Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 2, Number 17, April 25, 2005    

So many Floridians are struggling with the recent tragedies involving sex offenders here in Florida, including the tragic abduction and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Homosassa. Citizens should know that their elected leaders are standing up for Florida's children.

I want to thank Senator Nancy Argenziano and Representative Charles Dean for their leadership in championing the Jessica Lunsford Act, which tightens penalties for sex offenders who prey on children.

This act would require 25-year minimum prison terms for people convicted of certain sex crimes against children and lifetime tracking by global positioning satellites once they've served their terms. Sex offenders currently back in the community who violate the conditions of their probation would have to go back to jail or be monitored by GPS. The bill also requires sex offenders to report to authorities in person twice a year.

The bill also improves Megan's Law, which requires sex offenders to list their home addresses in a public database. The new Florida measure will allow law enforcement to track an offender's every move.

Each year the Legislature takes action on several issues to improve the lives of Florida's 17 million residents, but I cannot think of any more important issue than the safeguarding of Florida's children. Despite the facts that our law enforcement personnel are second to none, and our laws dealing with sex offenders were some of the toughest in the nation, Senator Argenziano and Representative Dean recognized that our state could do more and got it done.  

As both a Cabinet member and the father of a six-year-old son, thank you, Senator Argenziano and Representative Dean, for your quick action on behalf of Florida's children.

                      -- Tom Gallagher


GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES SECOND ROUND OF WINNERS IN ESSAY CONTEST PROMOTING FINANCIAL AND INVESTOR EDUCATION AMONG TEENS

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced the names of three students who were the top picks in Region 2 in the essay contest aimed at encouraging financial education among middle and high school students.  Gallagher presented checks to two of the students at their school in Jacksonville.

The contest, “Cash in on Your Money Smarts,” asked students, ages 14 to 18, to submit at least a 750-word essay on why they considered themselves money smart and offered students a chance at more than $7,500 in prizes statewide.  First, second and third place prizes will be awarded to teens in given geographic regions, for a total of 15 winners statewide.  Nearly 600 students participated this year.

“This essay contest was a great way to encourage Florida’s young people to show off their financial knowledge and writing skills, and reward them for it,” Gallagher said.  “Learning these valuable skills now will pave the way for a lifetime of financial success.”

The winners named represent one of the five regions that competed in the contest.  Region 2 covers a 16-county area, including Madison, Taylor, Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette, Dixie, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy, Baker, Union, Bradford, Alachua, Nassau, Duval and Clay.  The winners are: 

First Place:  Nathan Maxwell, 15, is in 10th grade at Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville

Second Place:  Elizabeth Ann Pagan, 16, is in 11th grade at F.W. Bucholz High School in Gainesville

Third Place
:   Andrew O’Bar, 18, is in 12th grade at Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville

First, second and third place winners will receive $750, $500 and $250 respectively. Winners in Regions 1 and 5 will be announced within the next two weeks. 

The essay contest is part of Gallagher’s statewide public education initiative, Your Money, Your Life, which is designed to help Floridians avoid debt and build assets, including savings, investing and home ownership.  Gallagher started the program last fall in response to a recent survey reporting that many Floridians put themselves at financial risk by waiting too late to save and by running up debt.  The program includes a comprehensive educational website available at
www.yourmoneyyourlife.org.

Judging the contest were representatives from the Florida Council on Economic Education, a non-profit organization that supports financial education initiatives in schools and businesses statewide.  In addition, department employees Fred Varn and Greg Thomas, who serve on their area school boards, participated in the judging process. 

Financial support for the “Cash in on Your Money Smarts” essay contest is provided by a grant from the Investor Protection Trust (IPT).  The IPT is a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education. Since 1993, the IPT has worked with the States to provide the independent, objective investor education needed by all Americans to make informed investment decisions. Their website is
www.investorprotection.org.
 


GALLAGHER LAUDS COMMITTEE PASSAGE OF VIATICAL LEGISLATION

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher applauded lawmakers for approving legislation to better protect consumers from fraudulent viatical companies. The legislation, House Bill 1437, was unanimously approved by the House Commerce Committee. The bill would define viatical settlements as “securities” and place regulatory authority over this industry with the Office of Financial Regulation. 

