FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY
Volume 4, Number 43, October 26, 2007
This week we’ve watched the tragic aftermath of disasters
on both coasts - a tornado that hit Pensacola and the wildfires burning
across Southern California. We all must remember that tragedy can happen at
any time and we must be vigilant about being prepared.
If you do not have a disaster plan for your family, make one now. This is
important not just during Hurricane Season but throughout the year. Think
of all the things that could go wrong and set a place where your family will
meet. Have copies of financial documents ready to go. Remember to plan for
family members with special needs, and pets, too.
This week we will be enjoying visits from “goblins and ghouls” who will
prowl our neighborhoods for Halloween treats. We wish everyone a safe and
CFO SINK, AG McCOLLUM &
COMMISSIONER MCCARTY ANNOUNCE $4.5 MILLION INSURANCE SETTLEMENT
Company and subsidiaries settle multi-state bid-rigging and price-fixing
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, Florida Attorney General Bill
McCollum and Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty announced that
Florida and other states have reached a settlement with a large insurance
carrier involved in a “pay to play” tactic used with Marsh & McLennan and
other insurance brokers. ACE Group Holdings, Inc. and its subsidiaries will
pay a multi-state task force $4.5 million to resolve allegations of
bid-rigging and price-fixing in the commercial insurance market that
resulted in higher premiums being paid by Florida governmental entities,
companies and nonprofit organizations.
“It’s wrong that governments and businesses paid inflated insurance rates
because they were led to believe there was competition when there wasn’t,”
said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services which
served a lead role in the multi-state investigation along with the Attorney
General’s Office and the Office of Insurance Regulation. “I applaud today’s
settlement, because policyholders deserve to know exactly what they are
paying for and that they are paying a fair price for it.”
In addition to the financial settlement, ACE has agreed to a consent decree
and final judgment in Leon County Circuit Court that will provide
comprehensive injunctive relief, including the disclosure of any
compensation that ACE pays to insurance brokers. This settlement marks the
second agreement Florida has reached with insurance carriers involved with
Marsh using “pay to play” tactics.
“The insurance industry must ensure that Florida policyholders are treated
fairly,” said Attorney General McCollum. “We will continue our efforts to
restore accountability and transparency to insurance markets.”
“Ensuring that there is full disclosure in insurance transactions is
essential,” said Commissioner McCarty. “This settlement is another step
toward establishing a national standard for transparency in insurance
transactions and it helps to further the Office of Insurance Regulation's
efforts and commitment to protect Florida consumers.”
ACE allegedly conspired with Marsh and other brokers by submitting fake bids
to create the illusion of a competitive bidding process, even though the
broker had already determined which insurer would receive a particular
policyholder’s business. ACE was rewarded by brokers, who steered other
lucrative business to it. ACE paid “contingent commissions” to these
brokers, and these commissions were not disclosed to policyholders.
Prior to the settlement, ACE provided reimbursement to a nationwide group of
policyholders and adopted significant business reforms that govern its
bidding and underwriting practices. Under the consent decree and final
judgment, ACE will be required to abide by those reforms and, upon the
request of its customers or prospective policyholders, to disclose the
actual amount of payments made to insurance brokers. ACE has cooperated with
the multi-state task force and will provide assistance to the states as they
continue their investigation of insurance brokers and other insurers.
In addition to Florida, the following states participated in the
investigation and settlement: Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Oregon, Texas, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
A pdf version of the signed and dated Settlement Agreement between ACE and
the Settling Attorneys General is available at
AREA LEGAL AID AWARD GIVEN
CFO Sink last Friday
was the keynote speaker at an awards ceremony held by the Jacksonville Area
Legal Aid, Inc., a law firm of 30 attorneys specializing in providing civil
legal assistance to low-income persons. During the ceremony, the
organization gave its Equal Justice Award, its highest honor, to Bob Beckham
of Holland & Knight. Part of Beckham’s pro bono service includes
representing clients for the Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to
exonerating people who were wrongfully convicted through DNA testing.
