It was recently reported by Paige St. John that the Florida Department of Financial Services is not keeping complete copies of consumer complaints (civil remedy notices) and insurance company responses. Instead, the Department’s legal staff has determined that according to section 624.155 of the Florida Statutes they are only required to maintain two documents. One is the civil remedy notice and the other is the report of the disposition. Any other documents received (i.e. attachments, responses, etc.) are not part of their statutory duty pursuant to the Florida Sunshine Records laws or section 624.155 to be retained and are being discarded. Legal counsel having differing opinions about how to interpret the law is not new.
What is significant was that the reporter, Ms. St. John, indicated that candidate Alex Sink promised to use such records to help regulate claims conduct by insurers, however elected official Alex Sink has a different use for those records—creating trash. Why would the elected regulator allow formal complaints of insurer misconduct and company responses to be destroyed? I cannot fathom one reason why such a practice would help consumers. The CRN law was enacted in 1982 to provide Floridians a means to redress insurer misconduct. Further, it allowed for the then Department of Insurance to help determine whether systematic practices of insurer misconduct existed. Only cheating insurance companies have anything to fear from this law.
Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, warned of the dangers of the government re-writing history. His Ministry of Truth was charged with destroying accounts harmful to a regimes policies so that it could create the history it desired. Florida’s Sunshine laws have protected this State for decades from these practices by preventing Florida’s elected and appointed officials from destroying records they made and received in the course of their business. What practical reason could an insurance official that has a regulatory responsibility to oversee the insurance industry have for destroy potentially damaging documents regarding the conduct of insurance companies?
Some may speculate that the reason is to prevent embarrassment or penalty to the insurance companies that are not playing fair. Possibly, Alex Sink will make an executive decision to stop the destruction of these documents. Possibly she will go a step further and require staff members that are supposedly regulating the insurance industry to actually use the documents as proof of wrongful practices. While the newly appointed Consumer Advocate for the Department of Insurance, General Milligan, has been a breath of fresh air for policyholder interests, one has to wonder what Alex Sink is thinking and whether the people working with her have a clue and desire about how to effectively regulate insurance companies.