 
Viatical settlement providers match those who want to sell their life insurance policies at a discount to investors willing to buy the rights to those policies.
 
“The House Commerce Committee has done the right thing in approving this measure,” said Gallagher.  “Far too many Floridians have lost their life savings for this measure to fail. I am pleased by the vote today and I encourage the full House and Senate to follow the lead of their colleagues, and approve this common sense legislation on behalf of all Floridians.” 
 
House Bill 1437 by Rep. Dudley Goodlette would require investments in viatical settlements to be regulated as “securities.” For investors, this would mean access to company information, any promises made to investors would have to be documented and approved by state regulators, and a determination of the investment’s suitability would have to be considered, including the purchaser’s financial and tax status, and the purchaser’s investment objectives. 
 
To also better protect investors from fraud, the bill also requires individuals who estimate the life expectancies on policies purchased by investors to be registered with state regulators.  Viatical settlement companies would also be required to provide regulators the names of the life expectancy providers it has used.   The legislation would also require brokers selling viaticals to be licensed.
 
Fraud in this industry has potentially cost investors up to $2 billion in losses since 1996. The average age of the investor defrauded is 70 years old and the average loss is $40,000.
 
Currently, Florida is one of only four states that does not regulate viaticals as securities. 
 

CHILD DIES AFTER ACCIDENTAL KITCHEN FIRE

A baby left alone in a Starke home while the grandmother went next-door to make a phone call died after a grease fire in the kitchen spread throughout the home.

 
Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office responded to the scene and determined the fire started on the stovetop. The fire will be ruled accidental.
 
“This is a tragic example of how important it is to never leave a stove unattended – never,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher.  “My sympathy and prayers go out to the family.”
 
At approximately 5 p.m. Thursday, Bradford County firefighters responded to a reported trailer fire at 5230 N.W. 177th Ave. in Starke. Upon arrival, they found the home heavily involved in fire and was told that a child was still inside. Efforts to save the child were unsuccessful. 
 
The child’s grandmother, who also lived in the home, told investigators she had begun melting grease on the kitchen stove to prepare for dinner after placing the child on the living room couch.  Shortly thereafter, she walked to a neighboring house to use the telephone. When she returned, she found the kitchen and living room on fire. Bystanders attempted to extinguish the flames with a garden hose, but were unable to do so.
 
“All evidence in this case points to an accidental fire occurring within the kitchen,” said Detective Robby Stephens of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. “But due to the circumstances leading up to the fire, we will review the case with the State Attorney and determine at a later date if criminal charges will be filed.”
 
The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations is a law enforcement branch of the Division of State Fire Marshal that assists other state and local fire and law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fires of suspicious origin.  Anyone with information about this case or any incident of fire is asked to call 1-877-662-7766 (1-877-NOARSON).
 

Florida Office of Insurance Regulation Issues Subpoenas 

Florida Insurance Regulation Commissioner Kevin McCarty issued investigative subpoenas last week requesting information related to finite reinsurance activities in the insurance industry. 

Finite reinsurance is a form of reinsurance that through the use of various provisions limits the amount of risk, if any, actually being transferred from the ceding insurance company to the reinsurance company.  The improper use of finite reinsurance can hinder the ability of insurance regulators and the public to ascertain and assess the true financial condition of an insurer. 

Commissioner McCarty addressed the action as a clarification of financial questions that have arisen related to reinsurance transactions. Commissioner McCarty stated “consumers and regulators must be secure in the knowledge of an insurance company’s solvency.”    

In addition to its own actions, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation is participating in efforts by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to develop a national solution to problems created by the abuse of finite reinsurance products. 

Finite reinsurance that does not transfer risk has contributed to the failure of several insurance companies in Florida and the United States.

Among the companies subpoenaed are:

ACE Tempest
Acordia Re
AIG Reinsurance
Alea London Limited
Benfield Re
BIG Re
Chubb Atlantic Reinsurance Specialist Ltd.
E&S Reinsurers Ltd.
Guy Carpenter
Hannover Re Ltd.
Hannover Ruckversicherungs-Atiengellschaft
Jardine Sayer
National Indemnity Company of the South (A subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway)
National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA (A subsidiary of AIG)
Partner Reinsurance Company of the U.S.
Swiss Reinsurance American Corporation


 


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