Globetrotting Execs Rile Citizens Insurance Customers
|By Charles Elmore, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The company's chairman paid back travel costs that overshot company limits on his second trip to
"I think it's outrageous," said
Citizens approved a
Citizens exercised "insufficient controls" over travel spending by senior managers and employees that cost policyholders
Citizens officials adopted tougher travel rules as "a concrete way Citizens can demonstrate to our policyholders and the people of
The travel is related to buying reinsurance from offshore companies. Citizens did not purchase any private reinsurance as recently as four years ago, but the company says the coverage can help avoid assessments to insurance customers statewide after unusually catastrophic, rare storms.
Though Citizens pays third-party agents and brokers substantial sums to represent it in reinsurance transactions, the company says multiple trips by several of its own officials also are essential, including this year by Gardner, Gilway, chief financial officer
"Brokers are used more for making contact and then serve largely in an administrative function once the agreements are penned," spokesman
Not everyone buys this argument.
"You don't need four executives over there," said
Fasano wonders: "Where's the outrage from
At a board meeting in April, Gilway praised Gardner's "personal commitment" as demonstrated by his heavy travel slate.
"We've done great things today," Gardner said as the board approved
The April trip was Gardner's second to
Board members work on a volunteer basis, so accounting approved the extra expense, officials said. Gardner serves as managing shareholder of
Jacques wishes Citizens would pay more attention to its customers in
But Jacques said she replaced the roof four years ago, and Citizens accepted inspections and permits at the time. The company's refusal to take responsibility has forced her family to go into debt to fix it, she said.
Citizens officials met with the family last week and agreed to look into the claim further.
"If my roof is not leaking, why do I need to replace it?" she said.
No state law orders Citizens to do this, company officials have acknowledged. It is acting on an internal company policy begun in 2010 that declares some roofs ineligible due to age, even if there is no evidence they are leaky or unsound. Citizens officials said this mirrors "industry standards." It is affecting large numbers of homeowners now, many in older homes with no private insurers willing to cover them.
Brown, who lives on a fixed income, does not have
"Do they recognize these are real people affected by their decisions?" Rolling said.
The company declared aphalt-shingle roofs uninsurable if they are 25 years old or an inspector judges they have less than three years of life left. Some tile and metal roofs are given up to 50 years under the policy.
"We never had that discussion," Clemens said. "If a home has survived hurricanes for 60 or 70 years it's probably a good indication it isn't going anywhere."
Meanwhile, Citizens is telling thousands of mobile home owners it will no longer offer enough coverage to rebuild after a storm -- which could mean, say, only
Again, no state law requires Citizens to refuse full replacement coverage for mobile homes built after 1994. The company says it is aligning with what private insurers do by offering only a depreciated coverage limit for all mobile homes, regardless of age
Amid all this, Citizens president Gilway was well aware the foreign travel could be a PR headache in January.
"From a public relations perspective, it is difficult, if not impossible, to avert the perception from some quarters that these trips are unnecessary junkets," Gilway wrote in a letter to board members. "Even the names of the destinations --
Company officials maintain meetings with reinsurers based outside
The private reinsurance does lower potential assessment risk , but the odds are low it will be needed in any particular year -- in which case private financial interests keep about
Thanks to its
While Citizens officials are jetting around to
"Honestly, I'm just so angry," Jacques said. "We paid
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