What’s Worse than a Corrupt Cop?

When police showed up at Harry Schmidt’s home on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, he thought they were there to help. He was still mourning the disappearance of the beloved forest green Ford F-150 pickup that he’d customized with a gun storage cabinet, and he hoped the cops had solved the crime.

Instead, the officers accused him of faking the theft. The Vietnam veteran was now facing up to seven years in prison.

Schmidt was stunned, but he was even more upset when he found out who had turned him in.

Erie Insurance, one of the nation’s largest auto insurers, had not only provided the cops with evidence against its own loyal customer — it had actively worked with them to try to convict him of insurance fraud.

Erie had even paid part of the salary of the lead detective who knocked on Schmidt’s door that day, as well as that of the prosecutor who went on to charge him with felony insurance fraud. And it would also secretly cover the costs of an expert witness to testify against Schmidt in court.

Schmidt, a grandfather living on disability benefits from his war-related injuries, had no history of theft or fraud. But he found himself the target of an extraordinary alliance between private insurers and public law enforcement agencies — one that transforms routine claims into criminal evidence, premium-paying customers into suspects, and the justice system into a hired gun for a multibillion-dollar industry. It’s an arrangement essentially unheard of in other businesses, and one rife with potential conflicts of interest, as well as grave consequences for law-abiding customers.

If the above is scary, just think about how insurance companies literally have power over whether you live or die when they deny your medical coverage.


  1. Quasit says:

    What's to stop health insurance companies from taking out life insurance on their customers, and then intentionally denying them care?

    Seriously, is there anything stopping them from doing that?

    Come to think of it, don't the employers who take out "dead peasant" insurance on their employees also control the health insurance of those same employees?

  2. What stops this is the Marine Insurance Act of 1746.


    The act required that that, "Anyone seeking to collect on an insurance contract to have an interest in the continued existence of the insured property."

    It was passed because people would buy insurance on ships, and then arranged to have those ships seized by the French in order to collect.

    It was a central tenet of insurance law, until some moron in New York ruled that the Credit Default Swap (CDS) wasn't insurance, and allowed for the "Naked" CDS.

    It would still apply in the scenario that you mention though.

Leave a Reply