Freedom of Speech & the USA!

After my last blog providing a list from Citizens of public adjusters handling over $46 million in claims, I received slightly more than the usual number of comments. Most seemed to agree that, just like attorneys and Citizens employee’s, public adjusters would be a good addition to a Citizens Inspector General’s work plan.

Distracting from that point, however, was a threat from one public adjuster to file suit because I said the name of his firm and one other “…seem intended to make policyholders think they are with the government…”  

I was told to…

” …cease and desist and remove our name right away. Failure to do so will result in a suit, naming you for damage to our reputation and name.”

First, I wouldn’t retract something truthful just because of a threat–especially exercising freedom of speech–a right that, as a private journalist, fits nicely with freedom of the press.

But, I would correct anything that was inaccurate or, perhaps even, just unfair.  This is why I always verify data and proof the prose, before expressing my opinion.   After two years and over 400 pages of blogs, I’ve not had to correct a single word.   (See NOTE #1 below)

So…in light of being threatened and to keep intact my record for due diligence, it seemed appropriate to look deeper, consult counsel and eliminate any  potential that I may have missed something.

Begin by reading the words I wrote above again.  I said the firm name “…[seems] intended to make policyholders [think]  they are with the government.” Emphasis added.

Here’s the rub–I made the statement having only read the name of the firm from Citizens list of PA’s and from comments of others. I didn’t actually go to the firm’s website to determine how the name and initials might actually be used or displayed.  I have now done so and you can too.

Now, here’s what Florida law  defines as “deceptive” or “misleading”:

…Use of a logo or [shield that implies or could mistakenly be construed to imply] that the solicitation was issued or distributed by a governmental agency or is sanctioned or endorsed by a governmental agency. Emphasis added

Federal law may also be in play–it appears to say that use of the words “United States” by “insurance” entities also constitutes “misuse” or “False advertising”. Point being that, Congress passed Section 709, Chapter 33, Part I, of Title 18,  because the words “United States” are sometimes misused, as in “mistakenly be construed to imply…” government affiliation.

Whether using “United States” or “USA” is a violation of anything is up to the DFS, (or the feds) not me.  But, the highlighted words above are those of Florida lawmakers obviously concerned about the possibility of misleading solicitations by public adjusters, particularly after a catastrophe when people turn to government agencies for assistance.

I suspect that’s why the language is broad; prohibiting a logo that “…could mistakenly be construed to imply…affiliation with a government agency.  (See NOTE #2 below)

One more thing!

If you go to the website and listen to the nice young lady who walks on to the homepage to describe the firms claim services, near the end of her brief introduction she will say that the best thing is that its “…risk free…”

Florida law also says it is deceptive or misleading for a public adjuster to advertise […that there is “no risk” to the policyholder…]

Again, something for DFS  to decide, but…someone may want to give the website another look.  I only went as far as the home page.

Still…I want to be fair.

If the person who made the threat will provide me with an explanation as to why the above two observations are not further justification for what I said, I’ll publish his entire response without any edits whatsoever.

Moreover, if it looks like I was wrong, I’ll say so in print and redo my post as  requested.

But…until I receive such an explanation, the public record should reflect that additional research prompted by his threat, has only exposed more justification for my statement, not less!

##end##

NOTE #1: After all, sometimes, as in this case, others reprint my opinion–the Miami Herald published my letter and linked its readers to my blog on a related subject.  The R Street Institute, formerly The Heartland Institute, referenced my last blog in a piece titled “Follow the Money for opponents of Citizens reform” and provided links (via my blog), to public information that begs for more scrutiny. Read More.

NOTE #2: For an interesting exercise Google  government logo’s and shields, particularly those of agencies dealing with catastrophe’s like FEMA or The Department of Homeland Security and ask yourself  “could an elderly consumer with a home in shambles mistakenly construe or imply a similarity?”

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