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Farmers Insurance Group (informally Farmers) is an American insurer group of automobiles, homes and small businesses and also provides other insurance and financial services products. Farmers Insurance has more than 48,000 exclusive and independent agents and approximately 21,000 employees. Farmers is the trade name for three reciprocal insurers, Farmers, Fire and Truck owned by their policyholders. The non-claims activities of Farmers are managed by an attorney in fact, Farmers Group Inc, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Zurich Insurance Group.
1922 to 2000
Farmers' future co-founders John C. Tyler and Thomas E. Leavey first met after Tyler moved to California. Tyler and Leavey had both grown up with rural backgrounds and believed that farmers and ranchers, who had better driving records than urbanites, deserved lower insurance premiums. During the 1920s, farmers across the United States were establishing their own mutual insurance firms and cooperatives in order to have less expensive policies. Tyler, the son of a South Dakotan insurance salesman, and Leavey, who had formerly worked for the Federal Farm Loan Bureau and the National Farm Loan Association, recognized that these farmers, ranchers, and other rural drivers were an overlooked market and wished to create their own auto insurance firm.
Tyler and Leavey received a loan from the founder of Bank of America, enabling them to start their company.
Tyler and Leavey opened the doors to their newly founded company, Farmers Automobile Inter-Insurance Exchange, in downtown Los Angeles, California. Tyler served as president with Leavey as vice president. A sales manager and secretary completed the four-employee team.
On March 28, 1928, the first meeting of the board of governors was convened. Two days later, Charles Brisco insured his 1925 Cadillac Phaeton and became the first Farmers customer.
Fire Insurance Exchange, the third reciprocal insurer, was launched, specializing in home insurance.
Mid-Century Insurance Company became a subsidiary of the Farmers Insurance Exchange. Aside from the insurance coverage provided by the original three exchanges, Mid-Century offered insurance coverage for Inland marine, robbery, burglary, personal lines, plate glass, selected bonds, and floaters.
Seattle-based New World Life Insurance Company was acquired by Farmers.
Farmers began annual participation in the Pasadena Rose Parade, launching its involvement in parades and community events nationwide.
John C. Tyler died at the age of 86. Thomas E. Leavey, the remaining co-founder, took the CEO position.
After an eight-month takeover battle, BATUS Inc., the American subsidiary of British conglomerate B.A.T. Industries Plc, acquired Farmers Group, Inc. for $5.2 billion and became the sole stockholder of the company's 68 million shares of common stock.
In March 2000, the Farmers Exchanges acquired Foremost Corporation of America (Foremost Insurance Group), a leading writer of manufactured homes and a prominent insurer of recreational vehicles, boats and other specialty lines.
In October 2000, the Zurich structure was simplified and unified under a single Swiss holding company. Allied Zurich and Zurich Allied shares were replaced by shares of the newly incorporated Zurich Financial Services with a primary listing on SWX Swiss Exchange (ticker symbol: ZURN) and a secondary listing in London. Zurich Financial Services American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) are traded on the American Stock Exchange.
In 2005, after Hurricane Rita hit Beaumont, Texas, leaving it without power, Farmers Insurance brought in almost 300 insurance adjusters to assess exterior property damage in order to expedite the reconstruction effort, provided $100,000 for the emergency operations center, and two badly needed megawatt electric generators.
In July 2007, the Farmers Exchanges acquired Bristol West Holdings, Inc., the parent of a group of insurers specializing in non-standard auto insurance, which provides insurance coverage for drivers whose driving records or other problems make obtaining insurance difficult.
During the October 2007 California wildfires, Farmers was one of only a few companies to set up facilities to aid their customers. In addition to writing checks for evacuation costs, damage claims, lodging and meals, the company ran commercials urging their customers to take advantage of these facilities. The company now also has 2 buses serving as Mobile Command Centers. This mobile claim center arrived at the Qualcomm Stadium only two days after the fires started.
In April 2009, Farmers announced that it would acquire 21st Century Insurance from AIG for $1.9 billion. The acquisition made Farmers the joint third-largest personal lines insurer in the U.S. The acquired assets included AIG Hawaii.
In response to the increasing number of deadly storms between 2010 and 2013, Farmers Insurance began "researching a model that municipalities across the United States could use to significantly reduce the time required for residential recovery." Teaming with SBP, a disaster relief organization based out of New Orleans, the result was the Disaster Recovery Playbook, an evolving online resource. Since the guide's initial creation, AmeriCorps has been brought onto the team.
The Farmers Exchanges, headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, are three reciprocal insurers or inter-insurance exchanges (Farmers Insurance Exchange, Fire Insurance Exchange and Truck Insurance Exchange) owned by their policyholders. The Farmers Exchanges, directly or through their subsidiaries and affiliates, offer homeowners insurance, auto insurance, commercial insurance, and financial services throughout the United States. Farmers Group, Inc. (dba Farmers Underwriters Association) and its subsidiaries, Truck Underwriters Association and Fire Underwriters Association, provide certain non-claims administrative services for the Farmers Exchanges as their attorneys-in-fact. The Farmers Exchanges do not hold an ownership interest in Farmers Group, Inc., and neither Farmers Group, Inc. nor its ultimate parent, Zurich Financial Services Ltd., a Swiss company, holds an ownership interest in any of the Farmers Exchanges.
