Volume 8 Number 28 July 15, 2011
Dear Fellow Floridians:
This week Florida received some good indications about the progress of our economic recovery. Standard & Poor's announced that it has revised its outlook for Florida from negative to stable. The agency cited the progress we have made in restoring structural balance through significant cost-cutting measures and maintaining strong reserves.
In addition, the Florida Treasury Investment Pool received a rating upgrade from S&P, continuing its record of strong ratings for both credit quality and volatility. The Investment Pool's upgrade from an 'Af' to 'A+f' means that the pool exhibits strong protection against losses from credit defaults, an important measure for pool participants.
Having a stable outlook and the Treasury Investment Pool upgrade is a testament to the benefits of the tough choices our Legislature and Cabinet have made to live within our means and make fiscally responsible decisions, and is in stark contrast to our federal government's approach to fiscal management.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
Business media outlet CNBC released this week its annual rankings of the business environment in all 50 states. Florida rose in dramatic fashion, improving from 28th in last year's rankings to 18th this year. This placing is due to Florida's second-ranked workforce as well as dramatic ranking upgrades in access to capital, cost of living and infrastructure/transportation. Florida's jump in the rankings was one of the two largest, strongly indicating the direction this state is headed in terms of business growth. Read More about Florida's ranking on the CNBC website.
This week I congratulated Felipe Valls, the owner of Versailles Restaurant in Miami, on 40 years in business. Versailles, which today employs over 2,400 Floridians, has contributed greatly to the growth of our economy. Versailles has been a landmark in the South Florida community and a necessary stop for visitors, such as myself, in search of authentic Cuban cuisine. Felicidades to Felipe and the staff of Versailles!
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced that the Department of Financial Services' Division of Consumer Services and Division of Agent and Agency Services have helped recover nearly $12 million in claim payments, premium refunds, restitution and recoveries this year for Florida consumers.
The Division of Consumer Services is available to answer questions and assist consumers in all lines of insurance - including homeowners, health, auto, life and warranties - handling an average of 20,000 calls a month. The Division of Agent and Agency Services licenses insurance professionals and investigates alleged violations of the Florida Insurance Code - handling an average of 400 cases a month.
"Our purpose is to help our fellow Floridians by providing tools, education and when necessary serving as mediators between them and insurance companies," said CFO Atwater. "Most situations can be easily resolved; we want consumers to know we are here to assist them when needed."
Following is a synopsis of recent situations:
This week Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrest of two people who engaged in insurance fraud by staging an accident, claiming injury and billing an insurance company for procedures they did not receive. Suspects Floribel Figueroa Quiles and Lazaro Hernandez Cabrales were arrested following an investigation of complaints filed with the Division of Insurance Fraud by Assurance America.
"It is always a great day when we are able to track down one of these fraudsters who, by their actions, cause each and every Floridian to pay more for auto insurance," said CFO Atwater. "With the support and assistance of consumers and our partners in the insurance industry, my department will continue to bring these criminals to justice."
The complaint filed with the division by Assurance America indicated that Quiles and Cabrales were involved in a staged automobile accident in Pinellas Park in October 2010. As a result of the alleged accident, Quiles and her three minor children claimed to be treated at TLC Medical Rehab LLC, located in Tampa. TLC Medical Rehab submitted invoices to Assurance America for close to $50,000.
Quiles was arrested on July 7 at her residence in Osceola County. Cabrales, a former manager of TLC Medical Rehab, was arrested on July 8 at his residence in Tampa.
A new law championed by CFO Atwater that went into effect on July 1 means that these fraudsters may also face civil penalties if convicted of auto insurance fraud or staging an accident. CFO Atwater also helped secure additional funding for fraud prosecutors in Tampa, the number-one city in the state for staged auto accidents according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Anyone with information regarding suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Individuals who provide tips can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $250,000 to approximately 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program.
Natural or manmade, disasters can pose problems for the well-being of your employees and business production. The following tips will help you develop a plan to ensure that your business will continue following a disaster.