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

         Volume 5, Number 21, May 23, 2008
Memorial Day is a day to remember our nation’s heroes and their contributions to our freedom and prosperity. In communities throughout our state, citizens will take time this weekend to reflect upon all veterans, living and deceased.

America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and Merchant Marines deserve our full appreciation. As we show tribute to service members through parades, events and memorials, we remember their service and sacrifice.

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink signed a resolution this month recognizing Memorial Day 2008, and every day, as we pray for the families of the fallen and show respect for the more than 1.7 million veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States currently living in our state, and those that came before them.


FLORIDA AGENCIES ANNOUNCE $4 MILLION INSURANCE SETTLEMENT WITH AON CORP

Attorney General Bill McCollum, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty today announced that Florida has reached a settlement with Aon Corp., a large insurance broker that received undisclosed compensation in connection with the placement of insurance coverage on behalf of Florida policyholders.

As part of the agreement, Aon will pay $2.6 million to Florida to reimburse affected policyholders. Aon also will reimburse the three Florida agencies $1.4 million in fees and costs, which will be paid within 10 days of this agreement.

“Florida is committed to ensuring that insurance transactions are both transparent and fair,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “When we determine that an insurance broker is not clearly disclosing the amount and nature of all fees and commissions, we will take decisive action on behalf of Florida consumers.” 

The three-agency investigation determined that Aon brokered multiple insurance contracts in Florida from 1998 through 2004 and its clients included several public entities in the state of Florida, including city governments and school boards. Insurance brokers represent their clients by advising them on their insurance needs and options and represent the clients when negotiating the price and terms of insurance coverage offered by insurance companies.

Through the investigation, authorities uncovered allegations that Aon improperly collected undisclosed compensation when it placed various insurance coverages with insurance companies. Undisclosed compensation is any form of compensation that is paid to the broker but not reported to policyholders before binding the transaction for the purchase of a policy.

“Insurance customers, including government entities, need to know what they are getting for the premiums they are paying,” said Attorney General McCollum. “Consumers deserve transparency and taxpayers deserve to be treated fairly.”

“Full disclosure in all insurance transactions is a must, and Florida consumers deserve nothing less," said Commissioner McCarty. "My office is committed to protecting Floridians, and this settlement further demonstrates the progress Florida is making toward establishing a national standard for transparency in insurance transactions."

Prior to having insurance bound, Aon must disclose to its clients all fees, compensation and commissions associated with each insurance transaction. The company must also maintain a record of all insurance quotes it receives. This settlement marks the seventh agreement Florida has reached with insurance carriers and brokers alleged to have received compensation in an improper manner.


CFO SINK VISITS HEALTHY KIDS CALL CENTER

CFO Sink, as chair of the Healthy Kids Corporation, visited Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) headquarters in Tallahassee. ACS serves as the Healthy Kids new third party administrator and is responsible for eligibility, renewals and call center operations.


TIGER BAY CLUB OF CENTRAL FLORIDA HOSTS CFO SINK

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink visited the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida in Orlando on May 20 as their guest speaker. She spoke about efforts to protect Florida taxpayers and the importance of commuter rail in Central Florida. 

The Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida is a non-partisan political club that fosters a better understanding of public issues. Members and guests meet over lunch and listen to an invited public figure. Afterwards, they spend time peppering the speaker with questions.


INVESTORS MANAGING $2.3 TRILLION , INCLUDING CFO SINK, CALL ON CONGRESS TO TACKLE GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
Group Says Lack of Clear Policy Undermines Long-Term Economic Competitiveness

More than 50 leading investors, including the nation’s largest public pension fund, CFO Sink and the world’s largest listed hedge fund, called on the U.S. Senate to enact strong federal legislation to curb the pollution causing global warming.
 In advance of the upcoming Senate debate on the Lieberman-Warner climate bill early next month, the group issued a letter today to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling for a national climate policy to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 60 to 90 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The request is similar to reductions that would be achieved under the Lieberman-Warner bill.

The group of investors, organized by Ceres and the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), announced the investor letter at a climate change conference today at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. The 52 signers include institutional investors, asset managers, treasurers and controllers such as the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), Deutsche Asset Management, F&C Asset Management, the Man Group (the world’s largest hedge fund), and treasurers and controllers for California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New York City, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. (See full list below.)

In sending the letter, investors sent a strong message that climate policy uncertainty and the lack of federal regulations may be undermining companies’ long-term competitiveness because it is preventing them from making large-scale capital investments in clean energy and other low-carbon technologies and practices.
“Establishing a strong national climate policy for emissions reductions will help investors manage the enormous risks and opportunities posed by global warming,” said Anne Stausboll, interim chief investment officer at CalPERS, the nation’s largest pension fund with $249 billion in assets under management. “In a world where energy consumption and carbon intensity are increasingly important, we must enact climate legislation that enables U.S. companies not only to compete in a carbon-constrained environment, but to lead in the transition to a clean, low-carbon global economy.”

