Volume 8 Number 20 May 20, 2011

Dear Fellow Floridians:

This week, Florida announced a multi-agency, multi-million-dollar settlement agreement with John Hancock Life Insurance Company in response to the company’s practice of using the death of a policyholder to stop payments for annuities but not to pay beneficiaries of life insurance policies. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation conducted a public hearing on Thursday with two national companies to evaluate this potential industry practice.

Yesterday’s hearing was a fact-finding mission. The people of Florida deserve the truth. When Floridians sacrifice their hard-earned dollars to protect and provide for their families, they need to know their company will always keep in mind what is best for them and their family – the customers. When Floridians put their family’s needs in another’s hands, they need to know that their company will deliver on its promises and be transparent in its dealings.

We have a responsibility to ensure that companies doing business in our state are playing by the rules and honoring the contractual obligations they have with their customers. If a company’s policies have cheated hard-working Floridians out of money they set aside to prepare for the loss of a loved one, or delayed them from claiming funds they were rightly owed, I’m prepared to take all actions necessary to ensure this practice is abolished in Florida and that all money due to Floridians is promptly returned.

Sincerely,

Jeff





Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

For more information about the John Hancock settlement, including contact information for the company, please visit www.myfloridacfo.com. Any consumer who experiences delays or frustrations with the settlement process will have the opportunity to file a complaint online with the Department of Financial Services.


CFO Atwater Regarding External Review of the State Board of Administration

On Tuesday, Florida’s Governor, Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer unanimously approved an agenda item initiated by CFO Jeff Atwater to conduct an external review of the State Board of Administration’s risk management processes and financial controls.

CFO Atwater serves as one of three members on the Board of Trustees, which oversees the State Board of Administration and the fourth largest pension fund in the country with assets totaling $131.3 billion as of May 2, 2011.

CFO Atwater offered the following statement in response to Tuesday’s vote on the SBA review:

“It is fiscally prudent to periodically revisit financial management practices and controls. Today’s proactive action by the Trustees confirms our commitment to ensuring the SBA has solid and prudent risk management processes and fiscal controls in place. Moreover, an independent review will assure the Trustees that the SBA has the highest standards in place and is employing best practices in the industry.”


CFO Atwater Announces Business Roundtables in Recognition of Small Business Week

In recognition of National Small Business Week, May 16-20, CFO Atwater announced his office will host a series of summer small business roundtables. Understanding the critical role small businesses play in Florida’s economy, CFO Atwater wants direct feedback on how the state can create a more business-friendly environment, including removing regulatory barriers and fostering ideas for helping new and existing businesses grow.

“A healthy and thriving small business community is vital to Florida’s overall economic health,” said CFO Atwater. “According to the Small Business Administration, Florida has more than two million small businesses which account for nearly half of all the private sector jobs in our state. I am excited about our upcoming meetings with entrepreneurs and small business owners to develop strategies for supporting and growing this key sector of our state’s economy.”

In addition to business roundtables, staff from CFO Atwater’s Department of Financial Services will be participating in business disaster preparedness events and workshops beginning this week and continuing through Disaster Preparedness Week, May 23-27. It is important that small businesses have a disaster preparedness plan before hurricane season, which begins June 1.

The Department of Financial Services recommends businesses take the following actions to prepare for this hurricane season:

Insure:

Secure:

Recover:

For a list of upcoming Small Business Week events across Florida, visit www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/OutReach.


Small Business Visits to Syn-Tech Systems in Tallahassee and A.W. Peterson's Gun Shop in Mt. Dora

On Saturday I kicked off small business week by stopping into A.W. Peterson's Gun Shop in Mt. Dora. The business is operated today by the Baker brothers following the traditions of their father, with the shop having been in the family for 50 years. In addition, A.W. Peterson’s has been in business for 125 years and is one of the oldest gun shops in the United States.

CFO Atwater with Syn-Tech executiveCFO Atwater with David Oglesby of Syn-Tech Systems, Inc.Syn-Tech Systems VP Oglesby with CFO AtwaterLater in the week, I had opportunity to visit Syn-Tech Systems, a fuel management systems company based in Tallahassee. Doug Dunlap and David Oglesby started as workers at this Florida-based company until they decided to buy it and now are president and vice-president of Syn-Tech Systems.

Both of these companies and other small businesses in Florida are the backbone of our economy. Because of the courage and commitment of small business owners in our state, Florida is now the number three state in which to do business. We must continue to foster an environment that is business-friendly so that next year we can be number one.


Fraud Investigator

CFO Jeff Atwater Prevails at Fourth District Court of Appeals Against Vero Beach Senior Scammer

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater on Thursday announced that Mitchell Brian Storfer, 50, has been stripped of his insurance licenses for participating in an annuity scheme that generated more than $100,000 in commissions for him and his agency, Seniors Financial International, Inc. of Vero Beach. This follows a yearlong appeal by Storfer to the Fourth District Court of Appeals (DCA) that the Department’s Division of Legal Services successfully fought.

“Insurance companies have a responsibility to ensure that their agents maintain the highest standards in their sales practices, whether it involves the sales of annuities or any other products,” said CFO Atwater. “Florida seniors have worked hard to earn their money and we will continue to work hard to fight fraud and to keep the money in the pockets of citizens of all ages where it belongs.”

On March 19, 2010, Storfer’s license was revoked following a recommendation by an administrative law judge with the Division of Administrative Hearings. He appealed to the Fourth DCA and on April 7, 2010, the revocation was stayed which allowed him to continue transacting insurance under his license, with the exception that he could not market annuities to persons over the age of 55 during the appeal. Each of the members of the DCA’s three-judge panel agreed that the revocation should be upheld and denied his request for a rehearing on May 12, 2011.

In August 2008 Storfer convinced a senior couple from Vero Beach to replace several of their investments with two American Equity Bonus Gold annuities after earning their trust during two of his free seminars. When the numbers didn’t add up, the couple requested that Storfer not process the application, which he ignored, withdrawing thousands from the couple’s account. That’s when the Department’s Division of Agent and Agency Services stepped in, helping the couple reverse the transaction and recover their savings. Storfer also convinced at least two other seniors to surrender or transfer existing annuities, costing them more than $95,000 in penalties and generating Storfer more than $100,000 in commissions.


Enforcement RoundupFraud Division Makes Arrests for Premium Theft, Criminal Use of ID Fraud Investigator

The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud has arrested, this year, over 420 insurance fraudsters including over 155 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud arrests.

The following are highlights of three recent fraud cases:


Consumer Tips

How to Budget On an Irregular Income

Sticking to a budget on an irregular income can be difficult but it is also one of the most important things you can do if you don’t have a predictable or regular income. Having a Short Term Emergency Fund is a key component in the success of your budget.

To create an irregular income budget, first, write down all of your expenses. Prioritize your expenses. Now, when you receive a paycheck, take that amount and spread it out among the items in your budget, starting with the most important expense and working down. Your check may not cover everything you listed. Use it to pay as much as you can. Then, when your next check comes in, pick up where the last check left off. If you reach the end of the month and you haven’t paid all of your expenses, dip in to your Short Term Emergency Fund to make up the difference.

If you make more than your average amount of income in a month, use the remaining income to be sure that your Short Term Emergency Fund is fully replenished.

Excerpts from: http://bit.ly/j6iY4k