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The Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has gotten rid of its Office of Corporate Integrity, but why? Many see this as a strange plan of action for a company managed by the state that has witnessed a 52% growth in the number company complaints, not to mention that the office is already under investigation for lack of regulation on executive spending and other infractions.
The public purpose of the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is to provide insurance protection to Florida property owners throughout the state. Citizens is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt government corporation. Owners who otherwise might not be able to find coverage for their Florida home, Florida condominium, Florida townhome or a Florida business. The corporation insures hundreds of thousands of these homes, businesses and condominiums.
Citizens operates according to statutory requirements created by the Florida Legislature and a Plan of Operation approved by the Florida Financial Services Commission. The corporation is governed by a Board of Governors that administers its Plan of Operation. Florida’s Governor, President of the Florida Senate, Speaker of the Florida House and the state’s Chief Financial Officer each appoint two members to the Board.
Citizens has offices in Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Tampa. Tallahassee is the corporate headquarters for the organization. The Jacksonville and Tampa offices provide policy services and underwriting, claims, and customer support.
Recently, four individuals from the Office of Corporate Integrity were let go and asked to sign off on confidentiality contracts. Keep in mind that the Office of Corporate Integrity is an organization that is accountable for managing complaints along the lines of corruption, prohibited allocation of funds and sexual harassment.
They were said to have forensic accountants hired soon but there hasn’t been any staff introduced since the start of the integrity issues. The firing of these members at the Office of Corporate Integrity was done during a time when the company is already involved in multiple corporate scandals. There have been complaints of Citizens employees frivolously spending corporate funds, physical altercations in the work environment, and waging bets with company resources. The amount of complaints regarding the misuse of company funds has grown from 2 complaints in 2009 drastically up to 15 in 2011. This is a huge concern since this is such a large firm that has over 1,000 employees.
The initial modification in the staffing communication was made by the president of the company in June of this year when he starting taking reports from the Chief Internal Auditor instead of a former law enforcement official who managed the Office of Corporate Integrity. The former Florida Department of Law Enforcement official who was responsible was on the sizable list of individuals who were fired by the Citizens Property Insurance firm. The economic crimes investigator ‘from the attorney general’s office was terminated as well. The Citizens Property Insurance firm believes that the crimes investigator didn’t not possess the skills or experiences required to manage a fraud case of this magnitude.
The amount of issues that the Citizens’ Property Insurance has experienced with internal regulations. claims of misspending, adulteration, and sexual harassment has increased dramatically over the last few years. Citizens’ problems with internal controls and allegations of corruption, sexual harassment and improper spending have ballooned in recent years. Throughout the years of 2009 and 2011, the amount of internal employee complaints skyrocketed to 52%.
There was an anonymous note sent to Citizens’ board of directors in March of 2012 stating that employees had misspent over half of a million dollars in beverages alone and millions of dollars on illegal contracts and lush furniture. This anonymous letter sprang an investigation by the Office of the Internal Audit or OIA. Reports from the investigation by the Office of the Internal Audit revealed that a number of these complaints were actually factual and that there wasn’t an enough substantial evidence to make a case.
The Office of the Internal Audit was said not to have completed any interviews with current and former employees during their investigation and couldn’t validate most of the complaints. This investigation is now closed and hasn’t been examined by the Office of Corporate Integrity. Office of the Internal Audit will now take over many of the projects that were handled by Office of Corporate Integrity.
There were stories published in August of 2012 by Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times regarding the loose spending of Citizens’ executive staff such as first-class hotels and expensive restaurants. There are also reports on how Citizens Property Insurance executives advocated an insurance rate increase. The story goes into how company officials clocked $600 per night stays at hotels and used company funds to take care of personal comforts like haircuts and alcohol on the company dime.
Governor Rick Scott caught wind of the story and expressed his concern and requested his chief inspector general to join the investigation. Since the investigation, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has reexamined it’s travel policies. On another note, since the start of the investigation, Citizens has agreed on raises for a few of the executives who are involved in the scandal.
The increase in complaints pertaining to the misuse of company funds and dishonesty has arrived at the same time as Citizens’ cash-on-hand has grown to historical highs. Citizens Property Insurance has acquired more than $6.2 billion in their bank account which is a portion of the $15 billion portfolio that was accumulated throughout a prolonged hurricane free period. According to good governance groups, a majority of the fortune accumulated by Citizens Property Insurance is considered by many to be from fraudulent and corrupt activity.
The director of Integrity Florida stated that Governor Rick Scott had the right idea by hiring his chief inspector general to examine Citizens’ travel expenses. Dan Krassner also stated that Florida residents should be interested in the findings of the investigation and also why multiple Citizens employees were fired while the inspector general’s investigation was still undergoing. Were these executives fired because they attributed to the cause of the fraud and ethical misdoings?
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is expected to lend out nearly $350,000 to private insurance firms that have consented to take responsibility of a portion of their 1.4 million insurance policies of Florida properties.This quickly approved loan program was backed by a well known insurance lobbyist and didn’t have to adhere to the conventional vetting process in the Florida government.
Florida House Representatives Will Weatherford, R-Wesly Chapel, R-Niceville and Don Gaetz indicated that this program should be terminated and that it should be held responsible for the dishonest undertakings. Will Weatherford composed a letter to a Citizens’ board chairman expressing his concerns regarding the approval process and who approved this program. He also mentioned his interest in the specifics of the program’s initial proposal and what reporting was provided to the board.
Additional legislators have been a bit more forward with their accusations by stating that the Citizens’ Property Insurance is a $350,000 program. The firm has continued to support the program throughout all of the negative controversy it has been receiving. However, Citizens’ Property Insurance Corporation has consented to have an outside financial firm to examine the $350,000 loan program.
Susan Murphy is the Former Chief Administration Officer who had doubts about Citizens’ ability to uphold the loan program who resigned from the firm in August soon after. Susan Murphey was the senior executive who had the responsibility of managing Citizens human resources and corporate integrity dealings.
The Henri Frank Group of Remax Preferred, a Realtor Group founded by Frank Vigliotti and Henri Vezie consults its buyers, sellers and investors of Fort Lauderdale real estate, Miami Beach real estate, Wilton Manors real estate and all areas throughout the South Florida region. It is our mission to report on all aspects of the home ownership experience. Whether it’s regarding your Florida mortgage, property insurance in Florida or the process of closing on your new home and more, the the Henri Frank Group continues to educate its Realtors. The Group also intends to educate its clients on these issues to keep them informed of their Florida home and Florida real estate investment.
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If you would like to make a report regarding an insurance matter, you can access the State of FLorida complaint website. Click this link to access the website:
Or go directly to the website of the Florida Governor, Rick Scott: http://www.flgov.com/