“Investors hate uncertainty, and that’s the problem they face today,” said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres and director of INCR, in remarks being made today at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Strong and decisive action from Washington will open the floodgates on large-scale clean technology investments, enabling U.S. investors and businesses to lead instead of lag on climate change solutions.”

“It’s time for Congress to step up to the plate and tackle climate change. Any further delay is inexcusable,” said Oregon State Treasurer Randall Edwards, whose office manages $80 billion in assets. “The Lieberman-Warner bill would give investors like me the ability to see the risks involved so we can begin rebuilding our economy by investing in green technologies.”

The investor letter also calls on Senate leaders to press U.S. regulatory bodies – specifically, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – to issue specific guidance on what companies should disclose to investors on risks they face from climate change. Investors made the same such request in a petition they filed with the SEC last fall.

“Enacting climate policy legislation and enforcing climate-related information disclosure by businesses protects both our environment and our bottom line,” said Pennsylvania Treasurer Robin L. Wiessmann, whose office oversees $122 billion in assets. “The actions we call for today will create new investment opportunities in the clean technology sector and allow investors to thoroughly assess the opportunities and risks associated with the companies they do business with.”

Climate change is already having far-reaching impacts on businesses and investors. In particular, energy intensive companies in the electric power, oil, and auto
sectors face financial risks from carbon-reducing regulations that have been enacted in other countries and parts of the United States. Insurance companies and businesses with facilities in locations vulnerable to extreme weather events also face financial exposure. On the flip side, climate change presents significant economic opportunities for businesses that invest in renewable energy, low-emitting vehicles, and other technologies that save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Citing these trends – as well as recent scientific reports concluding that climate change is taking place and that human activities are the primary contributor – investors are calling for the Senate to take the following three actions:

• Enact legislation that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 60-90% by 2050. As noted in the letter, these reduction targets are consistent with last year’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading body of climate experts, which suggested the need for reductions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80–95% below 1990 levels by 2050).
• Realign national energy and transportation policies to stimulate research, development and deployment of new and existing clean technologies at the scale necessary to achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals.

• Press the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to define the material climate-related issues that businesses should disclose to help investors understand the risks and opportunities related to climate change.

Full list of signatories:

PENSION FUNDS, STATE TREASURERS, AND STATE / CITY COMPTROLLERS

California Public Employees' Retirement System
John Chiang, California State Controller
California State Teachers' Retirement System
Bill Lockyer, California State Treasurer
Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds
Alex Sink, Florida Chief Financial Officer
Nancy K. Kopp, Maryland State Treasurer
Timothy P. Cahill, Massachusetts State Treasurer
Orin S. Kramer, Chair, New Jersey State Investment Council
William G. Clark, Director, New Jersey Division of Investment
William C. Thompson, New York City Comptroller
Thomas P. DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller
Richard Moore, North Carolina State Treasurer
Randall Edwards, Oregon State Treasurer
Robin L. Wiessmann, Pennsylvania State Treasurer
Frank Caprio, Rhode Island General Treasurer
Stephen Abrecht, Service Employees International Union Master Trust Fund
Jeb Spaulding, Vermont State Treasurer
Joseph A. Dear, Executive Director, Washington State Investment Board

ASSET MANAGERS, VENTURE CAPITALISTS, AND FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS

Geeta Aiyer, President, Boston Common Asset Management
Bennett Freeman, Senior Vice President for Social Research and Policy, Calvert Asset Management Company
Mike Johnston, Executive Vice President, The Capital Group Companies (firm name for identification purposes only)
Mindy S. Lubber, President, Ceres and Director, Investor Network on Climate Risk
Francis G. Coleman, Executive Vice President, Christian Brothers Investment Services
Kevin Parker, Global Head of Asset Management, Deutsche Bank
Adam M. Kanzer, Managing Director & General Counsel, Domini Social Investments
Alain Grisay, CEO, F&C Investments
Generation Investment Management
Kristina Curtis, President, Green Century Funds
Vinod Khosla, Founder, Khosla Ventures
Peter D. Kinder, KLD Research & Analytics, Inc.
L. John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Jonathan Naimon, CEO, Light Green Advisors
Rob O. Challis, Global Head of Corporate Responsibility, Man Group
Mark Schwartz, Chairman, MissionPoint Capital Partners
Joseph Keefe, CEO, Pax World Funds
Stephen Dodson, President, Parnassus Funds
Joan Bavaria, President, Trillium Asset Management
Tim Smith, Director of Socially Responsive Investing, Walden Asset Management
Jack Robinson, President and CIO, Winslow Management Company

FOUNDATIONS, ENDOWMENTS AND OTHER INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS

Pam Solo, President, Civil Society Institute
Jesse Fink, President, Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation
Germeshausen Foundation
Rev. William Somplatsky-Jarman, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Michael Crosby, OFMCap, The Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order
Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque, Iowa
Barbara Kraemer, OSF, U.S. Provincial, School Sisters of St Francis, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Patricia A. Daly, OP, Executive Director, Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment
Timothy Brennan, Treasurer, Unitarian Universalist Association
Timothy E. Wirth, President, United Nations Foundation
V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation
Wren W. Wirth, President, The Winslow Foundation

Ceres is a leading coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest organizations working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change. Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a network of 60 institutional investors focused on the business impacts from climate change. For more information, visit http://www.ceres.org or http://www.incr.com.


