Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 4, Number 46, November 16, 2007

Fellow Floridian:

This past week CFO Sink hosted, along with Commissioner Bronson, the last in a three-part series of climate change discussions. The Cabinet workshop titled “Climate Change: The Bottom Line” focused on identifying the financial impacts and opportunities presented to Florida as a result of climate change. In kicking off the meeting CFO Sink aptly observed that Florida is the Sunshine State and we should be a national leader in renewable, clean energy.

The Cabinet heard from three nationally known speakers on financial aspects of climate change. Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres, a nonprofit organization which advises a network of institutional investors on climate risk, explained the risks that companies will confront more frequently. Climate changes are
physical risks, competitive risks and regulatory risks. Once these risks are disclosed, investors are more informed and companies generally begin to take actions to mitigate against the risks.

Lewis Milford, president of the Clean Energy States Alliance, a coalition that works on climate and clean energy, provided an overview of what other states are doing in creating clean energy funds.

Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer for Risk Management Solutions, spoke about insurance and risk. His company assesses how risks associated with climate change will impact and affect insurance coverage and rates. His company offers solutions to minimize risk and exposure.

At the end of the workshop, the following announcements were made:

  • CFO Sink has asked the state treasury investment managers  to assess their ability to disclose risk from climate change. Florida is the first state treasury in the United States to require investment fund managers to make such disclosures. The goal is to safeguard tax dollars from the risks posed by climate change and to encourage companies to capture financial opportunities related to the changing climate.

  • CFO Sink will explore the creation of a clean energy fund for the state. Eighteen other states have created similar funds, which invest in renewable clean energy resources, such as solar, wind and biomass.

  • Margaret Lowman, director of environmental initiatives at New College of Florida in Sarasota, has been appointed as science adviser on matters related to climate change.


CFO SINK ANNOUNCES STATE TREASURY REQUIRING DISCLOSURE OF CLIMATE RISK; EXPLORATION OF CLEAN ENERGY FUND FOR FLORIDA

Florida first state Treasury in United States to require climate risk disclosure

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced two new initiatives designed to help Florida financially prepare for the threat of climate change, including new disclosure requirements for the state’s Treasury investment managers and the exploration of the creation of a clean energy fund for Florida. Additionally, CFO Sink announced her appointment of Dr. Margaret Lowman of New College of Florida as her science advisor on climate change.

CFO Sink’s announcements followed Wednesday’s third and final “Conversations on Climate Change,” a Cabinet-level workshop co-sponsored by the CFO and Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson. Wednesday’s workshop, “Climate Change: The Bottom Line,” highlighted the financial risks and opportunities in climate change for Floridians.

“Florida has 1300 miles of coastline that could be impacted by rising sea level and millions of taxpayers who depend on us to safeguard their tax dollars and retirement funds,” said CFO Sink, oversees the Department of Financial Services, the state’s $20 billion in Treasury funds and serves on the board of the Florida pension fund, which has $140 billion in assets. “It is my goal to help prepare Florida’s economy for the effects of climate change, avoid potential risks and take advantage of the many financial opportunities.”

New Disclosure Requirements for Treasury Investment Managers— After urging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in September to require public companies to assess and fully disclose their financial risks from climate change, CFO Sink is directing the state’s Treasury investment managers to detail their abilities to assess climate risk. Earlier this month, Bruce Gillander, Director of the Division of Treasury, met with individual investment managers to ascertain the incorporation of climate risk—or lack thereof—into their investment decisions. While some investment managers have begun planning for the potential impacts of climate risk in their portfolios, other managers have more work to do and need guidance on how to assess potential climate-related financial risks when making investment decisions. Investment managers will be required to report on climate risk as a part of their semi-annual reviews.

CFO Sink’s goal is to safeguard Floridians’ tax dollars from the risks posed by climate change and to encourage companies to capture opportunities related to the changing climate. Climate change can affect corporations financially in various ways, ranging from physical damage of facilities and increased costs of regulatory compliance, to opportunities in global markets for climate-friendly products or services that emit little or no global warming pollution. As a guide, CFO Sink is providing Treasury investment managers with the “Global Framework for Climate Risk Disclosure,” created by several leading investors and worldwide organizations in October 2006. Additionally, CFO Sink is asking the Treasury investment managers to join her in petitioning the SEC to require disclosure of climate risk for public companies.

“As Florida’s fiscal watchdog, I want to ensure that Florida’s tax dollars are being managed by firms that are aware of threats to our bottom line—and this includes the financial threats presented by climate change,” said CFO Sink.

"Climate change will affect companies in a variety of ways, whether from physical damage to facilities or increased costs to comply with new regulations. Florida is showing great leadership as the first state treasury in the U.S. to require its investment fund managers to disclose how they are assessing these climate risks in their portfolios," said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), who spoke at Wednesday's climate change meeting.

Exploring the Creation of a Clean Energy Fund for Florida—After hearing a presentation by Lewis Milford, the president of Clean Energy States Alliance, CFO Sink today announced her intention to explore the creation of a clean energy fund in Florida. The Clean Energy States Alliance is made up of 18 states including California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and New York, which have created clean energy funds or programs for their states. These clean energy programs have been used to invest in renewable clean energy resources, such as solar, wind and biomass, and can be used for consumer education or to provide incentives and tax credits to citizens taking advantage of more energy-friendly products, such as hybrid automobiles and solar water heaters. Over the next several months, CFO Sink will work with the Clean Energy States Alliance to explore the different funds used around the country and determine if there is a clean energy fund model best suited to further a clean energy market in Florida.

