Florida Rejects State Farm Withdrawal Plan; Requires Major Conditions on Citizens, Agents
Feb 13, 2009
Insurance Journal--February 13, 2009
Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty has offered a withdrawal plan for State Farm Florida Insurance Co. and its parent company with major conditions that were not in the original plan submitted by the insurer.
In his plan, McCarty orders State Farm Florida to permit its contracted agents to place business with other carriers and to not place any of the business it is dropping in state-backed Citizens Insurance.
“State Farm shall not interfere with the appointment of its agents to other private insurance companies to place State Farm Florida policies directly with those other private insurance companies,” the plan states.
The insurer must issue pro-rata refunds of premium to any policyholder seeking to voluntarily cancel or non-renew a policy and will not be allowed short-rate the return premium for any policy in any line including auto.
McCarty stressed that he believes the state has private carriers “ready, willing and able” to take up State Farm’s business. He said he has spoken with 15 carriers interested in assuming from 50,000 up to as many as 500,000 policies.
“We have ample capacity in the private sector and believe most policyholders will be able to be placed at rates as good as State Farm’s or better,” he said.
He said he would not have approved a withdrawal for State Farm if his department did not have confidence that private insurers could cover the risks.
“I could not approve the withdrawal plan State Farm submitted, because, as Florida law states, I believe that plan was ‘hazardous’ to State Farm policyholders and to the public,” said McCarty. “State Farm intended to dump all of its customers into Citizens; and that is not acceptable for their customers or for the people of Florida. We have private companies that are eager to grow their businesses, and I expect State Farm to fully cooperate in facilitating a smooth transition of their policyholders to those companies.
McCarty accused State Farm of “warehousing” policies with state-backed Citizens so that it can offer multiline discounts and write more profitable auto insurance and other policies.
He said the crisis over the insurer’s withdrawal “was created by leadership in Bloomington,” where State Farm is headquartered.
McCarty’s plan also requires State Farm to consider all offers to buy or assume all or part of its business and notify the state of any offers within 48 hours of receipt.
McCarty said the state is pulling State Farm’s authority to write new property business insurer in 30 days.
State Farm has the right to appeal the plan. The insurer submitted its preferred withdrawal plan to McCarty and the Office of Insurance Regulation on Jan. 27.
The withdrawal will affect about 1.2 million customers with State Farm homeowners, renters, condominium unit owners, personal liability, boats, personal articles, and business property and liability policies. State Farm is not intending to restrict the availability of auto insurance for about 2.8 million of the insurer’s Florida customers – nor the availability of life insurance, health insurance and other financial services offered by agents of State Farm Mutual and its other affiliates.
State Farm has previously rejected the idea of letting its agents place accounts with other insurers.
State Farm now has 21 days to review McCarty’s order and to decide whether to abide by it or to request an administrative hearing.
State Farm said it needed time to study McCarty’s plan.
“We’ll need to study the OIR’s opinion more closely, but we do appreciate its quick consideration of the plan. We hope to have further conversations with the OIR to create an orderly process that is best for our customers, our agents and the marketplace,” said Chris Neal, Florida Zone State Farm Public Affairs Manager.
Neal noted that State Farm Florida already allows State Farm agents – with state government’s backing – to service policies that are transferred out of Citizens to 16 OIR-approved companies.
“It is our sincere hope that we can work with the OIR to establish a way for State Farm agents to service policies directly out of State Farm Florida into OIR-approved companies,” he said.