Seven other individual attorneys from various law firms were also recognized
for pro bono work during the past year. Sink told the audience it is
critical to ensure that the justice system “works for all people, whether
they can afford to hire a lawyer or not.”
Earlier that same day, Sink held a business roundtable
meeting with members of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce on
current business and economic issues. The informal discussion touched on
many issues, with emphasis on property insurance to property taxes, with the
CFO renewing calls for balance and keeping the long view in mind.
MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM TO SIGN UP HOMEOWNERS AT
DAYTONA BEACH HOME SHOW
MSFH Representatives to be on hand Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
On behalf of Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, representatives from
the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program will be on hand at the Daytona Beach
Home Show, October 25 – 28, 2007, signing up homeowners and discussing the
financial and safety incentives of hardening their homes against hurricane
damage. Homeowners are encouraged to bring their insurance policies to get
the maximum benefit from their inspection report.
CFO Sink oversees the state’s MSFH program, which helps Floridians identify
how they can strengthen their homes and reduce 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 matching grants of up to $5000 to make recommended improvements.
Representatives from the MSFH program will be at the Daytona Beach Home
Show as follows:
Thursday – Sunday, Oct 25 – 28
LOCATION: Ocean Center - Booth WL2
101 N. Atlantic Ave.
Daytona Beach, FL 32118
TIME: Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The MSFH program resumed offering wind inspections and expanded statewide
this year after conducting a pilot program during the previous year. Since
April 2007 the MSFH program has performed over 100,000 free wind
inspections. More than 12,900 homeowners have been approved for matching
grants and are working with the MSFH program to harden their homes.
Statewide, the program has issued a grand total of more than 1,600 grants to
homeowners for more than $5.2 million.
Recently, CFO Sink reported that many homeowners who have received a free
wind inspection from the MSFH program are eligible for discounts on their
wind insurance premiums without making a single improvement to their home.
To date, 70 percent of participating homeowners are eligible for an average
discount of $235 on their wind insurance premiums, based on the current
structure of the home during the free MSFH wind inspection.
UNEXPECTED - TORNADOES USUALLY ARE
was surprised on October 18 by a weather event - a tornado that was rated an
EF1 on the enhanced Fujita scale – that translates to 86-109 mph. The
maximum width of the tornado was about 150 yards and the track length was
about 7 miles. The tornado lasted for about fifteen minutes.
began with touchdown along the water just northeast of Pensacola Naval Air
Station. Boats were flipped over near the Boca Chica drawbridge and the
twister tracked to the northeast. Minor tree and power line damage occurred
along this track.
started causing a little more damage when several homes were heavily damaged
and a church had part of its roof taken off. Four minor injuries also
happened in this area.
center had been alerted to the tornado’s approach and had taken cover
several minutes before it hit. The children were protected well and had no
injuries. Ball field bleachers were turned over and power lines were down.
Thirty cars in the Target parking lot were totally destroyed, with very
little damage was done to the store.
destroyed four structures, caused major damage to twenty-four structures and
caused minor damage to fifty-eight structures. Including the 30 cars in the
Target parking lot, the damage adds up.
be an excellent time to purchase a NOAA all-hazards radio. A weather radio
will alert you when a severe weather warning is issued and can be purchased
at electronics, department and drug stores.
Being prepared for a storm can mean
THOUSANDS DELIVERED TO BAKER COUNTY NURSE FROM UNCLAIMED
CFO Sink made a special trip last Friday to deliver a check for
over $28,000 to Baker County middle school nurse Shelly Bennett. When
contacted by the Bureau of Unclaimed Property about the unclaimed cash in
her name, Ms. Bennett thought it was a scam. But it was the real thing, mostly from certificate stocks that had been
turned over to the state.
"I'm so glad we were able to find Ms. Bennett and give her
this money back," said Sink. "I encourage all Floridians to visit our Web
site. With nearly eight million accounts, the chances are good we are
holding cash or property for you or someone you know."
www.FLTreasureHunt.org to search for your name.
Consumer Services Helpline