Despite hundreds of insurance violations, president of upstart company could get $52 million deal from Citizens
Before launching an upstart insurance firm and donating $110,000 to Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign, the president of Heritage Property and Casualty Corp. repeatedly ran into trouble with Florida’s insurance regulators at previous companies he led.
Now, one of those insurance regulators is Heritage’s chief lobbyist, and the St. Petersburg company might receive up to $52 million in a special deal with Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
Richard Widdicombe has run a handful of insurance companies in Florida in recent years, and at least two of them were cited for dozens of violations, ranging from “failure to pay claim timely” to “failure to comply with unfair trade practice requirements to making “misleading” advertisements.
Widdicombe, who declined to comment, was president of both Federated National Insurance Company and People’s Trust Insurance Company between 2001 and 2009. Both firms were cited several times by the Insurance Commissioner for violations.
At Federated National, Widdicombe’s company was knocked by regulators in 2001 for a number of violations. Among them:
-Failing to return premium to consumers in a timely manner
after cancelling an insurance policy.
-Using unlicensed insurance adjusters
-Failing to communicate with homeowners making claims and failing to pay claims in a timely manner.
The company also had a high rate of complaints for its handling of Hurricane Charley claims in 2004, with one in five claimants complaining about service from Federated.
The 2001 consent order was signed by then-Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher. Gallagher now works as a lobbyist for Widdicombe’s Heritage, which has spent between $60,000 aand $110,000 on lobbying Florida’s government in recent months. Heritage could reap a $52 million cash windfall if Citizens’ board of governor’s approves a special deal to transfer 60,000 policies to the firm, which was created only nine months ago.
Scott’s office put out a statement saying that the $110,000 donation to the governor had nothing to do with the proposed $52 million deal.
UPDATE 2:27pm: A spokesperson for Widdicombe provided the following statement about Federated
"The violations were relatively minor and had a small fine of $3,700. These violations took place before Rich joined Federated, which was in Dec. of 1999. They were corrected under his leadership, but the issues predate his employment with Federated National."