Qualified and Effective License Defense Before the California
Department of Insurance
Protecting Your Insurance License Against Disciplinary Action and Claims of Misconduct
The California Department of Insurance (CDI) governs and regulates insurance agents and brokers in accordance with the California Code of Insurance and the California Code of Regulations. The CDI’s job is not, as is often thought, to assist brokers and agents, but rather to protect the public from unscrupulous or incompetent insurance licensees. If the CDI receives a complaint of wrongdoing, it will open an investigation that can ultimately lead to the immediate revocation of your license or the filing of an Accusation.
If the CDI has initiated an investigation or disciplinary proceeding against you, retaining experienced and skilled legal counsel such as Gould & Hahn will make a vital difference in the outcome of your case. Gould & Hahn has assisted insurance agents and brokers in protecting their professional livelihoods since 1995. Contact us now to learn how we can put our experience to use for you.
Summary Revocation of a License
Unlike other California licensing agencies, the Department of Insurance has the authority to summarily revoke, meaning immediately revoke a license without a hearing if the licensee has been convicted of a felony, a misdemeanor violation of insurance law, or has had a previous license revoked or denied within the past five years. The CDI interprets this authority in the broadest possible way and it is not uncommon for licensees to learn, without any previous notice, that their license has been revoked or summarily suspended after entering into a Settlement Agreement with FINRA or learning that criminal charges have been filed. If you have received a Summary Suspension or Revocation of your license, contact Gould & Hahn immediately. Gould & Hahn has successfully challenged such orders and had the license reinstated pending a fair hearing on the charges.
Written Consent Pursuant to USC Section 1033
The CDI has the power to not only revoke your license, but also to prohibit any company or person licensed by the CDI from employing you. If you lose your license, you may also lose your ability to work in the insurance industry in any capacity. Insurance licensees who have lost their licenses for certain offenses are designated as a “prohibited person”, and licensees are not permitted to employ a prohibited person until such time as the prohibited person obtains a Written Consent pursuant to USC §1033. For that reason, if you receive an Accusation seeking the revocation of your license and you want to remain working in the insurance industry, you need to obtain legal representation from attorneys who are familiar with the nuances and procedures of insurance licensing law.
Investigation of a Complaint
The sequence of events that arise from the filing of a complaint with the CDI is illustrated in detail in our chart of the Enforcement Process. This chart can be very useful for understanding the procedures by which a complaint moves through the disciplinary process from the investigation, to an Accusation, to settlement or administrative hearing.
The CDI is tasked by the Legislature to respond to all complaints received in its offices. The most common sources of complaints are unhappy clients, FINRA, other licensees, and the criminal courts. Allegations in these complaints can include:
- misrepresentations to clients;
- sale of inappropriate annuities;
- the filing of felony criminal charges, a misdemeanor or felony conviction, or failure to disclose a criminal conviction;
- disassociation from FINRA;
- substance abuse or chemical dependency;
- mishandling of premium payments;
- trust account violations.
Your first notification of a CDI investigation may be a telephone call or written request for an interview by a CDI investigator. It is important to know that the CDI may use information or details that you provide during an investigative interview to support formal disciplinary action against you. It is important that you not speak to an investigator, therefore, before seeking legal representation. By consulting with an experienced licensing defense firm such as Gould & Hahn, you can be proactive and minimize, as much as possible, the consequences of the complaint and protect your ability to continue working as a CDI licensee.
Following its investigation, the CDI will pursue one of the following options:
- close the complaint as lacking sufficient evidence;
- issue a citation and fine for the violation of the Insurance Code identified;
- File a Notice of Summary Suspension or Revocation; or
- File an Accusation to revoke, suspend, or otherwise discipline your license.
Receiving an Accusation
If the CDI believes you have violated the laws relating to the insurance profession, it will file an Accusation to revoke your license. Once the CDI’s attorney has filed the Accusation, the document, with all of the unproven allegations, is made available to the public, all insurers, and all State and Federal agencies via the CDI’s website. The filing of an Accusation may result in the termination of your ability to sell for certain insurers pending final resolution of the CDI disciplinary action.
Once the Accusation is filed, there is an extremely limited window of time during which you must respond in order to preserve your right to defend yourself. You will have only 15 days to file a Notice of Defense, the form that advises the CDI you request a hearing and intend to defend against the charges in the Accusation. If you fail to file the Notice of Defense within 15 days, the CDI will revoke your license without providing you with an opportunity to defend against the charges and you will no longer be able to transact insurance. For these reasons, it is critical that you retain experienced counsel immediately upon receiving an Accusation.
The Accusation phase of the disciplinary process usually takes several months. During this period, Gould & Hahn will negotiate a resolution of your case in an effort to avoid the uncertainty and the emotional and financial expense of a contested administrative hearing. The CDI has the authority to settle your case before hearing and a majority of cases are resolved during the settlement process. Gould & Hahn will work closely with you to present the facts of your case that justify your right to a fair settlement.
Proceeding to an Administrative Hearing
Under certain circumstances, the CDI will not offer settlement terms other than revocation of the license. At this point the licensee must decide whether to proceed to hearing or surrender his or her license.
Determining whether to proceed to an administrative hearing is a significant decision that you must carefully consider in consultation with your experienced licensing attorney. An administrative hearing is held before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ does not, however, have final authority in administrative law. Final authority rests solely with the CDI. The ALJ issues a Proposed Decision and forwards it to the CDI for its consideration. The Proposed Decision is not binding on the CDI, meaning, you could prevail at the hearing, and the CDI could reject the ALJ’s Decision and issue its own decision disciplining your license. When evaluating whether to proceed to a hearing it is essential that you consult with your attorney and understand the nature of a Proposed Decision and your options for appeal in the event that the CDI rejects the ALJ’s Proposed Decision.
The attorneys and staff at Gould & Hahn have represented insurance agents and brokers since 1995 and have become familiar with nearly every circumstance and outcome in the administrative hearing process. Gould & Hahn has a proven record of defending and negotiating secure settlement agreements for insurance licensees, and a history of successful representation at hearing.
Formerly licensed insurance agents and brokers who have surrendered their license or had their license revoked following a disciplinary action may, after obtaining a Written Consent Pursuant to USC §1033 where required, file a Petition for Reinstatement. If you are interested in reinstating your license, contact the legal professionals at Gould & Hahn to discuss how you can best position yourself for reinstatement and how we can assist you in preparing and filing your Petition.