“Victims of Super Storm Sandy were stunned to learn that an attorney once deemed by a judge to have “unquestionably engaged in sanctionable conduct” had a role at the 2016 National Flood Conference held in Washington May 15 to May 18.
“I am shocked,” said George Kasimos, the founder of Stop FEMA Now and a New Jersey real estate broker.
“Jerry Nielsen is a monster—this is like bringing a fox into the henhouse.”
Stop FEMA Now is an advocacy group for the Sandy claimants.
For three decades, attorney Gerald Nielsen has been the leading defender of flood insurance claims, and his reputation for fighting claims after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina made him the go-to guy to help the NFIP and its partner insurance companies handle the onslaught of Sandy claims. These write-your-own policy partners act as retail storefronts for the property owners handling the transactions, while NFID handles the actual risk.
There are 20,000 New York and New Jersey property owners who paid premiums into NFIP and who are still fighting for settlements, he said. “Nielsen was the guy FEMA used to fight claims after Hurricane Katrina to fight us.”
The National Flood Conference is hosted by the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. For years, the conference was hosted by FEMA, but after the 2013 conference, the agency stopped. In 2014, a smaller conference was hosted by Nielsen, Carter and Treas, and now PCI has taken it up.`
Nielsen and his partners represent at least 17 WYO insurance companies tied to Sandy claims, even though the firm is located hundreds of miles away, which was one of the concerns about NCT raised in a Dec. 1, 2014 letter from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and then-senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D.-La.) to the Comptroller General demanding an investigation into the $100 million in legal fees paid to NCT and others fighting Sandy claims.
It was money that could have gone to Sandy victims and most likely would exceed the actual cost of the claims they were fighting, they said.
Schumer and Gillibrand also told the Comptroller General they had a heightened concern about the ethics of Nielsen and his partners, given their role in presenting a fraudulent and altered engineering report in the case of Deborah Raimey and Larry Raisfeld v. Wright National Flood Insurance.
New York Judge Gary Brown wrote in his Nov. 7, 2014 Raimey & Raisfeld v. Wright ruling that Nielsen’s conduct was “reprehensible” behavior. “I find that counsel for Wright violated its obligations to comply with this Court’s discovery orders, thereby unreasonably prolonging this litigation, imposing unnecessary costs upon plaintiffs and further contributing to the unwarranted delays in resolving this claim.”
Brown said Nielsen failed to obtain or produce the draft reports or related emails. Instead, he persisted in relying on arguments which proved to be wholly false. “In neither response has counsel assumed a morsel of responsibility for their own misconduct, or uttered a syllable of apology.”
August “Augie” Matteis, an attorney at the Washington-based Weisbrod, Matteis and Copley, said he represents 1,300 homeowners hit by Sandy in their struggles with FEMA and the NFID.
Matteis said after the Raimey v. Raisfeld v. Wright ruling, the judge hit the insurance company with a $1 million fine and Nielsen went back to Louisiana—leaving the Sandy claims scene altogether.
“That fact that he reemerged as a speaker alongside FEMA decision makers at the National Flood Conference shows remarkable arrogance by him and FEMA,” he said. “They believe that they are above the law?”
Kasimos was more direct: “Now, he’s back? Teaching others?”