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Court Upholds Disclosure of Insurance Credit Data

AMARILLO, Texas (CN) - Texas insurers lost their bid to block the disclosure of their identities in data the state Department of Insurance gathered to compile a report detailing their use of consumer credit information.

The 7th Appellate District of Texas ruled that the information contained in the insurers' correspondence with the department must be disclosed under the Public Disclosure Act.

State law requires the department to submit a report on insurers' use of credit reports and credit scores, along with a description of their practices and the effect of different credit models. This information must be disclosed "in a manner that protects the identity of individual insurers and consumers."

To prepare the report, the department sent letters asking for data from some insurers. When it received a disclosure request seeking copies of its correspondence with insurers, it withheld the data, claiming the identities of individual insurers were "confidential by law" and exempt from disclosure.

However, the state attorney general said the withheld information was subject to release under the Act, because the law "addresses the confidentiality of insurers' identities found in the credit scoring report itself, and not the identities found in any information related to the credit scoring report."

Three insurance associations challenged the ruling and moved for summary judgment.

The trial court "split the baby," the opinion states, by ordering the department to release the data with insurers' names and addresses redacted. The associations appealed.

Justice James Campbell held that the data used to prepare the report was not exempt from disclosure.

"The plain language of the statute refers only to the report itself, not information obtained by (the department) for its use in preparation for the report," Campbell wrote. "We presume that the Legislature's words accurately reflect its intentions, and conclude the identity protection required ... extends only to information presented in the report."

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