Exposes the Riches of Mercury Insurance Execs - and the Costs to Californians of Their New Ballot Initiative

Dec 22, 2009, 13:53 ET from Campaign for Consumer Rights

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Dec. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the Campaign for Consumer Rights launched a new site - - to give a sneak peek at how top Mercury Insurance executives are living the high life, while sponsoring an initiative that would, if passed, cost Californians millions of dollars every year.

Visitors to will find photos of the homes of Mercury's two top executives, billionaire chairman George Joseph and CEO Gabe Tirador, as well as a holiday greeting from the wealthy pair to California motorists and the 363 Mercury employees who were laid off earlier this year. The site also details the dangers of Mercury's 2010 ballot initiative, which would surcharge drivers, including soldiers and seniors, who have had a lapse in car insurance coverage for virtually any reason during the past five years.

Under the proposal, people who stopped driving and didn't need insurance for a time would be required to pay hundreds of dollars more for insurance when they sought to restart coverage. The measure would gut a provision of the 1988 insurance reform measure Proposition 103, which prohibits companies from raising rates on people because they did not have auto insurance in the past.

" provides a vivid picture of Mercury's priorities. While Californians are looking for new ways just to make ends meet, George Joseph and Gabe Tirador are scheming -- from their multi-million dollar homes -- on how best to cheat customers out of their hard-earned cash," said Douglas Heller with The Campaign for Consumer Rights. "We urge all California drivers to take a look at and see exactly what Mercury has in store for us in the new year."

In pressing for this initiative, Mercury Insurance is launching a deceptive campaign meant to hide the proposal's direct attack on families struggling in these tough times and the resulting premium hikes for California drivers, whether they've been insured or not. When the California Court of Appeal invalidated a virtually identical 2003 Mercury-sponsored law, the Court, citing the Department of Insurance's senior actuary, ruled that Mercury's proposal "would result in a surcharge equal to a 40 percent increase in premium for... policyholders who do not qualify for the 'continuous insurance' discount."

The proposed initiative is solely funded by Mercury Insurance, California's third largest auto insurer, which has provided $4.5 million to the campaign to date. Mercury has set up a front group, Californians for Fair Auto Insurance Rates or CAL-FAIR, in an effort to ensure that the news media have no access to Tirador and Joseph. pulls the veil away from Mercury's attempts to hide behind its front group.

The Campaign for Consumer Rights, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization is working with consumer groups, seniors, unions, soldiers and businesses to oppose Mercury's deceptive initiative. Campaign for Consumer Rights is the campaign affiliate of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Consumer Watchdog.

SOURCE Campaign for Consumer Rights