New York’s top financial regulator is investigating Hurricane Sandy insurance issues related to allegations of altered engineering reports, adding to a growing list of state and federal probes into FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.
A representative from the New York state Department of Financial Services, which oversees big banks and insurers, disclosed the investigation during a community meeting Tuesday evening in Brooklyn’s Gerritsen Beach neighborhood. Standing onstage in an elementary school auditorium, staffer John Capuano asked for homeowners’ help with the probe regarding engineering reports used to evaluate claims from the 2012 storm.
Capuano said that while FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has “exclusive oversight” of the federal flood insurance program, the state insurance watchdog remains “concerned about what happened with the engineers” in Sandy’s aftermath.
“If you believe that you were impacted by changed or altered engineers’ reports, it’s very important that you speak with us,” Capuano told an audience of about 50 people gathered for the storm recovery event hosted by New York state Sen. Martin Golden.
Homeowners’ allegations of lowballing and fraud in the flood program -- a partnership between FEMA and private insurance companies -- have touched off a chain-reaction of government reviews and criminal inquiries along the East Coast. FEMA has acknowledged that officials ignored signs that fraudulent engineering reports were potentially being used to deny payments. The agency is currently setting up an unprecedented review process for 144,000 Sandy claims, which will be open to anyone who questions their flood insurance payout.
As FEMA establishes that process, a new U.S. Senate Banking Committee investigative team is examining Sandy-related insurance issues, Reuters reported Tuesday. Last month, the four U.S. senators from New York and New Jersey called for oversight hearings into the fraud allegations.
The National Flood Insurance Program is the primary source of flood insurance coverage for U.S. homeowners, serving some 5.2 million policyholders nationwide.
“We’re pleased Congress shares our concern over these allegations and we’ll continue to work closely with them to support our work to assist Sandy survivors,” FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre said.
The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security also is conducting an inquiry. At the same time, the attorneys general in New York and New Jersey are undertaking criminal investigations into Sandy insurance matters in their respective states.
Capuano declined to elaborate on the Department of Financial Services' investigation when asked by a reporter at the event Tuesday.
Matthew Anderson, a spokesman for the department headed by Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky, told International Business Times, “As a general matter, we don’t comment specifically on ongoing investigatory matters.”