Volume 3 Number 7
February 13, 2006

Department of Financial Services button
Consumer Services HelpLine Number 800-342-2762
e-mail CFO Tom Gallagher
Press Releases button
Previous Issues button
CFO location button
Subscribe to Eviews button
Unsubscribe to eViews button
Text Version button

Our state, our citizens and our insurance market suffered considerable damage in the wake of eight hurricanes that battered Florida in less than 15 months. Hurricane recovery and insurance reform continue to be the most important issues facing most Floridians, and are my top priority this legislative session.

Last Wednesday, I hosted a pre-session legislative roundtable with several key lawmakers to discuss the comprehensive package of property insurance reform proposals that I have put forward to strengthen the state’s property insurance market, to bring rate relief to homeowners, and to improve protections and coverage options for Floridians.   

My proposals, including standardizing our state building codes and providing incentives to help Floridians hurricane-proof their homes, are gaining widespread support in the Legislature.  Many have been incorporated into legislation sponsored by House Insurance Chairman Dennis Ross, Representative Don Brown and others, including protecting homeowners from subsidizing losses in Citizens Property Insurance, refocusing the insurer of last resort’s mission, and limiting the size and financial impact that Citizens has on Florida homeowners. 

I also remain committed to lobbying state lawmakers to provide rate relief for homeowners and to return sales tax revenue to Floridians to offset the burden of insurance assessments.

At the federal level, I am calling on Congress to establish a national catastrophe fund and to create Catastrophic Savings Accounts to help Floridians save money tax-free to cover hurricane deductibles or expenses.   Key members of Congress, including Representatives Ginny Brown-Waite, Clay Shaw and Tom Feeney, deserve kudos for tackling these important issues on behalf of Floridians. 

I urge my fellow Floridians to contact their state and federal representatives and let them know you support reforms that will help improve the availability and affordability of property insurance in our state.


 

Predatory Lending Brochure
 

Predatory Lending Video
 

Mortgage Brochure

MESSAGE FROM TOM GALLAGHER: BEWARE OF PREDATORY LENDERS


In 2002, we worked to combat predatory lending practices with the Florida Fair Lending Act, which prohibits aggressive and deceptive loan tactics including charging prepayment penalties for longer than three years and refinancing a loan during the first 18 months without a benefit to the borrower.  The Act also prevents lenders from increasing interest on loans and charging late fees that exceed five percent of the payment.

My office followed up in the spring of 2003 with public education forums around the state with consumer advocacy groups to share the new protections available under the law.

Here’s what you should know if you’re purchasing your first home, refinancing your current home, or need a home equity loan, and want to protect yourself from dishonest lenders.    

  • Watch out for excessively high interest rates, hidden fees, loan offers from telemarketers and uninvited home improvement solicitations
  • Never sign a note, mortgage, or other legal document with blank spaces, and get copies of all signed documents upon completion. 
  • Be sure to get the agreement in writing, because verbal promises mean nothing legally.

Other things you should consider when applying for a loan are the number and dollar amount of the payments, the length of the loan, and terms such as balloon payment and prepayment penalty, and fixed or adjustable rate.  Shop around with at least three reputable brokers and lenders.  CONTINUED




 

BARTOW BUSINESS OWNER FACING FRAUD CHARGES  

An electric company owner is facing felony charges following the 2004 death of a worker who suffered fatal burns after an electrical transformer exploded.

Edward L. Bee, 47, owner of Bee Corp., Incorporated, doing business as Harris Electric, is accused of failing to provide workers’ compensation coverage for the worker, meaning his family may not receive death benefits. Bee was arrested Thursday on a warrant charging him with workers’ compensation fraud and grand theft, both third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.  He was booked into the Polk County Jail with bond set at $2,000.

“This is an especially sad case where a family has to deal with financial burden in addition to their grief,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “Workers’ compensation coverage ensures workers and their employers, especially those in high-risk jobs, have a safety net in the event of an accident. Employers who break the law and do not provide coverage for their employees cause increased cost and burden on law-abiding businesses.”
CONTINUED


 

MULTI-AGENCY TASKFORCE ANNOUNCES DETAILS OF OPERATION MONEY TRAIL

The Department of Financial Services – Division of Insurance Fraud, together with investigators with Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and Office of the Statewide Prosecutor have announced several arrests as part of Operation Money Trail.

Operation Money Trail is a year-long, ongoing investigation into a multi-million dollar scheme to launder money through bogus shell construction companies, and undermine the ability of honest workers and construction companies to compete throughout South Florida.

“This was a large-scale, highly organized scheme,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services and Division of Insurance Fraud. “Those involved in this scam should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

According to investigators, the first step in the conspiracy included setting up bogus construction companies. These companies had no employees, no equipment, and their owners never had any intention of building anything but their own bank accounts. These fake companies would obtain worker’s compensation insurance, and head out into the workplace to take work away from legitimate laborers working for legitimate construction companies.
CONTINUED