Volume 1 Number 46
November 15, 2004










TEXT VERSION

The Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, top right, and the Korean War Veterans' Memorial, bottom right , in downtown Tallahassee near the Capitol building.

HONORING OUR VETERANS 

There is no greater sacrifice Americans can make than serving their country during a time of war.  Many have made that sacrifice with courage and honor, and it is with that in mind that I write. 

As you know, last week we honored those who have served our country by celebrating Veterans Day.  I realize that this holiday is of particular significance, as thousands of Floridians are serving or have served with pride in Iraq. I admire the bravery that all the men and women of our armed forces have shown in the face of adversity.   

The recent hurricanes in Florida have brought out the same honor and courage in our citizens, whether first responders, volunteers, state and federal employees or, especially, victims of the storms. I admire their courage and strength as they have helped all of us pull together to begin the rebuilding process. 

Thank you to all who give so much for our country and our state.  Sacrifices by our citizens both at home and abroad speak volumes about character and valor.  It is men and women like these that make me proud of our state and proud to be an American. 

Sincerely,

The skyline for November is beautiful Lakeland in Polk County.
 


  

 

GALLAGHER VISITS MEDIATION CENTERS, GIVES STATUS REPORT ON HURRICANE RESPONSE

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher visited mediation centers in Punta Gorda and Orlando, which are now open and set up to help hurricane victims resolve claim disputes with insurance companies. More than 600 consumers have requested mediation to resolve a dispute. The first round of meetings have been scheduled to begin Nov. 22.

“For storm victims, getting their insurance claims settled so they can rebuild their homes is the crucial first step on the road to recovery,” Gallagher said. “We’re hoping to make that process easier and faster by offering mediation for consumers having disputes with their insurance companies.”

The mediation centers located at the Charlotte County Justice Center, 350 E. Marion Avenue in Punta Gorda and 8403 South Park Circle, Building 600, Suite 655 in Orlando offer a non-binding and non-adversarial claims settlement process for storm victims that is available at no cost to the consumer. CONTINUED
 

 

 

 

 

 

GALLAGHER RECOMMENDS EXTENDING MORATORIUM ON CANCELLATIONS TO HOMEOWNERS STILL WAITING FOR REPAIRS

At a meeting of Florida’s governor and Cabinet, state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher recommended extending the current moratorium on insurance non-renewals or cancellations for hurricane victims whose homes have yet to be repaired.

“Homeowners who lose their insurance coverage before repairs are complete are uninsurable,” said Gallagher. “For the thousands of hurricane victims who are still waiting for repairs, extending the moratorium on non-renewals and cancellations gives them peace of mind as they rebuild their homes and lives.”

Recognizing that many homeowners are being told they must wait up to six months to schedule repairs due to a shortage of construction contractors, Gallagher has asked the Office of Insurance Regulation to develop an emergency rule prohibiting insurance companies from canceling or non-renewing homeowners insurance coverage until repairs are complete. The rule would be considered at the next scheduled Cabinet meeting, Nov. 23.

Gallagher said this issue may require legislation but wanted an emergency rule to be drafted in anticipation of approval by the governor and Cabinet at their next meeting.
 

 

 


 

 

GALLAGHER ISSUES INVESTIGATIVE SUBPOENA

Gallagher announced that he has issued an investigative subpoena against New York-based Marsh & McClennan, one of the nation’s largest insurance brokerages. The subpoena requests documents related to the purchase of property insurance coverage for state-owned buildings.

“While we are currently investigating potential abuses in the insurance industry to protect Florida’s consumers, we are now taking a deeper look at insurance contracts with state agencies and any impact on public dollars,” Gallagher said. “We will not tolerate any abuse of tax dollars.”

Gallagher announced a broader look at the insurance industry as a whole last week, establishing a legal task force to investigate whether any of the activities outlined in New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s recent civil suit are taking place among insurance brokerages and companies in Florida, including bid-rigging, kickbacks and improper fees. Spitzer’s suit alleges civil and criminal misconduct involving insurance brokers steering business to insurance companies for a commission.
 

 

 

STATE FIRE MARSHAL REMINDS RESIDENTS TO PLAN FOR WINTER


Now that the weather is cooling off, Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher is urging Floridians to think about how to stay safe when trying to stay warm.  Begin with a fresh battery in the smoke alarm, he said, or install an alarm if you don’t have one.
 

 “Working smoke alarms provide time to escape, reducing the risk of death or injury from fire by as much as 50 percent,” Gallagher said, noting that working smoke alarms were present in fewer than 5 percent of the 58,000 fire incidents reported to the State Fire Marshal’s Office in 2003.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office, housed within the Department of Financial Services, has launched a number of programs this year aiming to educate Floridians on fire prevention and safety – from bookmarks with safety tips for third-graders to a program on DVD for senior citizens. 
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JUDGE RULES AGAINST MUTUAL BENEFITS IN FAVOR OF SEC

TALLAHASSEE-A federal magistrate judge late today upheld findings by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that Mutual Benefits Corporation (MBC), the nation’s largest viatical settlement company, engaged in violations of securities law and defrauded investors.

The Department of Financial Services (DFS) and Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) cited many of the same allegations in administrative charges filed against the company in May.

“This recommended order goes a long way toward protecting Florida investors by upholding the hard work of SEC investigators and the actions they took,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees DFS. “That in turn lends itself to upholding the findings of state regulators and our aggressive pursuit of those intent on taking advantage of our citizens.”
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