NRA Ordered to Reveal Witnesses to Back Claim of N.Y. Threat
(Bloomberg) -- A judge ordered the National Rifle Association to provide the names Lloyd’s of London agents or employees who the gun rights group says have information backing its claim that New York’s insurance regulator bullied the company into severing ties with the NRA.
Maria Vullo, who led the Department of Financial Services from 2016 to 2019, is “entitled to know the names of those people” if they are going to be held out by the NRA as key witnesses to the alleged “backroom exhortations” at the center of the case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian Hummel said at a Wednesday hearing in Albany, according to a court transcript.
The NRA in 2018 sued Vullo and Governor Andrew Cuomo claiming they were strong-arming banks and insurers to scrap business deals with the NRA and ultimately silence the organization as part of the state’s anti-gun agenda. Vullo and Cuomo deny the claims. Lloyd’s, the world’s oldest and biggest insurance market, stopped underwriting NRA products in 2018. The NRA suit has yet to go to trial.
“We are surprised that the Magistrate Judge would compel the NRA to reveal names of confidential witnesses interviewed by counsel,” the NRA’s lawyer, William A. Brewer III, said in a statement. “Naturally, the NRA is evaluating its options in response to this ruling.”
The NRA said at the hearing that it had previously named two key witnesses. They are former Lloyd’s Chief Executive Officer Inga Beale, who left in 2018, and former U.S. General Counsel Joe Gunset, who left last year. It wasn’t clear what Beale and Gunset would say, or whether the other witnesses were physically present at the alleged meetings. The NRA had argued other witnesses were worried about being retaliated against if they spoke out.
Tom Hazzard, a Lloyd’s spokesman, declined to comment.
Hummel also ordered the NRA to reveal to Vullo the names of the other insurers or banks that it claims were bullied by the former regulator, because the complaint and other court filings suggested there were several others. At the hearing, Vullo’s lawyer said the NRA’s failure to identify any other companies suggests there are none.
“They have alleged that there were communications with executives, plural, and institutions, plural, but it sounds to me like what we’re hearing today is that they have -- that there’s one institution that they actually have any basis to make that allegation about,” Vullo’s lawyer, Debra Greenberger, said at the hearing.
Vullo’s alleged attempts to silence the NRA violated its First Amendment rights, the group argues.
New York has accused the NRA of acting as an unlicensed insurer by marketing Carry Guard insurance to residents in 2017. The product offered coverage for costs associated with the deliberate use of a firearm, prompting critics to dub it “murder insurance.” The state’s probe into NRA-branded products also resulted in insurer Chubb Ltd. and insurance broker Lockton Cos. halting their programs for NRA members in 2018 and paying millions of dollars in fines.
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