Insurance Company Pays Metro For 'Endorsement'

Posted at 10:30 PM, May 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-16 23:40:09-04

You've seen celebrities do it -- and now Metro's own water department is doing too.

Metro Water Services, it turns out, has an endorsement deal to promote insurance for your water and sewer lines.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained a copy of a letter that went to Metro Water customers in an envelope with the Metro Water logo and return address on it.

But it didn't come from the city.

So how did a private company get away with sending something like this?

Turns out, the head of Metro Water signed off on it.

The director of Metro Water Services, Scott Potter, stated, "I'm not a pitchman."

But the official looking letter from Metro Water Services, complete with Metro's logo and Potter's signature at the bottom, is really just an ad for a private company's water and sewer line insurance.

Potter though insisted, "It's not an endorsement. I'm not endorsing this. We're offering a service."

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates found American Water Resources is paying Metro Water Services close to $20,000 a month to be "the exclusive provider" of water and sewer line protection in Nashville.

In return, the New Jersey-based company gets to use Metro Water Services' logo and director Scott Potter's name to advertise and promote its insurance program.

"You don't think this is misleading?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Potter.

"No, ma'am, I do not," he replied.

But Metro Water customer Marcus Derrickson was confused.

"You saw that Metro Water Services was endorsing this (the water and sewer line insurance)?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Derrickson.

"Right," he answered.

"And that changed your mind?" we continued.

"That's right!" Derrickson said.

Derrickson said that, when he first heard about the insurance, he was skeptical.

The optional insurance for both water and sewer protection costs $12.50 a month and covers repairs to the water and sewer lines that run from a customer's water main to their house.

But after he saw the Metro Water department was behind it, Derrickson said he signed up for it.

"If Metro Water Services said it was fine, it was good for you?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked him.

"Absolutely," Derrickson responded.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates then shared that with Metro Water's director.

"He thought you were endorsing it," we told Scott Potter.

"I'm not endorsing it, Jennifer. I've said that clearly," Potter explained.

But listen to what the letter with Potter's signature said to Metro Water customers:

"We are proud to have selected a partner with the reliability you expect...."

"Metro chose American Water Resources for its proven track record of service excellence...."

"You can be confident of quality work."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, "This sounds like an endorsement though.

"Jennifer, it's not an endorsement," the director said.

But the vice president and general manager of American Water Resources told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that's exactly what the deal is all about.

"Endorsing our partnership, yes," Barbara Boyarsky explained.

"And, endorsing your product -- what you're selling?" we asked.

"Correct," she confirmed.

Marcus Derrickson said, "I thought I was getting coverage for my sewage line."

He told us that when he discovered he had a broken sewer line, the company told him it was covered and then changed its mind and then refused to pay for the repairs.

"It was such a raw deal," Derrickson shared.

And another Nashville homeowner, we found, sued the company late last year for the same thing.

In fact, according to Metro's own numbers, in the last two years, of the 556 claims filed, AWR has refused to pay 192, which breaks down to more than a third of them.


That was Derrickson's response when we told him Metro was getting paid to help promote the private insurance. He then wondered aloud why Metro would align itself with such a company.

"What's it doing for the general public?" he asked.

Scott Potter told us it's giving Metro Water customers an option. And, the Water Service's director continued to defend the deal.

"This is a good service. I'm not going to change my opinion because it's a good service that people can elect to use or not."

American Water Resources sells policies around the country, but the company said Metro is one of only six cities that's agreed to one of these endorsement deals. 

If you're wondering what exactly this insurance covers, Metro is responsible for the water and sewer lines up to your property line.

Your homeowner's insurance covers what's inside your house, but generally not the water lines outside, from your house to your property line.

That's where this insurance comes in.

Scott Potter told us that if you have a new house or newer water lines, you probably don't need it.

An older home and a long distance from your driveway to your home? You might want to consider it.

Like many things around your home, these lines can eventually wear out.

We should point out that these policies do come with a long list of things that are not covered.

So another option instead of paying the monthly premiums, is to put the money in a household repair fund.