“Florida is the first southeastern state to join CESA, and we are extremely pleased that they are considering a clean energy fund,” said Milford. “We hope to help Florida become a national clean energy investment leader.”

Dr. Margaret Lowman Appointed as Science Advisor—CFO Sink today appointed Margaret Lowman, Ph.D. and Director of Environmental Initiatives at New College of Florida, as her science advisor on matters relating to climate change. Dr. Lowman has professorships in biology and environmental studies and was a presenter at CFO Sink’s and Commissioner Bronson’s first “Conversation on Climate Change” in April 2007. Dr. Lowman will advise the CFO on the science of climate change.

“I am honored to contribute my 30 years’ experience in professional science to serve as Science Advisor for Alex Sink, our state Chief Financial Officer,” said Dr. Lowman. “Florida – now more than ever – needs both science and economics at the table to map Florida’s future. As we face challenges such as climate change, water conservation, and obtaining clean energy, I hope that the integration of science, economics and policy will insure a healthy and prosperous Florida for our children.”

This year, CFO Sink and Commissioner Bronson partnered to host three climate change workshops, each featuring new topics and national experts in areas such as: the science of rising sea levels, renewable energy sources, carbon offset and pricing, the impact of climate change on the insurance and financial industries and more. The sessions gave elected officials, business leaders and Floridians the opportunity to understand how these challenges and potential solutions present opportunities for the growth of new industries in our state.

By logging onto www.floridaclimatechange.com, Floridians can learn about climate change, review the agendas and presentations from past conversations, watch a Web cast of Wednesday’s workshop and read about initiatives in other states.


CFO SINK ANNOUNCES $5 MILLION TITLE INSURANCE SETTLEMENT

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced that First American Title Insurance Company (First American) has agreed to pay $5 million in penalties and costs after allegedly paying “kickbacks” to builders, bankers, real estate agents and brokers for the referral of business in violation of the Florida Insurance Code and federal law.

Following a year-long investigation by the Department of Financial Services (DFS), both the U.S. Department of House and Urban Development (HUD) and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) were invited to join DFS in obtaining sanctions against First American. The three regulatory agencies reached an agreement with First American this week after concluding settlement negotiations.

“I’m proud of the hard work of our title insurance investigators and lawyers, which resulted in this settlement,” said CFO Sink, who oversees DFS. “We will not tolerate anyone who violates insurance laws designed to protect the public in order to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors.”

The investigation looked into whether First American had created and utilized limited partnership entities to act as sham title insurance agencies as a means of funneling prohibited payments for the referral of business. The entities enlisted real estate agents, mortgage brokers, banks and homebuilders who referred business to First American's sham title insurance agencies, resulting in unfair financial gains to First American and its affiliated title insurance agencies.

Under terms of the agreement, First American is required to sever its business relationships with 87 of its limited partnership title insurance agencies in Florida, and to conduct future business activities under strict requirements subject to review of a monitor who will report inspection results on a monthly basis for a period of one year.


FLORIDA ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON ARSON PREVENTION (FACAP)
30th Annual Training Session at Florida State Fire College, in Ocala, November 14-16, 2007

From all over the state, 138 fire fighters registered for the annual training event. The morning was kicked off with a welcome from Captain Jeff Merritt of the State Fire Marshal's office, who is also the president of FACAP. 

Thursday evening was highlighted by the presentation of the FACAP Investigator of the Year award.

The 2007 award winner is Detective Thomas Barron of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Tommy is in the Northwest Region of the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, has been with the State Fire Marshal's office since 1998 and previously was assistant chief of the Lynn Haven Fire Department. He is a member of the SFM Forensic Investigative Support Team and was recognized as the Northwest Region Detective of the Year for 2006.

The surprise of the evening went to the longest serving employee of the SFM, Mary Fields. Mary retired from the Bureau in 2006; however, she has maintained an active role in the FACAP organization. She was presented with the Meshalko Distinguished Service Award.  

After the welcoming ceremonies, the meeting moved to the live fire training building that had been constructed through the efforts of FACAP in 1991. With thermal couplings and cameras in place, a fire was set on a small couch.

Less than three minutes later flashover occurred, and then the fire was extinguished. Flashover typically happens at 1,000 to 1,200 degrees when all contents of a room reach their ignition temperature at about the same time.  Training participants watched through the open door or on the television screen providing pictures of the event.

An identically set-up room on the opposite side of the building had the same small flame set; however, this time an accelerant was used. The comparison of the two fire settings was then used as the focus for classroom discussions.

Classes and workshops provided training for those new to the industry as well as those professionals who have experience in the field of fire/arson, insurance fraud investigations, and for those whose primary duties are working with claim files. The training provided both public and private sectors with a unique and highly educational experience with the focus on various aspects of fire and fraud investigations.


FINANCIAL LITERACY COUNCIL CONVENED SIXTH MEETING

In an ongoing effort to increase financial literacy and help Floridians make better financial decisions, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink held the Financial Literacy Council's sixth meeting in Miami.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the council discussed the content of the annual report due to the Governor and Florida Legislature on January 1, 2008, and heard presentations from Acción USA Florida, CompuCredit Corporation, Miami Saves, and the Human Services Coalition.

The council, authorized in 2006 by House Bill 825, was created to study the financial problems that affect consumers, particularly young persons, seniors, working adults and small business owners, which arise from a lack of basic knowledge of financial issues. The council will also develop recommendations to aid the Department of Financial Services in developing programs and resources aimed at increasing financial literacy among Floridians.

For more information regarding the Financial Literacy Council please visit www.myfloridamoney.com.


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