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New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer expanded his bid-rigging probe of the insurance industry Friday, suing a San Diego, Calif.-based broker for practices that Spitzer said raised premium costs for employees at leading U.S. companies. The civil suit contends that Universal Life Resources (ULR) received millions of dollars in payments for steering customers to insurers including MetLife, Prudential and Unum Provident Corp. that provided life, accident and disability coverage for workers. Those practices raised the cost of insurance for workers who contributed to coverage secured through their employers, Spitzer said. ULR has brokered coverage since 1999 for some 4 million employees of companies including Intel, Eastman Kodak, Marriott International, United Parcel Service and Dell, according to Spitzer’s office. The attorney general said his latest case is related to a civil suit he filed Oct. 14 against the nation’s largest insurance brokerage, Marsh & McLennan Cos., alleging fraud and anti-competitive practices within the corporate insurance industry. That action has resulted in the ouster of two top executives of Marsh Inc., the company’s risk and insurance services unit, and criminal pleas of three insurance executives. On Tuesday, Marsh & McLennan announced it would lay off 3,000 employees, or about 5 percent of its work force, as it responds to Spitzer’s investigation. Spitzer’s new lawsuit alleges that as much as two-thirds of Universal Life Resources’ annual revenues of about $25 million came from secret payments from insurers. “Today’s case demonstrates that the corrupt practices first laid bare in the Marsh suit are present in additional sectors of the industry,” Spitzer said Friday. Bob Cleary, a lawyer for ULR, said Friday that Spitzer’s office had not notified him about the suit, which names the company, chief executive Douglas Cox and two affiliated corporations. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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