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FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 4, Number 44, November 2, 2007

Fellow Floridian:

This weekend, we will be turning our clocks back an hour and it’s a good time to also replace the batteries in our smoke alarms. The batteries should be replaced even if they are still working, to ensure continued and reliable service.

It’s also a good time to review and practice your fire escape plan with your family, including designating a meeting place outside of the house.

Smoke alarms have been proven to save lives, but only if they are working. They provide critical time to escape. Please use the extra hour you’ll gain this weekend to ensure your family’s safety – get fresh batteries and install them in your smoke alarms.


CFO SINK CALLS FOR INTENSE SCRUTINY OF STATE INVESTMENTS
After meeting with Wall Street executives, Sink orders analysis of Treasury funds

After meeting with senior executives from several Wall Street investment management firms in New York City last week, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink called for an in-depth analysis of the state’s Treasury investments. Sink’s goal is to further assess the amount of risk in the state’s investment portfolios, specifically related to mortgage-backed securities as well as other investments which may be affected by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market.

Investment managers who manage state funds are required to abide by strict financial guidelines, such as investing in funds with specific credit ratings and other risk criteria. In some cases, high-risk mortgage-backed securities have been repackaged, given a high investment grade rating, and sold to investors. With Moody’s Investors Service and other rating firms downgrading the ratings of several mortgage-backed securities previously rated as high as AAA, CFO Sink is seeking to gauge the quality of the state’s investments.

“As the manager of the state Treasury with $20 billion in tax dollars, I want to ensure we are safeguarding the taxpayers’ money,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “I have ordered a thorough review of the state Treasury’s investments to uncover and identify any previously unknown risk to help us protect Floridians’ tax dollars.”

Sink also called on the State Board of Administration to review the investments of Florida’s $140 billion pension fund, and prepare to present the findings to the Florida Cabinet’s meeting on November 14, 2007. Additionally, Sink is encouraging other state entities – including the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, Florida Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, and the Florida Prepaid College Fund – to review their asset allocations, investment decisions and risk levels.


CFO SINK WAS THE KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT THE 11th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF MINORITY DEVELOPMENT & EMPOWERMENT INC.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was the keynote speaker on Wednesday at the 11th Anniversary Celebration of Minority Development & Empowerment Inc. The organization provides programs and services to Haitians and other minority communities in Broward County. Sink discussed her role as CFO and the impact of insurance fraud in South Florida.

The organization asked CFO Sink to speak about fraud in the minority community and she addressed Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud, agent fraud, post-disaster scams and mortgage fraud. She told the audience that the department is aggressive about making arrests, and received hardy applause when she said the department had made more than 200 PIP fraud arrests in Broward County in the past two years.

Nearly 200 people attended the luncheon.


MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM INCREASES STANDARDS FOR INSPECTION FIRMS & INSPECTORS

Nearly six months after expanding statewide, the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program announced it is increasing standards for participating wind inspection firms, in a continued effort to improve the quality of inspections provided for Florida homeowners.

“After six months of providing services statewide, the My Safe Florida Home program is raising standards and requiring more of our wind inspectors,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “Floridians interested in hardening their homes deserve the best customer service from the highest-quality wind inspectors available.”

After undergoing a quality assurance review of more than 3,000 randomly-selected inspections and performing an independently conducted compliance audit, the MSFH program has renewed contacts with six of the 11 wind inspection firms to provide free wind inspections. Contracts for Alltech, ARA, Don Meyler Inspections, JVI, Skye Tec and WB Sanders Inspections will be renewed for three additional months, effective October 31, 2007. Inspectors performing free wind inspections through the MSFH program under the new contracts will be required to meet a number of new requirements, including:

Complete the uniform mitigation form required by insurance companies for homeowners to be eligible for discounts on their insurance premiums;
Have a minimum of two years experience in residential construction and/or residential inspection experience or shall be licensed in good standing as a professional engineer, architect or building contractor; and
Provide actual measurement (not an estimate) of window and door openings.

Additionally, the MSFH program is required to perform a number of re-inspections for homeowners who have received matching grants for improvements to their homes. Inspectors will be required to have a minimum of ten years experience and participate in additional training classes before performing these re-inspections.

Free wind inspections will continue on a timely basis, as the firms selected have the capacity to serve a large number of applicants. The program is still encouraging more homeowners to sign up for free wind inspections to help learn how to harden their homes and potentially save money on their wind insurance premiums. The MSFH program will issue a new request for proposal in November that may include future increases in program standards.