The Foremost Insurance Group, headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a group of companies that primarily insure specialty products such as mobile homes, motor homes, travel trailers and specialty dwellings, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, boats and personal watercraft. It was founded in 1952 and was acquired by the Farmers Exchanges in March 2000. The Foremost companies are subsidiaries of the Farmers Exchanges.
The Bristol West Insurance Group became a part of Farmers in July 2007. In 1973, it began providing private passenger auto insurance to residents in Florida and now provides liability and physical damage insurance - focusing exclusively on private passenger vehicles - across the United States. The Bristol West companies are subsidiaries of the Farmers Exchanges.
21st Century Insurance, headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, became a part of Farmers in July 2009. Using the internet and direct response marketing channels, 21st Century markets personal auto insurance to consumers throughout the United States. The 21st Century Insurance companies are subsidiaries of the Farmers Exchanges.
Farmers New World Life Insurance Company started as Catholic Life Insurance Company in Spokane, Washington in 1910. Later that year it was renamed New World Life Insurance Company. In 1953, it was acquired by Farmers Group, Inc. In 1954, its name was changed to the current Farmers New World Life Insurance Company. Farmers New World Life Insurance Company is now based in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Washington. It offers flexible universal life insurance, traditional term life insurance, whole life insurance and annuities. Farmers New World Life Insurance Company is a subsidiary of Farmers Group, Inc.
Farmers Financial Solutions, LLC. was created by the Farmers Exchanges in 2000 to provide financial products to customers.
Products and services
Farmers' products and services include:
home insurance, including homeowners, condominium and renters insurance, mobile and manufactured home insurance, specialty home insurance, including landlord and rental properties, seasonal homes, and vacation homes, and flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program;
life insurance, including term, whole and universal life insurance;
recreational insurance, such as insurance for boats, ATVs, RVs, and travel trailers;
business insurance for small and medium-sized businesses, such as liability and property insurance, commercial auto and workers compensation insurance for apartment and commercial property owners, artisan contractors, condominium homeowner associations, retail stores, service providers, offices, religious organizations, educational and non-profit organizations, hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, and other businesses in the light manufacturing, restaurant, wholesale, and auto service & repair industries; and
financial services and products, such as mutual funds and variable annuities.
Farmers became the title sponsor of the Farmers Insurance Open PGA tournament in Torrey Pines, CA in 2010. The event raises millions for local San Diego charities each year. www.farmersinsuranceopen.com
Farmers Insurance Group's television advertisements typically center around "Farmers University," a fictional institution in which professor Nathaniel Burke (J. K. Simmons) educates Farmers employees about various unlikely insurance claims (often involving devious animals) the company covers.
In 2005, the company refused to pay a claim on a car accident because the accident was allegedly caused intentionally by another driver. Despite Farmers' claims, the state of Washington ordered the company to pay the claim.
In Betty Jo Walker v. Farmers Insurance (2007), Farmers was fined $3 million for not defending a pair of limited-income homeowners from a negligence claim.
In Goddard v. Farmers Insurance (2008), Farmers was ordered to pay $2.5 million for handling a claim with bad faith and "stonewalling" during settlement negotiations. The original punitive damages award was $20 million.
In Moeller v. Farmers Ins. Co. of Washington (2013), the company was alleged to have failed to comply with state law by not paying "diminished value," which is the loss in value suffered by certain insured vehicles even after they are repaired. The class-action lawsuit was resolved in exchange for payments from the company not exceeding $48.5 million. The company denied any liability.
In 2015, Farmers was hit with a putative class action by current and former employees who say they have been shorted on overtime wages and breaks. The suit was filed under California's Private Attorney General Act by four senior commercial claims representatives who claim that Farmers improperly classified them as exempt from overtime pay when they were often required greater than the standard 8 hours a day and thus sometimes more than 40 hours per week.
Also in 2015, a number of female attorneys employed as Farmers' in-house legal counsel filed a class action claiming that they had been discriminated against by being paid wages less than male attorneys in comparable positions and by being passed over for promotional opportunities. The class action was settled in June 2016 by an agreement which provides $4 million for the class members and also a commitment by Farmers to a number of employment policy changes going forward. These will include an increase in the number of women attorneys in its higher salary grades and a three-year period during which a company official will monitor compliance with the agreement, provide diversity training to its in-house attorneys and provide regular progress reports to the attorneys who represented the plaintiff in the class action.
The 2006 American Customer Satisfaction Index conducted by the University of Michigan found that customer satisfaction with Farmers was at exactly the same level as the overall Property and Casualty Industry. In addition, Farmers' satisfaction level was the most improved from 2005 to 2006 among the companies surveyed.
In March 2006, Consumer Reports considered Farmers Insurance one of the "poorest performers" among 27 insurance companies in terms of paying off (auto) claims in 30 days or less.
In the JD Powers 2007 Collision Repair Satisfaction Study, which covered customers surveyed between 2001 and 2004, Farmers Insurance received the lowest possible ratings in all four of the studied categories: "Overall Experience," "Claim Settlement," "Claim Representative" and "Claim Process and Procedures." Of the 26 companies surveyed, Farmers was tied for 20th place.
In 2005, 2006, and 2007 Farmers Insurance Group won the J.D. Power award for Call Center Customer Service Excellence.
In 2008 Bristol West had a complaint ratio of 3.42 while the national median was 1.0 according to the NAIC.[failed verification]