Consumer eViews
         FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

         Volume 5, Number 7, February 15, 2008
 

This Sunday, thousands of Americans will travel to Florida for the 50th running of the Daytona 500. Nearly a quarter of a million people, including CFO Sink, are expected to gather at the Daytona International Speedway to watch 43 of NASCAR’s finest drivers race 200 laps-- 500 miles-- to victory.

Last year, the winner’s share of the purse was just over $1.5 million; and this year it’s expected to be as much or higher. However, the race car drivers are not the only winners on Sunday.

The Daytona International Speedway generates an economic impact of nearly $2 billion in our state, and creates almost 32,000 direct and indirect jobs. With these significant contributions, NASCAR helps our tourism industry be a major economic driver for our state.

We encourage you to watch the race this weekend and enjoy one of our state’s sources of pride.

 

Money-Smart Idea of the Week
Idea: Review Incidental Spending

With family budgets getting tighter, now is the time to review your spending and see the how everyday incidentals can really add up. Here are a few examples of how you can stretch your dollars.
Instead of eating in restaurants during the work week, bring your lunch to work. You could save you an estimated $720 dollars a year.
Save your loose change. Putting aside even fifty cents a day over the course of a year will allow you to save nearly $200 dollars.
Substitute regular coffee for your daily latte, which could add $550 dollars to your pocketbook in just one year.

Every week, look here for a “Money-Smart” idea from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.
 


CFO SINK'S CNBC INTERVIEW

CFO SINK JOINS U.S. AND EUROPEAN INVESTORS CONFRONTING CLIMATE CHANGE RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Investors Make Bold Commitments to Energy Efficiency and Other Clean Technologies, Require Closer Scrutiny of Carbon-Intensive Investments

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink joined nearly 50 leading U.S. and European institutional investors managing over $1.75 trillion in assets in releasing a climate change action plan at the United Nations that will boost investments in energy efficiency and clean energy technologies and require tougher scrutiny of carbon-intensive investments that may pose long-term financial risks.

The action plan was announced at the Investor Summit on Climate Risk, hosted by Ceres and the United Nations Foundation and attended by more than 450 investor, financial and corporate leaders from around the world. Signatories to the action plan include state treasurers, controllers, pension fund leaders, asset managers and foundations from London, California, Florida, New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and a dozen other states.

"With today’s action plan, investors are advancing the need for closer scrutiny of investments to include the financial risks of climate change, while also harnessing emerging opportunities," said Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. "Florida is on board as the first State Treasury in the nation to require fund managers to disclose how they incorporate climate risk into prudent investment management."

Noting that climate change presents both material risks and significant opportunities, the investors pledged to collectively invest $10 billion in clean technology opportunities over the next two years and to incorporate green building standards —such as LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design) and Energy Star — into their investment decisions.  Calling energy efficiency "one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to significantly reduce emissions and improve the bottom line," the investor group pledged to reduce energy use in core real estate holdings by 20 percent over the next three years.

A new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, also announced at the investor summit, concludes that major investments over the next decade in energy productivity — the level of output achieved from the energy consumed — could earn double-digit rates of return for investors. Such investments would cut global energy demand growth by at least half and achieve up to half of the reductions of greenhouse gas emissions that experts say is required to prevent the world's mean temperature from increasing by more than 2 degrees centigrade.

The action plan calls for a series of specific steps by investors to address the growing risks and opportunities from climate change. The nine goals include policy actions aimed at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Congress, engagement with companies to improve their disclosure and responses to climate change, minimizing climate investment risks and maximizing climate-related investment opportunities. Among the investor commitments:

• Support clean technology, with a goal of deploying $10 billion collectively over the next two years.
• Aim for a 20 percent reduction in energy used in core real estate investment holdings over a three-year period, and consider green building standards in making investment decisions.
• Require and validate that investment managers, investment consultants and advisors report on how they are assessing climate risks in their portfolios, whether from new carbon-reducing regulations, physical impacts or competitive risks.
• Encourage Wall Street analysts, rating agencies and investment banks to analyze and report on the potential impacts of foreseeable long-term carbon costs, in the range of $20 to $40 per metric ton of CO2, particularly on carbon-intensive investments such as new coal-fired power plants, oil shale, tar sands and coal-to-liquid projects.
• Push the SEC to issue guidance leading to full corporate disclosure of climate risks and opportunities.
• Push Congress for a mandatory national policy to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the 60-90 percent reductions below 1990 levels by 2050 that scientists suggest is urgently needed to avoid the worst and most costly impacts from climate change.