The MSFH program resumed offering wind inspections and expanded statewide this year after conducting a pilot program during the previous year. Since April 2007 the MSFH program has performed over 111,200 free wind inspections. More than 13,500 homeowners have been approved for matching grants and are working with the MSFH program to harden their homes. Statewide, the program has issued a grand total of more than 1,876 grants to homeowners for more than $6 million.

CFO Sink has reported that many homeowners who have received free wind inspections from the MSFH program are eligible for discounts on their wind insurance premiums without making a single improvement to their homes. To date, 78,739 or 71 percent of participating homeowners are eligible for an average discount of $192.55 on their wind insurance premiums, based on the current structure of the home during the free MSFH wind inspection.

Any Floridian who lives in a single-family, site-built home is eligible for a free wind inspection through the program. Floridians can apply on-line at www.MySafeFloridaHome.com or by calling the program toll-free at 1-866-513-6734. Homeowners who receive free wind inspections through the MSFH program will get detailed inspection reports, complete with additional eligibility information on matching grants and estimated insurance premium discounts, if the homeowner is eligible.

In order to be eligible for the program’s matching grant reimbursements of up to $5,000, the Legislature requires that homeowners meet the following requirements: have received a completed wind inspection after May 1, 2007; live in a single-family, site-built home built before March 1, 2002; have a valid homestead exemption; have an insured value of $300,000 or less; and be located in the wind-borne debris region.

Additionally, while the free wind inspections will still cover seven potential wind-resistance improvements, matching grants may only be applied to opening protections, including windows, exterior doors and garage doors, as well as the bracing of gable ends.


CFO SINK SPEAKS AT GREATER HOLLYWOOD CHAMBER BREAKFAST

On Wednesday morning CFO Alex Sink joined members of the Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for a breakfast meeting and an executive briefing titled “Update on Florida’s Insurance Crisis.”

The CFO commended members for Hollywood’s recent designation as an All-American City. She reflected on the community having been hit hard by Hurricane Wilma and discussed her ongoing efforts as CFO to reduce Floridians’ financial risk exposure from hurricanes.

The Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce represents local business interests, promotes economic growth, provides leadership in community affairs and delivers services and programs for its business members.


CLIMATE CHANGE WORKSHOPS CONCLUDE WITH "THE FINANCIAL ASPECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE"

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Charles Bronson will present "The Financial Aspects of Climate Change" on November 14, 2007, in Tallahassee. This conversation will conclude the series of Cabinet workshops exploring how Florida’s economy could be affected by climate change.

This workshop focuses on the financial aspects of climate change with national and international experts discussing the impact of climate change on the insurance and finance industries. Specifically,

  • The links between climate change and insurance;

  • Investment opportunities in emerging markets as the clean energy and green technology sectors grow and

  • Climate risk disclosure for investors.

DATE: Tuesday, November 14, 2007
TIME: 11:00 a.m., after the Florida Cabinet Meeting
LOCATION: Florida Cabinet Meeting Room, The Capitol, Lower Level, Tallahassee


UNCLAIMED PROPERTY PHONE BANK ELICITS MANY CALLS

On Wednesday, members of the Department of Financial Services’ Bureau of Unclaimed Property held a phone bank at the WTXL studios in Tallahassee, with the goal of reuniting local residents with their unclaimed accounts. The phone bank was a success! Bureau operators assisted about 250 callers and reunited 35 Tallahassee residents with their accounts which totaled roughly $3,000.

The Bureau has successfully reunited owners with more than $1 billion in unclaimed property. Over the past five years, the program has returned more than $546 million-- more than half of all the money returned since the beginning of the program-- due largely to aggressive efforts by the program to contact owners. Unclaimed property can be claimed for free at any time by the rightful owners or heirs by logging on to www.FLTreasureHunt.org or by calling the Bureau at 1-88-VALUABLE.


CRESTVIEW COUPLE FACES ARSON CHARGE FOR HOUSE FIRE

A Crestview couple is facing felony charges stemming from the suspicion that they intentionally set their home on fire.

Zachary Lee Dalton and his wife Kellie Elizabeth Hahn, both 24, were arrested Wednesday evening by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office based on warrants completed by detectives with the Division of State Fire Marshal’s Office, Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations (BFAI). The couple was booked into the Okaloosa County Jail on charges of first-degree arson and conspiracy to commit arson. If convicted on all of the charges, the couple could be sentenced to more than 30 years in prison. The arrests followed an investigation by the BFAI, the United States Air Force Office (Hurlburt Field, Florida and Maxwell Air Force Station, Alabama), Office of Special Investigations, (OSI), North Okaloosa Fire Rescue and the Crestview Fire Department.

“The investigation found that their actions put the lives of firefighters and their neighbors at risk, and they should be held accountable,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who also serves as State Fire Marshal and oversees the BFAI. “I commend everyone for their work on this investigation and thank everyone who came forward with information that led to these arrests.”

