NRA Wins Fight to Question Former New York Official Over State Probe
(Bloomberg) -- The National Rifle Association won permission from a judge to question a former New York regulator under oath in a lawsuit claiming the state illegally discouraged banks and insurers from doing business with the organization after a spate of deadly mass shootings in 2017.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian Hummel in Albany on Wednesday ruled the gun-rights organization may depose Maria Vullo, the former superintendent at the New York Department of Financial Services who led an investigation into an NRA-branded insurance program called Carry Guard. The regulator determined last year that the product is unlawful.
Hummel said the NRA can question Vullo about a phone call she had about Carry Guard with a regulator in California, which has also cracked down on the insurance program. The NRA claims the phone call is "central" to its claim that the NRA was targeted by Vullo and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as a result of "selective enforcement" of New York law.
The NRA "has demonstrated that Ms. Vullo’s specific rationale for her alleged actions is at issue in this case such that her deposition testimony may be the only way to address these ’critical blanks’ in the record," Hummel said.
The state’s investigation resulted in insurer Chubb Ltd. and insurance broker Lockton Cos. halting their programs for NRA members and paying millions of dollars in fines. Carry Guard, which provides NRA members with coverage for legal costs stemming from gun-related deaths, has been criticized by gun-control advocates as “murder insurance.” The NRA claims Cuomo and the regulator violated the organization’s free-speech rights.
"New York is standing up to the gun lobby to protect the lives and liberty of our citizens," Tyrone Stevens, a spokesman for Cuomo, said in an emailed statement. "This is a frivolous lawsuit and the state intends to vigorously defend itself."
Vullo “singled out” the NRA “to suppress its speech,” William Brewer, the group’s lead lawyer on the case, said in a statement. “She should answer questions regarding this conduct.”
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.