FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Volume 4, Number 25, June 22, 2007
The death of nine Charleston, S.C., firefighters
on Monday while battling a furniture store fire is the biggest loss of
U.S. firefighter lives since Sept. 11, 2001.
This tragedy has deeply affected firefighters and their
families throughout the nation.
Certainly all of us in the fire services will be studying the events in
Charleston to learn how to improve firefighter safety. One thing we do
know is that sprinklers could have made a difference. The Charleston
furniture store did not have sprinklers.
Coincidentally, Ormond Beach Fire Chief Barry Baker announced on
Thursday a similar fire occurred in Ormond Beach, but with a much
different outcome. Ormond Beach firefighters on Wednesday night
responded to a fire at a furniture store, but this store had sprinklers.
If you own property, I urge you to consider installing sprinklers if you
do not have them. According to the National Fire Protection Association,
sprinklers reduce fatalities and property loss by at least half.
Sprinklers could save your life or your family’s life or the lives of
your employees and customers, and could save your business or help you
get back in business faster after a fire. Your security and that of
others makes it worth looking into.
CFO SINK ANNOUNCES FIRST MEETING OF
FINANCIAL LITERACY COUNCIL IN TALLAHASSEE ON MONDAY, JUNE 25
In an ongoing effort to increase financial literacy awareness Florida Chief
Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the Financial Literacy Council will
convene its first meeting next week in Tallahassee. The meeting will be held
from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Monday, June 25, 2007, at the Capitol Complex, House
Office Building, Room 306.
The following nine individuals are members of the state’s Financial Literacy
Paul Auslander, CFP, President, American
Financial Advisors (Orlando)
James R. De Santis, M.Ed., Executive
Director, Florida Council on Economic Education (Tampa)
Liana Fox, Ph.D., Professor, Hillsborough
Community College (Tampa)
Richard George, President, Junior
Achievement of West Central Florida (Safety Harbor)
Cassandra J. Grayson, M.Ed., Sr. Vice
President, Administration, Florida Credit Union League (Tallahassee)
Doug Heinlen, Member of Florida Executive
Council, American Association of Retired Persons (Sarasota)
Deidre Newton, M.B.A, President and CEO,
Community Real Estate Services, Inc. (West Palm Beach)
Obdulio Piedra, Miami-Dade Market President,
Great Florida Bank (Pinecrest)
Dulce M. Suarez-Resnick, Senior Account
Manager, HBA Insurance Group (Miramar)
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 CFO Sink’s department-- the Department of Financial
Services-- in developing programs and resources aimed at increasing
financial literacy among Floridians.
CFO Sink is a strong proponent of financial literacy. Through outreach
coordinators, the Department of Financial Services aggressively reaches out
to local communities to educate consumers on topics such as the wise use of
credit cards for teens, credit card identity theft, hurricane preparedness,
small business security, life insurance and first-time homebuyer workshops.
SUNCOAST TIGER BAY
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink visited the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in
St. Petersburg on June 22 as their guest speaker. She spoke about her role
as chief financial officer, being the top fiscal watchdog and a consumer
The Suncoast Tiger Bay Club 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.
SUCCESSFUL MEETING HELD BY TASK FORCE ON
CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE CLAIMS HANDLING AND RESOLUTION
The legislatively-created Task Force on Citizens Property Insurance
Claims Handling and Resolution met on June 19, 2007, in Ft. Lauderdale with
a responsive audience and an effective discussion of the issues.
Consumers who have homeowner policies with Citizens or who have open claims
from the 2004/2005 hurricane seasons attended the public hearings and
provided public testimony. The task force heard comments from 26 citizens on
a variety of specific issues.
Citizens representatives were available to facilitate claims and answer
concerns of policyholders. Those with open claims with Citizens are
encouraged to contact Citizens for resolution of the issues.
Two areas of immediate concern to the task force are
out-of-state-adjusters and the appointment of insurance agents. Citizens is
requested to have a detailed action plan for training out-of-state adjusters
and to have a first response team in position as hurricane season is here.
The Department of Financial Services consumer specialists were on site to
help with questions regarding Citizens claims and policies.
Created by House Bill 1A during the 2007 special session of the Florida
Legislature, the task force comprises Chairman and Florida’s Insurance
Consumer Advocate Bob Milligan; Vice Chairman and Senator Mike Fasano;
Representative Julio Robaina; Michael B. Twomey Sr., Attorney; Mike
Lancashire, VP, The Main Street America Group; Heather Carruthers, Fair
Insurance Rates in Monroe County; and Tim Loftin, VP of Claims at Citizens
Property Insurance Corporation.
The task force, directed to develop recommendations for Citizens to complete
claims remaining from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, will issue a
report evaluating Citizens’ procedures on claims handling, claims resolution
and customer service to the Governor, Chief Financial Officer, President of
the Senate and Speaker of the House by July 1, 2007.