"This action plan reflects the many investment opportunities that exist today to put a dent in global warming pollution, build profits and benefit the global economy," said Mindy S. Lubber, president of the Ceres investor coalition and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk. "Leveraging the vast energy efficiency opportunities at home and abroad holds especially great promise for investors."

The summit comes as worldwide investor attention on climate change dramatically increases. In the last two years, investor and asset manager participation in the Investor Network on Climate Risk has more than doubled, to more than 60 institutional investors and with collective assets totaling $4.5 trillion. At today's summit, Deutsche Asset Management, which manages over $800 billion in assets, announced it was joining INCR, increasing INCR's total member assets to over $5 trillion.

Today's climate risk meeting was hosted and organized by the United Nations Foundation, the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships and Ceres, which directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk.  Ceres is a U.S. coalition of investor and environmental leaders that has spearheaded national and international investor activity on climate risk issues. A webcast of the summit and press conference can be found at www.un.org/webcast.
 


CFO SINK VISITS THE FLORIDA STATE FAIR

Representatives from CFO Alex Sink’s office have been on hand everyday at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. The Department of Financial Services booths offer a variety of topics and information, and specialists can give assistance on-the-spot to consumers with financial and insurance questions. 

CFO Sink was master of ceremonies at the Governor's Day luncheon on Monday. Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Charles Bronson and Governor Charlie Crist were guest speakers.   

From now until Monday, February 18, 2008, representatives from the department will be located in the Fair Expo Hall and Midway at the Florida State Fairgrounds.  Come check out our displays: Bureau of Unclaimed Property, My Safe Florida Home program, Division of Consumer Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Division of Workers’ Compensation.
 
 
Homeowners can sign up for free home inspections under the My Safe Florida Home Program and learn how to harden their homes against hurricanes. Everyone can search for names of those who have money or property held for them by the State of Florida – unclaimed property is returned to owners and heirs free of charge at any time.


GOVERNOR CRIST, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER SINK, AND ATTORNEY GENERAL McCOLLUM CONFIRM RECOMMENDATION OF FEDERATED INVESTORS INC. TO MANAGE LOCAL GOVERNMENT INVESTMENT POOL

Governor Charlie Crist, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Attorney General Bill McCollum today, acting as Trustees for the State Board of Administration (SBA), confirmed Interim Executive Director Bob Milligan’s recommendation to hire Federated Investors Inc. to manage the Local Government Investment Pool.

Governor Crist, CFO Sink and Attorney General McCollum also offered the following statement:

“Federated Investors’ tremendous experience and 53 years of past performance in investment management makes this firm an excellent choice to manage Florida’s local government investment pool. Its outstanding record, along with its high quality customer service, will be a benefit to Florida’s local leaders seeking a conservatively-managed investment fund.”


IRS WARNS OF EMAIL AND TELEPHONE SCAMS USING THE IRS NAME

The Internal Revenue Service has warned taxpayers to beware of several current e-mail and telephone scams that use the IRS name as a lure. The IRS expects such scams to continue through the end of tax return filing season and beyond.

The IRS cautioned taxpayers to be on the lookout for scams involving upcoming advance payment checks. Since the government has enacted an economic stimulus package in which the IRS will provide advance payments, known informally as rebates to many Americans, a scam which uses the proposed rebates as bait has already cropped up.

The goal of the scams is to trick people into revealing personal and financial information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers, which the scammers can use to commit identity theft.

Typically, identity thieves use a victim’s personal and financial data to empty the victim’s financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name, file fraudulent tax returns or even commit crimes. Most of these fraudulent activities can be committed electronically from a remote location, including overseas. Committing these activities in cyberspace allows scamsters to act quickly and cover their tracks before the victim becomes aware of the theft.

People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years — and their hard-earned money — cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their reputations and credit records. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, may be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.

Refund e-Mail

The IRS has seen several variations of a refund-related bogus e-mail which falsely claims to come from the IRS, tells the recipient that he or she is eligible for a tax refund for a specific amount, and instructs the recipient to click on a link in the e-mail to access a refund claim form. The form asks the recipient to enter personal information that the scamsters can then use to access the e-mail recipient’s bank or credit card account. 

In a new wrinkle, the current version of the refund scam includes two paragraphs that appear to be directed toward tax-exempt organizations that distribute funds to other organizations or individuals. The e-mail contains the name and supposed signature of the Director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations business division.

This e-mail is a phony. The IRS does not send unsolicited e-mail about tax account matters to individual, business, tax-exempt or other taxpayers.

Filing a tax return is the only way to apply for a tax refund; there is no separate application form. Taxpayers who wish to find out if they are due a refund from their last annual tax return filing may use the “Where’s My Refund?” interactive application on this Web site, IRS.gov. The only official IRS Web site is located here at www.irs.gov.


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