Rep. Mike Fasano is the latest official to raise questions about a $52
million take-out deal between an upstart St. Petersburg insurance company and Citizens
Property Insurance Corp.
Fasano, R-New Port Richey, penned a
letter to the state’s Insurance Commissioner on Friday questioning whether Heritage
Property and Casualty Insurance has already violated a May 17 consent
order from the Office of Insurance Regulation. Heritage has firmly denied
Fasano alleged that Heritage had
been contacting insurance agents and policyholders prior to May 23, when the
company officially received approval to take out some 60,000 policies in a $52
million deal. That would be a violation of the OIR’s consent order, Fasano
said, citing a part of the agreement that bans Heritage from contacting “any
potential policyholder, including sending communication regarding this
depopulation” prior to the deal being signed.
Heritage firmly denies that it has
been contacting policyholders, and said the company contacted agents last week
as part of a standard procedure to alert them to an upcoming potential takeout.
The company’s chairman, Bruce Lucas, said there was nothing untoward about
“We are required to publish a wishlist,” of policies, he
said. “We contact agents and say, ‘In the future we attempt to do a
McCarty’s office did not immediately respond to a request for clarification about the rules on when a takeout company can contact agents.
Lucas said the company only began sending letters to homeowners today, after receiving consent from OIR.
As evidence, Fasano presented a
letter and email received by Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley with regards to a takeout
offer from Heritage. A May 17 letter from Corley’s insurance agent informs him that
Heritage has “selected” his policy for an “upcoming takeout.” The proposed
takeout was approved by Citizens' board of governors on May 22, in a 3-2 vote.
Corley received an email response from a Heritage employee on May 22, prior to
the vote, saying that Heritage “offers a better policy” than Citizens.
Heritage has maintained that this
was an “automated” message in response to Corley, and OIR general counsel Belinda Miller said she did
not believe this form of communication violated the consent order’s ban on
communicating with policyholders prior to approval of the takeout.