December 10, 2008                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

STATE AUDITOR MORRISON ANNOUNCES RECOVERY OF MORE THAN $54 MILLION FOR MONTANA CONSUMERS


      Additional $383 Million Collected for State’s Treasury
      
       Helena, Mont., December 10, 2008 -- State Auditor John Morrison today announced that since taking office in January 2001, legal actions and consumer protection measures taken by the Montana State Auditor’s Office have resulted in the recovery of more than $54 million for Montana insurance consumers and investors.  Morrison’s Securities Division and Insurance Investigations Bureau collected more than $7.3 million in fines from financial wrongdoers since 2001.  In addition, during the same time period, Morrison’s office collected more than $418 million in taxes and fees from insurers and investment firms doing business in the state.  “For a relatively small agency, we do a lot of Montana’s heavy lifting,” said Morrison.  “Not one penny of our funding comes from taxpayer money; it is all borne by the industries we regulate.  Yet, behind the Montana Department of Revenue, we bring in more money for the State’s treasury than any other agency.”
       Morrison explained that as the state’s insurance and securities commissioner, his office is responsible for enforcing laws to safeguard Montana’s insurance consumers and investors.  These laws protect Montana consumers against violations including fraud, deceptive business practices and unethical business transactions.  In addition, the State Auditor’s office mediates disputes between Montana consumers and insurers concerning coverage and payment of claims. 
       Morrison said that since January 2001, legal actions and consumer advocacy measures taken by the State Auditor’s Office have resulted in recovery and restitution for consumers totaling $54,843,178.
       "The attorneys, investigators, analysts and dedicated policyholder services staff from the State Auditor’s Office work vigorously every day to defend the rights of Montana insurance consumers and investors," Morrison said. "From relatively simple cases involving consumers who are owed several hundred or several thousand dollars, to extremely complicated multi-state lawsuits involving millions of dollars, we pursue every avenue to uphold state laws and recover what rightfully belongs to Montanans."
       Morrison said that his Policyholder services team has successfully mediated insurance disputes between Montana consumers and insurers, resulting in $32,145,923 million recovered for consumers since January 2001. 
       Morrison added that the Auditor’s Securities Division, which is responsible for protecting investors against illegal investment activity, has taken legal actions resulting in the return of $15,477,856 million to investors since January 2001.  In addition, during that timeframe, $7,329,148 million has been recovered in fines by both the Securities Division and Investigations Bureau.
       “I am extremely proud of the consumer protection work of this office,” said Morrison.  “Returning more than $54 million back into the pockets of hard-working Montanans is extraordinary.  This money was important to these families – it represented retirements and college educations.  It meant being able to rebuild after a flood or fire or being able to get safe, reliable transportation after an accident.  Recovery of these funds is very personal and meaningful to those families suffering a loss and needing our help.” 
       The Montana State Auditor’s office handles approximately 55,000 public inquiries per year involving nearly every type of insurance and securities issue - from unpaid insurance claims or unfair insurance valuations to illegal investment scams and tips about suspected insurance and securities fraud.
       Morrison thanked the Policyholder Services team, attorneys, investigators and staff from the State Auditor’s Insurance and Securities Divisions, who spend most of their time working behind-the-scenes to protect Montana’s investors and insurance consumers.
       "The State Auditor’s Office is dedicated to protecting Montanans in every way possible - from investigating securities fraud to taking legal action against big Fortune 500 companies to ensuring that insurance consumers and investors are treated fairly," Morrison said. "Every dollar recovered and returned to consumers, can be used to make Montana a better place to live, work and raise a family."