A Web site dedicated to the task force and its duties is available at
STATE FIRE MARSHAL SINK SUPPORTS 2007 INTERNATIONAL
FIRE AND EMS SAFETY STAND DOWN
Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink is calling
for Florida's firefighters to join fellow responders around the nation in a
"stand down" this week and suspend all non-emergency activity to focus on
safety during the 2007 International Fire and EMS Safety Stand Down, being
held this week through Saturday, June 23, 2007.
Florida is at the forefront of firefighter safety as one of the only states
to mandate a Firefighter Occupational Safety and Health program by law. In
2006, 105 U.S. firefighters died in the line of duty; however, Florida was
fortunate that no firefighters or EMS personnel died in the line of duty
last year. So far this year, 53 U.S. firefighter lives have been lost,
including one in Florida and nine who died on Monday while battling a fire
at a furniture store in Charleston, S.C.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and colleagues of those
fallen firefighters,” said CFO Sink. “Emergency responders know there is
great risk in what they do, yet their courage and commitment to serve their
fellow citizens is strong. I can think of no finer way to honor their lives
than to learn from their deaths how to make the job safer for those
responders who will follow in their footsteps.”
Drawing attention to both firefighter and emergency medical services, the
International Stand Down is sponsored by the International Association of
Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the International Association of Fire Fighters and the
Volunteer and Combination Officers Section of the IAFC. The Florida
Professional Firefighters and the Florida Fire Chief’s Association work with
their counterparts in the U.S. and Canada to encourage firefighters and EMS
personnel to take time from their normal duties to closely look at what can
be done to reduce the death and injury rate for firefighters.
The theme of the 2007 Stand Down is “Ready to Respond.” Stand downs have
been used by the military for years to correct issues throughout the ranks.
For more information, please contact Chief Dave Casey at the Florida State
Fire College, or visit http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/sfm and click on “Firefighter
Safety” for more information on the State Fire Marshal’s Office firefighter
safety programs, reports and links.
PUBLIC AUCTION OF
TO BE HELD IN ORLANDO IN AUGUST
Alex Sink, Florida’s chief financial officer, is urging treasure hunters to
join the bidding for unclaimed jewelry, coins, antiques and collectibles at
a public auction on Saturday, August 4, in Orlando. The
auction offers items for bid to the public. The net proceeds of the auction
are deposited into the State School Trust Fund for the benefit of Florida’s
public schools. Since the inception of the Unclaimed Property Program, the
state’s public schools have benefited from more than $1.5 billion in
unclaimed property proceeds.
The items offered for sale at the auction are unclaimed contents from
abandoned bank safe deposit boxes that have been turned over to the
Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Unclaimed Property, after being
unclaimed for at least three years. The Bureau
makes an effort to find owners or heirs and last year returned more than
$100 million in cash and property to rightful owners. In addition, the
proceeds from items sold at the auction are always available to the owners
or heirs to claim.
The auction will be held on August 3 & 4 in Orlando at
The Florida Hotel and Conference Center at the Florida Mall.
Registration and Preview: Friday, August 3, 2007, 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
(Preview this day only - no preview on day of auction.)
Auction: Saturday, August 4, 2007, 10:00 AM - until finished
(Registration will open at 8:00 a.m.)
Location: The Florida Hotel and Conference Center, Florida Mall, Sand Lake
Road and S. Orange Blossom Trail (U.S. 441), 1500 Sand Lake Rd., Orlando, FL
32809 Phone: 407-859-1500
Please visit www.fltreasurehunt.org,
where you can learn more about the unclaimed property program, search our
database of unclaimed accounts and file claims for accounts for which you
believe you are entitled. You may also contact us by telephone at
888-258-2253 (toll-free in Florida) or 850-413-5555.
Additional information, including a free, downloadable catalog, will soon be
available on www.FLTreasureHunt.org
Web site and from Fisher Auction Company at
Licenses suspended for improper selling of DISCOUNT HOME HEALTH care
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced
that the licenses of two Sarasota insurance agents have been suspended for
making “false and worthless promises” to more than 40 elderly Floridians who
thought they were buying a home health care services plan but paid nearly
$200,000 for access to providers and never received any services. One of
the victims was a 96-year-old blind woman.
Michael D. Carll, 49, and James W. Crain, Jr., 41, both
of International Life and Health in Sarasota, had their licenses and
eligibility for licensure as insurance agents in the state of Florida
suspended for a period of 24 months. The two also sold insurance through
several other Florida corporations, all of which were located at 2477
Stickney Point Road, Suite 315B in Sarasota. They cannot apply for
reinstatement of their licenses even after the suspension period until full
restitution has been made.
