Consumer Watchdog has tens of millions of reasons to oppose needed insurance reforms
In reality, Consumer Watchdog operates as a publicity-seeking, dark money front that only looks out for its own interests and that of its secret funders. Consumer Watchdog cares about their bank accounts, not California consumers.
With California’s insurance market in crisis, and homeowners and businesses struggling to access coverage, Consumer Watchdog is opposing common sense reforms to protect their own bottom line.
WHY? Because Consumer Watchdog is aggressively guarding a self-serving regulatory process they inserted in Proposition 103 that allows them to drain millions and millions in fees for themselves — money ultimately paid for by California policyholders.
Consumer Watchdog has ZERO MEMBERS.
Consumer Watchdog has raked in tens of millions of dollars in ‘intervenor fees’ thanks to the antiquated regulatory process they wrote into Prop 103 more than 35 years ago.
Over the last five years, Consumer Watchdog accounted for almost 90% of all intervenor fees.
In 2021 and 2022 alone, Consumer Watchdog brought in nearly $2 million in intervenor fees, paid for by California policyholders and insurance companies.
Consumer Watchdog attacks anyone who questions the organization’s role or proposes needed reforms to California's insurance regulatory system. Most recently, it criticized Speaker Rivas and Democratic legislators for holding public hearings on insurance reform.
In addition to donations from special interests and pay-to-play payments, Consumer Watchdog reaps millions of dollars from something called “intervenor fees.”
Proposition 103 created the intervenor process – a process that allows consumers and organizations to participate in the ratemaking process by providing technical input. In return, the “intervenor” is awarded intervenor fees. While this process was originally intended to bring more transparency to the ratemaking process, Consumer Watchdog has exploited this process for their own financial gain. Consumer Watchdog often inserts themselves into rate filing cases – causing delays and adding costs to the rate-making process, often without providing any additional value to consumers. As a result, Consumer Watchdog extracts a fee from insurance companies and California policyholders as part of the deal.
Consumer Watchdog authored this provision for itself within Prop 103 to secure a self-sustaining funding source that couldn’t be challenged.
According to data from the Department of Insurance, Consumer Watchdog collects nearly 90 percent of the intervenor fees granted in the State of California since 2018. In fact, this year, Consumer Watchdog has filed 100% of all interventions to date.
But the group’s tactics are plain for all to see. They’re in the intervenor fee business not to represent consumers (since they have no consumer members).
A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge took Consumer Watchdog to task for just that reason.
According to court documents, Judge William F. Highberger blocked an attempt by Consumer Watchdog to intervene in the case and accused the group of engaging in “an opportunistic piece of objecting” designed either as a “public relations exercise' or as an attempt to get paid by delaying the settlement.”
Furthermore, Judge Highberger "called it 'another regrettable example of opportunism" and told Consumer Watchdog, "If this was such a good case, why didn't you guys bring it seven or eight years ago?" Another attorney lashed out at the group saying Consumer Watchdog's "only objective was "only to derail what has to be one of the greatest class action settlements of all time, given the hurdles."
Consumer Watchdog is not a membership-based organization; they have ZERO MEMBERS. Instead, this “consumer advocacy” organization goes to great lengths to conceal the identities of its funders – a stunning lack of transparency for a group that has amassed millions.
In a stunning investigative revelation, The Los Angeles Times unveiled the secret supporters behind Consumer Watchdog, unmasking them as trial lawyers and special interests.
“Between 2012 and 2015, Consumer Watchdog accepted $260,000 in donations from Lehane’s group, a nonprofit called Main Street American Values. One $45,000 payment was made only weeks before Consumer Watchdog lent public support to one of Lehane’s clients.”
“It still appears that they [Consumer Watchdog] were saying favorable things about their funders. That’s the issue of transparency. Is Consumer Watchdog saying something because they believe it, or because it’s helpful to their funders?”