by Ana Maria
There ought to be a national registry of child molesters and insurance company executives because I hold them in the same very low esteem.An open letter to Ms. Lauren Shurden of Hattiesburg, Miss., who wrote a letter to the editor to the Hattiesburg American. The letter is titled State Farm employee's message for Taylor.Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS)
CNN's The Town the Fought Back
February 25, 2007
Dear Ms. Shurden,
When I read your letter to the editor published yesterday, August 30, 2007, in the Hattiesburg American in which you publicly chastised Congressman Gene Taylor for a statement you apparently misunderstood, I wondered about the source of your misunderstanding.
In your letter, you wrote
We are now likened to "child molesters" and "should be put on a national registry." I cannot tell you what it feels like to be compared to the lowest of the criminals.Ma’am, you’ve committed no crime here unless you consider it a crime for being a State Farm apologist and failing to get your facts straight before publicly chastising a man who has done a magnificent job of demonstrating heroic courage in the face of extraordinarily enormous challenges brought on by the worst natural disaster in the history of our nation and the worst financial disaster homeowners and business owners are facing because of an industry consumed with greed.
My only crime is to have been employed by a State Farm agent for the last 17 years. Up until August 2005, my vote and taxes seemed to be important to you. Now I am not worth a second thought to you.
Congressman Gene Taylor lost EVERYTHING in the storm. When Congressman Gene Taylor and his wife Margaret G. Taylor boarded up their home, packed an overnight bag, and drove up the country to a family member’s home where they would ride out Katrina, it never occurred to them that whatever they brought with them would be all that would remain of all that the two of them had. Every stitch of clothing, every family photograph, every piece of familial memorabilia as well as everything else inside their home Katrina’s winds scattered to the four corners of the planet.
Like thousands of families in South Mississippi, the Taylors learned that the insurance company intended not to honor its WIND policy provisions for which its loyal customers had faithfully paid.
Granted State Farm was not the only insurance company to have customers that felt betrayed. Other corporations appear to have implemented similar pre-determined conclusions on insurance claims--the water did all the damage and none of it was from the 135 miles per hour that battered the homes and business for hours on end before the water arrived. To be candid, I’m not sure what honor there is in saying other companies betrayed the American public.
The betrayal club, however, is the reason that Republican Leader U.S. Senator Trent Lott, who also lost everything in Katrina and was also denied a penny on his WIND insurance policy claim, is co-sponsoring federal legislation to ensure that the entire insurance industry be subjected to the same anti-trust laws by which every banker, real estate agent, and other business people are required abide. Like Congressman Taylor, U.S. Senator Trent Lott had to resort to hiring an attorney—Lott's brother-in-law, Dickie Scruggs—and sue before receiving any money on the WIND policy for which each of these families had faithfully paid their premiums through the years.
About 18 months ago, Congressman Taylor stated
There ought to be a national registry of child molesters and insurance company executives because I hold them in the same very low esteem.Please read this CNN transcript carefully. The word is EXECUTIVES. Congressman Taylor knows very well who makes the decisions that agents implement. He knows that it is the executives who drafted the policies that were written in the memos which he has uploaded on his congressional website here.
I can understand, Ms. Shurden, that you are upset because of your misunderstanding of Congressman Taylor’s comment. As you can see, however, your concern is misguided.
We all know that no insurance agent or broker had an iota of influence on the directives handed down from corporate.
How frustrating it had to have been for you and your peers to feel the brunt of the public chastisement as family after family was wrongfully turned down for the legitimate WIND policy claims that had been submitted.
How humiliating it had to feel that the company from which your families are fed, clothed, and sheltered are denying the funding it should have provided to feed, clothe, and shelter the customers with which you and others like you had cultivated strong relationships.
How you and others like you had to have felt your own sense of betrayal for representing a company that you believed in, that you had believed would honor its commitments.
However, none of the humiliation and betrayal that employees of these insurance companies felt or continue to feel can measure against the financial ruin and emotional devastation that any of your Katrina-ravaged customers feel. To feel ravaged by the company to which one has faithfully paid WIND policy premiums—and paying them without the company having to hire lawyers and engineers to haul them to court to pay up, I remind you ever so gently, remains a horrific sense of betrayal.
Yes, Congressman Taylor likened the Executives of insurance corporations to the same low level of esteem as he holds child molesters. And unless you yourself are really an executive and not an agent, I believe your public tirade has been misplaced.
Now, I have a question for you, Ms. Shurden. What is it that prompted you to write such a letter that is based on factually deficient information and to do so 18 months after Taylor made the comment?
You know, something comes to mind that I would like to share with you. I remember when I was working for the Comptroller of the Treasury as a legislative performance auditor. That is the state version of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). We would go into state agencies to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. We’d write up audit reports, publish those reports, and testify before the State of Tennessee legislature regarding our reports’ conclusions.
Our reports criticized management for it is management’s job to institute the will of the state legislature and to do so in an efficient and effective manner that would garner the results desired. We were always careful to place the responsibility where it belonged: management, not the front line employees who are only doing as management directed.
However, some agency management failed to take responsibility for its actions. One routine trick of theirs was to distort our reports and tell its employees that the auditors blamed the front line employees for the conditions we found. Of course, if any of the employees had read the reports, this misinformation would have been cleared up. But those employees have busy and hectic lives just like the rest of America and so some of the employees just drank the Kool Aid, as it were.
I’m just wondering if this may be something that has happened here. Is corporate management doing a “shift the blame” routine? See, one result of that would be to get a loyal employee to go public with their feelings about being wrongly accused of what is management’s responsibility alone. Another result would be to help would be brave whistle blowers feel ticked off and not come forth with evidence of corporate wrong doing.
A third result would be to stir up chatter among its employees which then spreads out into the community. That chatter would be, perhaps, similar to what you’ve written in your letter. Upset at Congressman Taylor for . . . well it is for something that is not true and that were it to have been true, would have been devastating and disgusting. The only thing that is disgusting in this in the current situation is being financially ruined by corporate greed and the emotional devastation that has come from it.
So, I’m just wondering the extent to which, Ms. Shurdan, you may be experiencing some of the same things that those state agency employees I was referring to earlier. In a way, I’d sure hate to think that you came up with the misinformation all on your own some 18 months after the statement was made.
Well, the main thing is that now you know that Congressman Gene Taylor’s comment was that the insurance executives ought to have their names on a national registry because he thinks of them in the same low esteem as child molesters.
Down here where the brunt of the Katrina and insurance disasters hit, Taylor continues to enjoy tremendous—and maybe even more—support because he is championing the baseline financial security of every family and business owner that has been ravaged by Katrina then the insurance industry.
See, in true fashion, Congressman Taylor’s constituents are in good hands with him and his strongly committed staff. Just as you worked as you suffered through personal loss and worry about your family’s safety in Katrina’s aftermath, so, too, did Taylor and his staff work as they dealt with the blows Katrina dealt to their own families and friends. Just as you did all you could for your customers as you worked through your own tragic circumstances, so did Taylor and his staff.
Like all agents, you wanted to make good on the corporate marketing. You wanted to be a good neighbor and have your customers feel that they were in good hands. All of us wanted that for you as well.
Taylor has an impeccable reputation in the district because reality reflects his reputation. Taylor's reputation is the only marketing he has.
Thankfully, Congressman Taylor’s constituents feel that he is like a good neighbor. They feel that way because when the chips have been down, Taylor has been there just like a good neighbor, and they were in good hands.
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