State Farm Faces Criminal Investigation Over Hurricane Claims


However, when the "catastrophe section manager" for State Farm saw that statement written out, he directed it be removed from what state regulators would be told, instructing, "This letter needs to be revised to delete the reference to unseal tab."

The reference was subsequently removed, and that same catastrophe manager then forwarded the newly revised letter to other unnamed colleagues at State Farm "for your review" before it was sent off to the state.

Attorney Mostyn says State Farm fought hard to keep from having to disclose those and other documents, but lost the fight. He says other documents show the insurer attempting to delete other references to the company's policy of not paying lifted-shingles claims.

Warner's lawsuit alleges that nearly 100,000 people may have had their claims for similar problems wrongly denied, estimating that many additional consumers who did not hire independent investigators to inspect their roofs may be unaware they are actually damaged today and susceptible to problems in future windstorms.

Longtime Texas state Sen. Rodney Ellis reviewed many of the documents and communications.

"The documents are troubling, and very scary," Ellis said. "They tell a story that indicates there is a serious problem. I think law enforcement ought to step in and people ought to be held accountable."

Ellis says he had received many complaints from his own constituents about similar problems and had previously asked the Texas insurance commissioner to launch a widespread investigation of State Farm. While he says that has not happened to date he welcomes the Travis County criminal probe.

Ellis has successfully called other insurance companies to task on the very same issue of not paying for lifted shingles damage. He previously called for a civil investigation by the Texas Department of Insurance against the Texas Windstorm Insurance Agency and its sister company the Texas Fair Plan Association, alleging a similar organized pattern of non-payment of lifted-shingle claims.

The resulting investigation ultimately led to enforcement action by the Texas Department of Insurance against both companies. The state regulator required each of those companies to go back and reevaluate claims and pay for, among other things, shingles lifted and unsealed by hurricane force winds on roofs.

ABC News has confirmed grand jury subpoenas have been served to State Farm.

"We have requested a large amount of information from them, and they are complying with our requests," said Gregg Cox of the Travis County D.A.'s office.

State Farm declined an interview request for this story. However, the insurer said in a statement that, "State Farm Lloyds is cooperating fully with the Travis County investigation and has successfully settled the majority of civil litigation involving Hurricane Ike claims. To date, we have paid policyholders more than $1.5 billion dollars, much of which went to repair or replace roofs. We have been actively working to resolve questions related to roofing shingle claims. We will continue these efforts to maintain the trust of Texas homeowners, of which more than one in six has placed their confidence in State Farm Lloyd's to protect their homes."

State Farm Lloyds says it will soon file papers with the court disputing the claims made in the Warner's recently amended lawsuit.

The criminal investigation by the Travis County District Attorney's office is focused on State Farm's actions in Texas. ABC News will be looking into stories and complaints from consumers who live in other states. If you have something you would like to share you can email Mark Greenblatt.

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