CFO SINK'S BUREAU OF UNCLAIMED PROPERTY RETURNS ITEMS VALUED AT $65,000

CFO Sink’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property returned the contents of a safe deposit box valued at over $65,000 to a Tampa resident this week. The contents of the box included an impressive coin collection with several Carson City Morgan Silver Dollars (dated between 1887-1897), platinum ingots and platinum coins from France.


Money-Smart Idea of the Week

Idea: Use flexible spending accounts.
FSAs allow you to pay certain medical, dental and child care expenses using pre-tax dollars.

An FSA is one of a number of tax-advantaged financial accounts that can be set up through a plan of U.S. employers. An FSA allows an employee to set aside a portion of his or her earnings to pay for qualified expenses as established in the cafeteria plan, most commonly for medical expenses but often for dependent care or other expenses. Money deducted from an employee's pay into an FSA is not subject to payroll taxes, resulting in a substantial tax savings.

The most common FSA, the medical expense FSA (also medical FSA or health FSA), is similar to a health savings account (HSA) or a health reimbursement account (HRA). However, while HSAs and HRAs are almost exclusively used as components of a consumer-driven health care plan, medical FSAs are commonly offered with more traditional health plans as well. An FSA may be utilized by paper claims or an FSA debit card also known as a Flexcard.

To find out if an FSA is right for you, contact your Human Resources department for more information.


CFO SINK: LEON COUNTY MAN TO SERVE 30-YEARS FOR ARSON CONVICTION

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today announced a Leon County man was convicted on charges of first degree Arson and of violating an Order of Protection and sentenced to 30-years in prison.

Kevin J. Walsh, 25, of Tallahassee, was arrested August 23, 2006 for setting a fire in the early morning hours that heavily damaged an apartment building on North Pointe Boulevard in Tallahassee. At the time of the fire, more than 20 residents were living at the apartment building. Walsh, convicted Thursday, admitted to officials he set the fire because he was angry at a resident in the building. Walsh was sentenced as a Prison Release Re-offender and will not be eligible for early release.

The investigation was conducted jointly by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Tallahassee Fire Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Shelly Thomas from the Second Judicial Circuit.

The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations is the law enforcement branch of the Division of State Fire Marshal that assists other state and local law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fires of suspicious or unknown origin. Anyone with information about any suspicious fire is asked to call 1-877-662-7766 (1-877-NOARSON) or (850) 413-3900. Information also may be mailed to Arson Control, P.O. Box 1654, Winter Park, Fl 32790.


CFO SINK ADDRESSES PROFESSIONALS - FINANCIAL EXECUTIVES INTERNATIONAL - IN JACKSONVILLE

 

Standing before a crowd of public and private sector chief financial officers in Jacksonville, CFO Alex Sink discussed the similarities of being Florida’s CFO with top financial executives.  Sink also provided the group with an update on Florida’s finances and budget, the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund and the need for businesses to continue to support local communities who are finding it challenging to work within the constraints of tight budgets in both state and local governments.


CFO SINK GETS “DOWN TO BUSINESS” WITH ANDY JOHNSON AND AM 1460

 

CFO Alex Sink joined radio talk-show host Andy Johnson on AM1460 for 30 minutes of the Jacksonville-based "Down To Business" a two-hour program focusing on business, political and community issues. Johnson and callers to the show asked the CFO about protecting the St. Johns River, Florida’s economic development, environmental concerns and how to save money and harden homes through the state’s My Safe Florida Home program.


CFO TOURS NEW CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE GROUP CLAIMS PROCESSING CENTER
 

CFO Alex Sink toured Citizens Property Insurance Group's new claims processing center in Jacksonville this week including Citizens Mobile Emergency Response Vehicle (MERV), currently being readied for hurricane season which begins June 1.  Citizens Property Insurance Group is the state-run insurer of last resort and is Florida's largest insurance company.

 

“The MERV is a wonderful tool that allows Citizens to be more responsive to their customers, and I am glad to know that with hurricane season approaching, Citizens is more prepared than ever to meet customers’ needs in timely fashion,” said CFO Sink.

 

The MERV is dispatched to Florida communities to help homeowners begin the process of recovery as soon as public safety officials declare a disaster area safe.  Citizens, in many cases, was the first insurance company on the scene in Florida's recent wildfires helping their customers file claims quickly and begin to get their homes and their lives back on track.

 

 "Citizens new facility has allowed them to consolidate all of their claims and underwriting associates into one location," Sink said.  After meeting with Citizens President Scott Wallace and his management team, I know that Floridians will appreciate the already promising gains in efficiency, operations and customer service that Citizens can now offer.”   


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