20-466. Fraud unit; peace officer status; powers; information sharing duty of insurers

A. A fraud unit is established in the department of insurance.

B. The fraud unit shall work in conjunction with the department of public safety.

C. The director may investigate any act or practice of fraud prohibited by section 20-466.01 and any other act or practice of fraud against an insurer or entity licensed under this title. The director shall administer the fraud unit.

D. The director may employ investigators for the fraud unit.  A fraud unit investigator has and shall exercise the law enforcement powers of a peace officer of this state but only while acting in the course and scope of employment for the department.  The director shall adopt guidelines for the conduct of investigations that are substantially similar to the investigative policy and procedural guidelines of the department of public safety for peace officers.  Fraud unit investigators shall not preempt the authority and jurisdiction of other law enforcement agencies of this state or its political subdivisions.  Fraud unit investigators:

1. Shall have at least the qualifications prescribed by the Arizona peace officer standards and training board pursuant to section 41-1822.

2. Are not eligible to participate in the public safety personnel retirement system established by title 38, chapter 5, article 4 due solely to employment as fraud unit investigators.

E. The director may request the submission of papers, documents, reports or other evidence relating to an investigation under this section.  The director may issue subpoenas and take other actions pursuant to section 20-160.  The materials are privileged and confidential until the director completes the investigation.  Any documents, materials or other information that is provided to the director pursuant to this section is not subject to discovery or subpoena until opened for public inspection by the director or, after notice and a hearing, a court determines that the director would not be unduly burdened by compliance with the subpoena. The director shall keep the identity of an informant confidential, including any information that might identify the informant, unless the request for information is made by a law enforcement agency, the attorney general or a county attorney for purposes of a criminal investigation or prosecution.    The director may use the documents, materials or other information in the furtherance of any regulatory or legal action brought as a part of the director's official duties.

F. If the documents, materials or other information the director seeks to obtain by request is located outside this state, the person requested to provide the documents, materials or other information shall arrange for the fraud unit or a representative, including an official of the state in which the documents, materials or other information is located, to examine the documents, materials or other information where it is located.  The director may respond to similar requests from other states.

G. An insurer that believes a fraudulent claim has been or is being made shall send to the director, on a form prescribed by the director, information relative to the claim including the identity of parties claiming loss or damage as a result of an accident and any other information the fraud unit may require.  The director shall review the report and determine if further investigation is necessary.  If the director determines that further investigation is necessary, the director may conduct an independent investigation to determine if fraud, deceit or intentional misrepresentation in the submission of the claim exists.  If the director is satisfied that fraud, deceit or intentional misrepresentation of any kind has been committed in the submission of a claim, the director may report the violations of the law to the reporting insurer, to the appropriate licensing agency as defined in section 20-466.04 and to the appropriate county attorney or the attorney general for prosecution.

H. The director may:

1. Share nonpublic documents, materials or other information with other state, federal and international regulatory agencies, with the national association of insurance commissioners and its affiliates and subsidiaries and with state, federal and international law enforcement authorities if the recipient agrees and warrants that it has the authority to maintain the confidentiality and privileged status of the documents, materials or other information.

2. Receive documents, materials and other information from the national association of insurance commissioners and its affiliates and subsidiaries and from regulatory and law enforcement officials of other jurisdictions and shall maintain as confidential or privileged any document, material or other information received with notice or the understanding that it is confidential or privileged under the laws of the jurisdiction that is the source of the document, material or other information.

3. Enter into agreements that govern the sharing and use of documents, materials and other information and that are consistent with this section.

I. A disclosure to or by the director pursuant to this section or as a result of sharing information pursuant to subsection G of this section is not a waiver of any applicable privilege or claim of confidentiality in the documents, materials or other information disclosed or shared.

J. The director shall annually assess each insurer as defined in section 20-441, subsection B authorized to transact business in this state up to one thousand fifty dollars, as annually adjusted pursuant to this subsection for the administration and operation of the fraud unit and the prosecution of fraud pursuant to this section.  Monies collected shall be deposited, pursuant to sections 35-146 and 35-147, in the state general fund. The director shall annually revise the assessment amount in such a manner that the revenue derived from the assessment equals at least ninety-five per cent but not more than one hundred ten per cent of the appropriated budget of the fraud unit for the prior fiscal year.

K. A person, or an officer, employee or agent of the person acting within the scope of employment or agency of that officer, employee or agent, who in good faith files a report or provides other information to the fraud unit pursuant to this section is not subject to civil or criminal liability for reporting that information to the fraud unit.