The Zero Sum Game: Allstate's McKinsey Documents
HERE IS THE LINK TO THE ALLSTATE MCKINSEY DOCUMENTS; YOU MUST AGREE TO VIEW THE DOCUMENTS FOR NEWS OR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES: CLICK "ACCEPT" AND YOU WILL BE DIRECTED TO A PAGE CONTAINING ALL OF THE DOCUMENTS MENTIONED HERE
Because I never meant to "take sides" on a matter I know next to nothing about, I'm now including along with the Slabbed excerpt originally posted, an excerpt of a recent article from Bloomberg.com - Allstate Releases McKinsey Records (etc.) below.
This post was originally meant to highlight Allstate's (or its consultant's) unfortunate use of the term "Zero Sum Game," when discussing claims handling procedures. My original comment was that "those who continue to play it often get their . . . uh . . . soft parts caught in a wringer."
The Slabbed post highlights the damage done to an admitted "Zero Sum Game Player" who is engaged in a human-harm-cost-benefit analysis. The Pinto punitive damages award came readily to mind because the case was decided while I was in law school learning about negligence.
For my non-attorney readers, I need to stress that it's not wrong to engage in a cost-benefit analysis for the compensation of injury under a negligence system. In fact, this is what the law itself (and injured Plaintiff's attorneys) do, i.e., "calculate" the risk of harm + the potential severity of the injury against the cost of avoiding that harm.
People react badly when they see that type of calculation being applied to human injury or the loss of human life because those losses are considered to be "incommensurable," i.e., no amount of money can recompense someone for, say, the loss of a child. For an excerpt from my own article discussing the concept of incommensurability -- The Cost of a Thing is Your Life, click here.
I'm hoping my non-attorney readers will understand that these formal monetary calculations are routinely made by businesses and governments when making decisions about how much risk to human life is worth taking when they engage in potentially dangerous activities for the purpose of creating a significant benefit for many.
In a previous post that received a notice in the Silicon Investor BB I spoke of insurers and their lawyers using the court system as instruments of institutionalized bad faith. Indeed Allstate has taken much criticism for ignoring lawful subpoenas over these documents as well as substantial fines as noted by Ms St John. This brings me to the beginning of the main story.
For more than a decade, Allstate Insurance Co. kept a secret from its auto policyholders — a national strategy to force customers to accept reduced cash payouts or face years in court.
Thousands of pages of Allstate documents reviewed by the Herald-Tribune detail how the nation’s second-largest insurer systematically cut payments to customers as a way to boost profits.
The documents describe a two-pronged strategy.
First, the company evaluates claims with a computer program designed to reduce payouts by as much as 20 percent of what the company once paid for the same injuries.
Second, Allstate pushes policyholders to accept quick settlements without the help of lawyers. Policyholders who try to fight for more money face Allstate attorneys coached to refuse to negotiate and to drag out litigation.
The approach often forces car accident victims to take what Allstate offers right away or spend years in court while their bills go unpaid — a strategy Allstate spelled out in guidelines for claims adjusters that “forces the claimant and attorney to think about the obstacles they must overcome …”
Indeed it appears we have a road map of how tort reform is being used against us. Limits on damages only make it easier for these large insurers to get away with outrageous behavior. The story continues:
It was a “Zero Sum Economic Game. Allstate gains … others must lose,” declared a consultant’s PowerPoint slide from a 1994 presentation to executives.
During the next five years of Allstate’s claims overhaul, the same consultant, New York-based McKinsey & Co., chose confrontational words to describe the new system. In PowerPoint presentations and discussion papers drawn up for Allstate executives, McKinsey used “boxing gloves” to characterize how Allstate should treat policyholders who balk at settlements. For customers who hired lawyers, McKinsey urged, “align alligators,” adding these instructions: “sit and wait.”
The documents also show:
Allstate removed much of the discretion of local claims agents to set payouts, requiring them to base their recommendations on a computer program called Colossus. Under that program, average payouts for bodily injuries dropped more than 20 percent in the first few years, internal documents show, a big step toward reaching McKinsey’s goal of “establishing a new fair market value” of such injuries.
Allstate recognized that when an injured driver hired a lawyer, the insurer lost money. In repeated presentations to Allstate executives, McKinsey coached tougher and increased legal action. By 1996, Allstate had doubled its legal force, hiring 225 more lawyers. “The bottom line is that Allstate is trying more cases than ever before,” a corporate newsletter said . . .
Excerpt from Bloomberg.com article below:
Allstate Corp., the second-biggest U.S. home and auto insurer, released 150,000 pages of documents sought by opposition lawyers and company critics related to McKinsey & Co.'s review of claims-handling practices.
McKinsey suggested strategies for the company to become more profitable by paying less in claims, according to videotaped evidence presented in Fayette Circuit Court in Lexington, Kentucky, in a civil case involving a 1997 car accident. Lawyers for policyholders said Allstate's previous refusal to release the documents showed the company wasn't treating its customers fairly. The insurer has said the documents include trade secrets.
``Public criticisms by people with a vested interest in creating an inaccurate picture of the company's claim practices have been based unfairly on only snippets from the documents taken out of context,'' the Northbrook, Illinois-based insurer said in a statement today. ``Because of the need to address misunderstandings resulting from the growing misplaced focus by our critics on very small pieces of the whole, we have decided to make the documents public.''
One slide the consultant prepared for Allstate was entitled ``Good Hands or Boxing Gloves,'' and recommended the insurer put on ``boxing gloves'' to deter about 10 percent of claims deemed to be exaggerated, padded, or fraudulent, according to portions of the report shown to the Kentucky jury. For more than 50 years, Allstate has advertised its employees as the ``Good Hands People,'' telling customers they will be well cared for in times of need.
The strategy proposed by McKinsey would ``send a message to the attorneys of our proactive defense stance'' in cases dealing with minor impact soft tissue injuries, the consultant said in the document. Lawyers would have to ``think about the obstacles they must overcome to recover significant settlement or the benefits of a smaller, walk-away settlement.''
Allstate implemented the plan in the 1990s because studies showed more people were submitting claims even though accident rates were declining and cars were safer, Allstate lawyer Floyd Bienstock told the Kentucky jury. The McKinsey report found Allstate was overpaying bodily injury claims by 16 percent, Bienstock said.
``It was never a plan to intimidate people,'' he said.
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