Thursday, July 19, 2007

Local Economic Groups Get 'Kickback' Refunds

LABELLE, FL. - The Hendry County Economic Development Council and Glades County Economic Development Council will be receiving some unexpected cash soon, after the state negotiated a settlement with an insurance broker. The broker is alleged to have received kickbacks from insurance companies, although the settlement releases them from any further litigation and the company does not admit any wrongdoing as part of the agreement.

Attorney General Bill McCollum, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty this week announced that multiple Florida cities and counties will receive approximately $2.6 million in reimbursements from Willis Group Holdings Ltd.,, a national insurance broker.

Included in the group receiving a portion of the settlement were both county's local economic development boards, both purchasing insurance from Will Group Holdings. Under the settlement, the broker denied wrongdoing but agreed to reimburse its clients without any formal action taken by the state agencies. The company will also reimburse the state for $600,000 in legal costs, and will be able to continue in business.

A joint investigation by the Attorney General's Antitrust Division and the Department of Financial Services (DFS) led to allegations that Willis improperly collected undisclosed fees or commissions when it placed various coverages with insurance companies. Willis brokered multiple insurance contracts in Florida from 1999 through 2004. The company's clients included more than a dozen public entities in the State of Florida, including economic development councils, city and county governments and school boards.

Insurance brokers represent their clients by advising them on their insurance needs and options. The brokers also represent the clients when negotiating the price and terms of insurance coverage offered by insurance companies. Under today�s agreement, Willis also agreed to make full written disclosure of commissions in the future and to pay the costs of the investigation. The recovery of $2.6 million in restitution funds is the result of an industry-wide investigation into insurance broker activities.

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