Volume 4, Number 28, July 16, 2007
Scientists have observed that our changing climate will
impact many aspects of life and business in Florida and across the
world. From increased hurricane intensity to rising sea levels, it is
essential that we gain a better understanding about the effects of
climate change if we are to meet these new challenges.
By working together, we can reduce the
risks of climate change and capitalize on new economic opportunities and
growing industries. I encourage you to learn more about the initiatives
about and help Florida go green!
CFO SINK DELIVERS A CHECK TO A PENSACOLA RESIDENT FROM THE MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM
John Dill, a 67-year-old
military retiree of Pensacola, received a My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) grant
reimbursement and a visit from Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink a
few weeks ago, after hardening his home’s opening protections. After having
his home inspected by a MSFH program-approved inspector in February, Dill
received an inspection report indicating that adding accordion-style
shutters to six of his doorways would help reduce the potential for
hurricane damage. Dill made improvements through a program-approved
contractor for nearly $10,000 and was reimbursed by the state for half the
cost of improvements, a total of $ $4,942.57.
STATE FIRE MARSHAL’S OFFICE PROVIDING
DISASTER TRAINING FOR FLORIDA’S FISH AND WILDLIFE OFFICERS
CFO SINK REVOKES AGENT’S LICENSE FOR EXPLOITING SENIORS
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has revoked the license of a south Florida insurance agent and ordered him to pay a $40,000 fine for targeting senior citizens, some suffering from dementia, for the sale of unsuitable deferred annuity products.
In one instance, Joseph John Ripa, 48, convinced an 83-year-old retiree seeking supplemental retirement income to invest his entire liquid net worth in an equity indexed deferred annuity that provided no immediate income and carried with it 13 years of surrender charges as high as 17 percent. The license revocation is based on findings arising out of an investigation and prosecution by the Department of Financial Services, which CFO Sink oversees, and was recommended by a Division of Administrative Hearings judge following a formal hearing.
“It is sad and deplorable that anyone would take advantage of senior citizens looking for help in supplementing their income,” said CFO Sink. “This man knowingly locked his customers’ money away in annuities that could be accessed only by paying steep penalties or after a dozen years or more, and that certainly was not to the benefit of the customers he targeted.”
Ripa, who was associated with Fidelity Assurance, Inc., of St. Petersburg, was aware that the products he was selling were unsuitable for the seniors he targeted, but concealed that fact by failing to disclose to his clients the applicable surrender charges and penalties, along with other potentially harmful features of the products. He sold equity indexed deferred annuities and other annuity products to consumers, ranging in age from 75 to 90, and in at least three instances he targeted vulnerable consumers who he knew suffered from dementia and could not exercise sound judgment on their own behalf at the time of the sale.
Even though they are sometimes marketed as “safe” investments that offer a guarantee of principle with a potential to earn stock market-like returns, equity indexed deferred annuities can be complex products to understand and frequently carry hefty surrender charges that may last for many years. Because these products typically restrict a consumer’s ability to access the funds without penalty and are not considered liquid investments, they are often unsuitable for seniors. For more information, log on to http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Consumers/. To file a complaint or ask a question, log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com or call the Department's Consumer Helpline at 1-800-342-2762.
The Department's Division of Agent & Agency Services, Bureau of Investigation, investigates various forms of insurance agent violations concerning health, life, auto, property, workers compensation, bail bonds and title insurance.
MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM TO SIGN UP HOMEOWNERS FOR FREE WIND
INSPECTIONS AT FAIA HURRICANE EXPOS
Future Hardening Your Home Against Hurricanes expos will be held in four Florida cities on July 21 from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon. Homeowners can sign up for their free wind inspection at select Home Depot stores in St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Boynton Beach, and Davie. The MSFH program will be joining representatives from FAIA, FLASH, the National Weather Service and County Emergency Management at local Home Depot stores to promote the importance of mitigation and hurricane safety.
As CFO, Sink oversees the state’s MSFH program, which helps Floridians identify how they can strengthen their homes and reduces the overall potential for hurricane damage in our state. The MSFH program offers eligible homeowners a free wind inspection by trained and qualified hurricane mitigation inspectors. Homeowners who have received these inspections and meet additional criteria set by the Legislature may also have the opportunity to apply for a matching grant of up to $5,000 to make recommended improvements.
In order to be eligible for the program’s matching grant reimbursements of up to $5,000, the 2007 Legislature requires that homeowners meet the following requirements: have received a completed wind inspection after May 1, 2007; live in a single-family, site-built home with a building permit issued before March 1, 2002; have a valid homestead exemption; have an insured value of $300,000 or less; and be located in the wind-borne debris region. Additionally, while the free wind inspections will still cover seven potential wind-resistance improvements, matching grants may only be used for opening protections, including windows, exterior doors and garage doors, as well as the bracing of gable ends.
The MSFH program expanded statewide this spring after a pilot program the previous year and has performed more than 55,000 free wind inspections since April 23, 2007. More than 5,800 homeowners statewide are currently working with the MSFH program to harden their homes and will receive their matching grants upon the completion of their recommended improvements. Statewide, the program has issued nearly $1.2 million in grants to 413 homeowners who have completed the improvements recommended in their inspection reports.
MSFH will be signing up
homeowners for free wind inspections at select Home Depots for the following
E. Bradenton Home Depot #6319
Boynton Beach Home Depot
Davie Home Depot #222
Consumer eViews www.MyFloridaCFO.com/PressOffice/Newsletter/