of his license, has copied me on correspondence that indicates he has only begun to dig into past department activities related to its current commissioner, former state Rep. Allen Kerr.
I mentioned here yesterday reporting by Arkansas Business on a lawsuit in which Pickens alleged that his client was being treated differently than others, particularly Kerr when he was terminated as an agent by Farmers Insurance. The Insurance Department cleared Kerr, despite the insurance company’s insistence of numerous improprieties in his underwriting practices. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who appointed Kerr as the state’s top regulator, said he was confident Kerr’s hands were clean. Former Commissioner Jay Bradford has insisted the Kerr case was properly handled and Kerr cleared in 2012. (Coincidentally, this was just a few months before Kerr joined in a key legislative vote for the private option Medicaid expansion being pushed by Bradford and the man who appointed him, Gov. Mike Beebe.)
Pickens sent me letters he’s sent to Kerr and the Department with expansive Freedom of Information Act requests. They cover 10 years of records of Insurance Department investigations of terminated agents and also include internal communications about the handling of such cases.
Pickens’ letters include a specific request relative to Kerr:
Dear Commissioner Kerr:
Based upon recent revelations in the press, as a former state insurance commissioner, former member and long-time officer/president of the nat’l ass’n of insurance commissioners, and as Mr. Steve Cotroneo’s attorney, I respectfully request that your Farmers’ termination file(s) be turned over to AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATOR acting under the auspices of the AR DOI Fraud Investigation Division for a complete and thorough investigation and final resolution of this most unusual matter.
Any applicable statute of limitations should be deemed tolled, since the ar doi and its agents took active steps to keep this matter quiet, and out of the light of public scrutiny.
Since AR is a mandatory fraud reporting state, please forgive me, but I am compelled to make this referral as a matter of law. I am sure you understand.
Please have the fraud division contact me as needed, and advise if I may assist them in any way.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation and compliance with the law.
Sincerely, Mike Pickens
Attorney for Steve Cotroneo
If Hutchinson is correct — that his thorough review of the Kerr file revealed nothing amiss — an independent review with open records should readily clear the air.