“It is cruel to sell senior citizens on expensive false
promises that will not provide the services they need,” said CFO Sink, who
oversees the department. “If they fail to pay back every penny, they will
never get their licenses back.”
Carll and Crain pitched their product as a discount
home health care service “to provide referrals for homemaker and companion
services and custodial care.” Their referral services were sold to
approximately 44 elderly Floridians, most in their 80s or 90s. Several were
disabled and suffered from diminishing mental capacity, and some already had
home medical care coverage, even though the Home Care membership plan’s
application required that the purchasing consumer be of sound mind and body,
not be blind, deaf, or wheelchair-bound, and that the Home Care membership
plan not replace any existing insurance product.
The plans sold for between $2,475 and $5,040 and
offered a three-payment option plan that amounted to a 25-percent interest
charge for premium financing, and the two collected at least $192,700. The
investigation began after victims complained that they were unable to get
any referrals or services. The department’s Division of Agent and Agency
Services’ Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation, and the
department’s Division of Legal Services issued administrative complaints in
June 2006. Following a contested administrative hearing, an administrative
law judge called for the 24-month suspension for both agents.
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division
of Agent and Agency Services, Bureau of Investigation, investigates various
types of insurance violations by agents including health, life, auto,
property, workers’ compensation, bail bond and title insurance. To file a
complaint against an agent call 1-800-342-2762 or go to
CFO SINK REVOKES LICENSE OF TAMPA BAY AGENT FOR
DECEPTION IN SALE OF ANNUITIES
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has issued an order revoking the
license of a Tampa Bay-area insurance agent for exploiting seniors in the
sale of annuities.
Sharon Razdar, 49, was accused of misleading and deceptive practices in the
sale of annuities. She and her husband Bijan Razdar owned and operated
American Independent Financial Services, located at 10633 U.S. Highway 19 in
Port Richey. An investigation by the Department of Financial Services (DFS)
determined the Razdars targeted elderly Florida consumers through radio
advertisements and seminars, with the goal of soliciting seniors to purchase
annuity contracts that would earn the couple high-dollar commissions. Bijan
Razdar’s license was revoked last year.
“It is reprehensible that anyone would take advantage of any Floridian, most
especially a senior citizen who is looking for help with investing
hard-earned money,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the DFS. “I am relieved that
these two are out of the insurance business in Florida, and I commend
everyone in the department who helped make this happen.”
The Razdars’ radio advertisements were designed to sound like financial talk
shows offering financial advice to listeners. The Razdars used their radio
advertisements to attempt to induce investors into surrendering in-force
life insurance and annuity products or other investments for the purpose of
purchasing equity indexed fixed annuities, which may have been unsuitable
and inappropriate for listeners’ investment objectives and financial needs.
Bijan Razdar continued to sell annuities to elderly consumers even after
having his license revoked and was arrested and pleaded guilty to charges
that he continued to transact without a license, now a felony in Florida.
While investors may be lured into the purchase of an equity indexed annuity
believing that they will realize returns similar to that of an index, such
at the S&P 500, such a belief may not be reasonable. Equity indexed
annuities can be complex, long-term investments carrying high surrender
charges, and investors should consider getting advice from more than one
financial professional prior to investing in such products.
When considering buying annuity product, CFO Sink offers Floridians the
Find out the specifics of the particular annuity
you are considering (variable or equity-indexed). Request a prospectus
from the insurance company or from you financial professional, and read
Compare the benefits and costs of the annuity to
other annuities and to other types of investments (stocks, bonds and
Carefully assess financial goals - variable and
equity index annuities are designed to be long-term investments to meet
long term goals such as retirement.
Equity-index annuities are complicated investment
products that may contain several features that can affect your
investment return. Make sure you understand how an equity indexed
annuity computes its index-linked interest rate before you buy.
Consult a tax adviser and consider all the tax
consequences of purchasing an annuity, including the effect of annuity
payments on your tax status in retirement.
Ask the sales agent about the licenses and/or
designations he or she holds, and what types of investment choices he or
she can offer you.
Ask about commissions, fees, penalties, surrender
charges and any other associated costs. Get the figures in writing.
Before you surrender an in-force investment to
purchase a new product, call the company to find out if you will suffer
a surrender charge, and if so, how much it will be. The cost of a
transfer may outweigh any benefit of a new product.
Beware of "bonus" interest rates, as they may be
limited in duration and have strings attached, and sales pitches that
claim you will "recoup" all penalties with higher returns.
Take your time. High-pressure sales tactics will
rush you into an unwise decision. A sound investment will be just as
good tomorrow or next week.
Document all transactions.
Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it
Consumers who believe they have been victim of
financial fraud should call the Department's Consumer Helpline at
1-800-342-2762 or log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com to file a complaint.
Consumer Services Helpline (800) 342-2762