Florida: No new policies for Allstate

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

Published January 15, 2008

TALLAHASSEE -- Allstate won't be permitted to sell new policies in Florida -- including homeowners or auto insurance -- until the company complies with a subpoena for documents, the state's insurance commissioner said Wednesday.

Existing policyholders of the Northbrook, Ill.-based insurer won't be affected and existing policies will be renewed, Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said. Allstate hasn't been writing new homeowners policies in South Florida for years, but it is the state's second-largest auto insurer, behind State Farm. The auto insurance business in Florida is highly profitable and sought after.

McCarty said the order applies to Allstate Insurance Co., Allstate Indemnity Co. and Allstate Property and Casualty Co. and will stay in effect until Allstate complies with the office's subpoenas concerning 59 areas in which the agency sought documents and information. Allstate officials described the state's requests as ''breathtakingly broad,'' saying it considers many of these areas trade secrets and thus the information couldn't be turned over to regulators.

''In view of Allstate's ongoing, blatant disregard of our subpoenas, I have little choice,'' McCarty said Wednesday. "Suspending their certificate of authority to write new business in our state should make my point.''

After just two hours on Tuesday, Florida insurance regulators cut short a two-day public grilling of Allstate company officials when they failed to provide many of the specific documents and answers.

Tuesday's unprecedented inquiry was meant to examine Allstate's reinsurance program and how it deals with agencies that rate its financial strength and the companies that have developed sophisticated computer models to help gauge exposure to future losses.

Regulators and lawmakers had been eager to question Allstate because they want to know why the company failed to comply with a new insurance law passed last year that was aimed at providing rate relief for homeowners.

That law expanded the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to give insurers access to cheaper backup insurance, even though the state would be shouldering big losses if another massive hurricane hits the state. Then, insurance companies were to apply the savings to lower rates for homeowners.

Allstate initially indicated it would drop homeowner rates. But last fall, the company filed for a massive rate hike averaging nearly 42 percent. On Tuesday, the company indicated it would work with regulators on its rate request.