Dalton and Hahn had embarked on a three-week vacation to West Virginia when they checked into an Alabama hotel room on September 4, 2007, the day before firefighters responded to a fire at their home, located at 173 John King Road. Upon reviewing the scene, firefighters and Arson Investigators determined the fire originated in the attic but quickly spread throughout the house, destroying the couple’s home and causing damage to their neighbors’ homes on both sides. Helping to fuel the massive fire was a propane bottle – left turned on – found inside the couple’s home. Damage to the home was estimated at $160,000.

After the fire was extinguished, firefighters talked with neighbors who indicated suspicious elements relating to the fire and the couple’s actions. BFAI Detectives were called in to determine the origin and cause of the fire, which included on-scene investigation and forensic testing which subsequently revealed the fire had been intentionally set. The Bureau also determined that Dalton checked himself into an Alabama medical center for treatment of burn injuries sustained the morning of the house fire.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office last year, distributed a training video to fire, police and sheriff’s departments throughout Florida to help better investigate alleged ‘accidental’ kitchen fires.

The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations is a law enforcement branch of the Division of State Fire Marshal that works extensively with other state and local fire departments as well as local, state and federal 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).


 CFO SINK ANNOUNCES MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME FAIR TO BE HELD IN THE FORT LAUDERDALE AREA SATURDAY

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program is partnering with Broward and Palm Beach County non-profit organizations and businesses to hold a fair designed to raise awareness about the safety and financial incentives of mitigation.

The MSFH fair will take place at the Broward County Community College in Coconut Creek on November 3, 2007, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. More than 50 hurricane-preparedness exhibits will be on display at the fair, and all exhibits and workshops are free to the public. Door prizes will include: a generator, an emergency radio, restaurant gift certificates, a $100 Publix gift certificate, garage door openers, and a $25 Home Depot certificate.

“We are taking the My Safe Florida Home program on the road to educate Florida homeowners about the importance of mitigation,” said CFO Sink who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “I encourage every homeowner in South Florida to apply for their free wind inspection and see if they are eligible for discounts on their windstorm insurance.”

Representatives from the MSFH program will be on hand to sign up eligible homeowners for their free wind inspections. CFO Sink has reported that many homeowners who have received free wind inspections from the MSFH program are eligible for discounts on their wind insurance premiums without making a single improvement to their homes. To date, 78,739 or 71 percent of participating homeowners are eligible for an average discount of $192.55 on their wind insurance premiums, based on the current structure of the home during the free MSFH wind inspection.

Savings vary by region, and through the program, 12,787 Broward County residents have learned they are eligible to receive an average windstorm insurance discount of 18 percent or $348.33 annually. In Palm Beach County, 9,645 homeowners are eligible to receive an average of 18 percent or $358.29 on their windstorm insurance. In Miami-Dade County, 8,549 homeowners are eligible to receive an average of 17 percent or $312.10 on their windstorm insurance.

Insurance company representatives will also be at the fair to assist homeowners in understanding which hurricane-resistance measures will best protect their homes and how policyholders can apply for discounts on their insurance premiums. By law, insurance companies are required to offer policyholders discounts on the wind-coverage portion of their homeowner policy premiums for specific measures that reduce their homes’ exposure to windstorm damage. Homeowners are encouraged to bring insurance documentation to obtain information on possible insurance savings through the program.

The MSFH program resumed offering wind inspections and expanded statewide this year after conducting a pilot program during the previous year. Since April 2007 the MSFH program has performed over 111,200 free wind inspections. More than 13,500 homeowners have been approved for matching grants and are working with the MSFH program to harden their homes. Statewide, the program has issued a grand total of more than 1,876 grants to homeowners for more than $6 million.

Any Floridian who lives in a single-family, site-built home is eligible for a free wind inspection through the program. Floridians can apply on-line at www.MySafeFloridaHome.com or by calling the program toll-free at 1-866-513-6734. Homeowners who receive free wind inspections through the MSFH program will get detailed inspection reports, complete with additional eligibility information on matching grants and estimated insurance premium discounts, if the homeowner is eligible.

In order to be eligible for the program’s matching grant reimbursements of up to $5,000, the Legislature requires that homeowners meet the following requirements: have received a completed wind inspection after May 1, 2007; live in a single-family, site-built home built before March 1, 2002; have a valid homestead exemption; have an insured value of $300,000 or less; and be located in the wind-borne debris region.

Additionally, while the free wind inspections will still cover seven potential wind-resistance improvements, matching grants may only be applied to opening protections, including windows, exterior doors and garage doors, as well as the bracing of gable ends.


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