COLUMN: Declining rates worry insurance executives

Jun 9, 2008

Herald Tribune–June 9, 2008

Insurance executives, steeped in hefty profits in recent years, are getting nervous. At a Standard & Poor’s conference last week, some top insurance executives said declining policy rates will eat into profits in the short term.

One insurance chief said the industry will likely break even this year and could lose money in 2009 as the cost of claims surpass premium revenue.

Insurance rates nationwide have eased in recent years with fewer claims from hurricanes and other catastrophes.

Homeowners in Florida have seen little of that softening, however, other than the state-ordered cuts in 2007.

Property insurance rates in Florida dropped an average of 14 percent under the insurance reform law, but that came after insurers had hiked rates by 100 percent or more after the costly 2004-05 hurricane seasons.

Even reinsurers say business is softening. Henry Keeling, the chief operating officer at Bermuda reinsurer XL Capital, said renewals are down by 7 percent this year.

Stockbroker suspended

for pasting signature

A Sarasota stockbroker was fined and suspended for a month for violating securities industry rules.

According to FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, John Edward Mulligan cut and pasted a customer’s signature to an IRA rollover form without the customer’s knowledge or consent.

Mulligan did not receive any compensation in connection with the action, and the customer later signed the form.

Mulligan consented to the sanctions without admitting or denying guilt. He was fined $5,000 and suspended from March 24 through April 23.

He was most recently with TD Ameritrade in Sarasota but is not currently registered with a firm.

Florida was a busy place for the FINRA disciplinary squad last month.

A Boca Raton firm was expelled from the industry, and firms in Fort Lauderdale and Longwood were hit with sizable fines.

Brokers from Fort Myers, Orlando, Niceville and Miami were kicked out of the business, while three other east coast brokers were suspended for various infractions.

More send their tax returns to the IRS electronically

Taxpayers embraced e-filing in record fashion this year.

More than 86 million individual tax returns have been electronically filed so far, a 12 percent increase over the same time last year, the Internal Revenue Service said.

Some of the growth was attributed to e-filings from those taxpayers who were required to file this year simply to qualify for the federal economic stimulus payments.

There was also a big jump among last-minute filers, who have traditionally resorted to paper returns.

The IRS says e-filed returns increased 28 percent from April 12 to 18, double the rate of all filings during that week.

“The increase in e-file, particularly in the final weeks of the filing season, shows that taxpayers are continuing to recognize the benefits of filing electronically,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.

The average refund in 2008 was $2,693, up a mere $8 from last year.