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On Behalf of Independent Entrepreneurs, Small and Minority Business Enterprises

 A pro se class action lawsuit has been filed this week by James Matthew Kernan, founder of Oriska Insurance on behalf of independent entrepreneurs, and small and minority business enterprises. This suit is in response to the attempt by New York State Department of Financial Services’ (DFS) to terminate Kernan’s efforts to serve these disadvantaged businesses. Oriska provides specialized insurance coverage and employee benefit programs, as well as surety bonding and mentoring necessary for these businesses to successfully bid on public works projects.

Department of Insurance’s Turncoat Accusation

The suit challenges the underlying premise of the Department of Insurance (DOI), and its successor, the Department of Financial Services (DFS) that Kernan is untrustworthy and should not be in control of Oriska Insurance. The basis for the department’s case is that in 2008 Kernan was indicted for allowing a convicted felon, Robert Anderson, to engage in the insurance business. Ironically six years earlier, in 2002, it was Kernan who discovered Anderson was a felon and reported his findings to the New York DOI. Kernan later in 2003, with the acknowledgement and consent of the DOI, Kernan consulted with Anderson to develop guidelines to prevent the kind of fraud of which Anderson had been convicted. Surprisingly when the federal government indicted Kernan for consulting with a felon, instead of acknowledging their consent to the arrangement, the state DOI tried to punish Kernan for it.

NYDOI/DSF Played Politics

The DOI and DFS targeted a small boutique insurance company owned by Kernan that never failed to pay a claim and never abandoned an employer while looking the other way as lobbyist-laden AIG and other financial institutions ruined their investors and nearly destroyed our economy. The DFS tried to place Kernan’s company in receivership, but in 2007 the NYS Supreme Court found the department’s accusations false.  Now they are again trying to use the issue of consulting with a felon to drive Kernan from the insurance industry.

“After dropping the ball with AIG and allowing JP Morgan to lose billions of investor dollars, reasonable people can see that the big firms are off limits and that the regulators target small firms,” said Kernan.  “This hurts many small, disadvantaged businesses and swells the numbers of chronically unemployed.”

Protecting the Disadvantaged Worker

The unique combination of insurance policies offered by Kernan has enabled independent entrepreneurs, small and disadvantaged businesses to compete for public works projects. His company is singularly capable of providing the workers compensation, health and disability insurance together with surety and fidelity bonds that these businesses need to qualify for public works contracts. Due to the difficulty these firms have obtaining bonds, the corrupt process of “fronting,” by which a phony minority firm flushes payroll to non-minority workers, has become endemic, further harming the chances of a small or minority firm to succeed.

Kernan teamed up with the Maritime College in the Bronx to run an apprenticeship and training program which ensures that the small and minority firms he bonds have the skilled craftspeople to complete their jobs successfully. He founded a nonprofit called Oriska Jobs and Careers to oversee this effort and he is responsible for launching many successful careers.

David takes on a team of Goliaths

Kernan’s decision to represent himself as a representative of this Class is unprecedented. “I have the experience and skills to represent this Class, and pro bono support from the legal community is committed to help win restraint of misguided bureaucrats,” said Kernan. “I have for decades helped independent entrepreneurs and small and minority businesses grow and be able to complete large public works projects. I’m determined to continue helping disadvantaged workers succeed.”

The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Kernan now awaits a response from the New York Attorney General.

For More information:

1. Facts Behind Jim Kernan Class Action: – Please allow time to open. This is a large file. Once open, you can download it to your computer.

2. Filed Civil Action Lawsuit:

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