Dear Fellow Floridians:
When I decided to run for CFO, I wrote down a pledge to my fellow
Floridians that I would follow if they gave me the honor of serving them
in this role. Now, more than eight months into the job, I often look
back at this pledge to make sure I’m delivering on my promises.
One of those promises was to fight fraud, particularly insurance
fraud that has become an epidemic in our state and is costing billions
of dollars each year. At this week’s Cabinet meeting, I was grateful to
have the opportunity to discuss one of the most pervasive and egregious
forms of fraud impacting Floridians, Personal Injury Protection fraud.
Insurance fraudsters and criminal enterprises have learned how to
game Florida’s PIP system and every honest Floridian with a car in the
driveway ends up paying. For example, in 2008 a 40-year-old driver in
Tampa with an unblemished driving record was paying $480 in PIP premium,
and today this same driver is paying nearly $870 for the same coverage -
that’s an 81 percent increase.
Now is the time to stop throwing consumers to the wolves and work
together on meaningful PIP reforms that will give honest Floridians the
rate relief they deserve.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
Citizens Board Appointees Named
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater on Tuesday announced the
appointments of Nancy Baily and Rob Wallace to the Board of Governors
for Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.
“With Nancy’s vast experience in the private insurance industry and
Rob’s deep understanding of the financial impact of decisions made in
Tallahassee, I am confident that they will be great assets to the board
and Florida’s insurance consumers,” said CFO Atwater. “They will be
diligent and insightful in the important work ahead.”
Nancy Baily is a former chair of the Florida Insurance Council with
nearly 20 years of experience in the insurance industry. She most
recently served as the President and CEO of Travelers of Florida, the
second largest provider of property and casualty insurance in the United
States. Baily is also formerly the executive director of the Florida
Chapter of the ALS Association, a non-profit organization that helps
patients and families struggling with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Rob Wallace is a lifelong resident of Tampa, where he has been a
civil and environmental engineer for more than 35 years. He helped found
and serves as the president of Environmental Engineering Consultants,
Inc., a firm that assists manufacturers and property owners with
managing engineering and environmental risks. In 1994, Wallace was
elected to the Florida House of Representatives serving Northwest
Hillsborough and Northern Pinellas counties. In the House, he was known
as an advocate for small businesses.
The governor, chief financial officer, president of the Senate and
speaker of the House each appoint two members, one of which must have
demonstrated expertise in insurance.
Week in Review
This week I had many opportunities to share my top initiatives and
vision with Floridians across the state.
It is my privilege to serve as the Florida State Fire Marshal. This
week, I had the honor of visiting our State Fire College in Ocala. I met
with our staff and brave firefighters furthering their education in
order to better protect and serve their fellow Floridians. These brave
men and women work everyday to protect each of us. Take a moment to
thank firefighters in your community who selflessly put their lives on
the line for all Floridians.
At the Associated Industries of Florida "Champion of Business" ceremony
in Palm Beach, I shared with business leaders and legislators the
role that entrepreneurship has played in shaping my top priorities.
Florida’s businesses and corporations are the backbone of our economy,
and it is my goal to create conditions that allow businesses to prosper.
I was moved when AIF presented me with one of their Champion of Business
awards. Organizations such as AIF help foster economic development and
business growth in our great state.
Another organization promoting economic freedom as well as limited
government and individual responsibility is the James Madison Institute.
JMI has a long history of educating Floridians on the importance of
free-market ideas in public policy issues. I had the opportunity to
address their group in Ft. Lauderdale this week. I discussed the recent
downgrade of the United States’ credit rating by Standard & Poors and
how Florida has been able to maintain our AAA bond rating and to move
from a negative to a stable outlook. Florida’s improved outlook is a
direct result of the fiscally prudent manner by which we have governed
in Tallahassee over the last several years.
Even during tough economic times, when we have to make difficult
budget decisions, we cannot forget Florida’s future generations. I spoke
at the Voices of Hope Child Welfare Network "Celebrating our Community
Heroes" breakfast, a valuable organization dedicated to promoting
awareness of child abuse . As Florida’s CFO, I realize the great
importance of having strong partnerships in the child welfare arena.
These partnerships give us the ability to leverage information and
resources to effectively meet the needs of the children and families in
our communities who need our help the most. In order to create a better,
stronger Florida, we must always keep our youngest Floridians in mind.
Protect Your Home Base
week was the start of peak of hurricane season. The nation’s top
meteorologist has predicted an above-normal hurricane season this year,
with 12 to 18 named storms and six to 10 hurricanes. To emphasize the
importance of protecting your home base both structurally and
financially against hurricane damage, we partnered with the Federal
Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) to raise awareness regarding hurricane
preparedness. In an effort to educate Floridians on hurricane
preparedness and safety, we ran a social media awareness campaign that
included hurricane tips, statistics and trivia questions. We even gave
away hurricane preparedness kits to the trivia winners.
It is critical that Floridians not wait until the last minute to
protect their homes and businesses. The consequences could mean
thousands of dollars in damage and financial loss. If you would like
more information on how you can protect your home base this hurricane
season please visit
Contractor Arrested in Sinkhole Scam
Financial Officer Jeff Atwater on Tuesday announced the arrest of an
Oviedo business owner for overbilling State Farm Insurance Company for
fraudulent sinkhole claim repairs. Michael Hodge, owner of A&M
Contracting Company, is charged with multiple counts of racketeering and
insurance fraud involving billings of materials he never used to repair
properties in Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties.
“This case is a perfect example of the type of insurance fraud that
drives up insurance rates across the state for hard-working Floridians,”
said CFO Atwater. “We must remain diligent in rooting out these
fraudsters to protect Florida homeowners and the honest businesses
operating in our state.”
An investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services,
Division of Insurance Fraud, revealed that, from 2004 to 2009, A&M
Contracting overbilled State Farm for grout that was never used to
repair sinkhole damage to properties in the Central Florida area. It was
later discovered that Hodge received nearly $182,000 in compensation for
materials which he never purchased or used to repair the properties.
Hodge was arrested by fraud detectives Friday and released after
posting bail. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
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