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State lifts Allstate's new-policy ban

The suspension was more like a timeout.

Two days after Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty ordered insurance heavyweight Allstate to stop selling new policies until it complies with subpoenas, McCarty lifted the ban Friday, saying Allstate had submitted a signed affidavit certifying the company has given regulators all the documents they seek.

"I have stayed the suspension of Allstate, and I have accepted its affidavit as evidence that they have completely and unconditionally complied with Florida law and with our requests for documents," McCarty said in a statement. "I also, though, have made it perfectly clear that failure to cooperate with necessary, ongoing requests from (regulators) will result in an immediate resumption of the suspension."

Allstate has produced more than 825,000 pages of documents since it was sent subpoenas in October, but the vast majority where shipped to the state only after McCarty tried to shut the company down.

Regulators are investigating Allstate's reinsurance program and its relationships with risk modeling companies, insurance rating organizations and insurance trade associations. Office of Insurance Regulation spokesman Tom Zutell said he could not say specifically what documents regulators are looking for. But both McCarty and Gov. Charlie Crist have said the state would investigate the possibility of collusion.

"The commissioner's goal in this was to enforce the law," Zutell said.

Allstate spokesman Adam Shores said it would be difficult to quantify how much money Allstate lost by not being able to sell for two days. The company has dropped close to a half-million Florida homeowners policies over the past five years, but it remains the second-largest auto insurer in Florida with about 1.7-million policies. Allstate wrote an average of about $564,000 a month in new auto business in the state last year and sells about 3,500 new auto policies a week statewide.

"The immediate concern of lifting the ban has been addressed," Shores said. "We're looking forward to having a continuous dialogue with (regulators) about solutions to the property insurance market."

But this is not the end of Allstate's troubles. The Illinois-based insurer also faces a possible suspension regarding its 2007 rate filing. The company requested a 42-percent rate hike, the largest of any major insurer, and regulators immediately denied it. But that filing opened the door to a closer examination of Allstate and led regulators to accuse the company of failing to comply with subpoenas, falsely asserting trade secrets and false certification of its filing.

After a hearing set for June 16, an administrative law judge will make a recommendation to McCarty.

Despite the looming uncertainty, Friday's move was welcome news to Allstate's 1,100 agents and 4,000 support staffers throughout Florida.

"But with so much bad press," said Jim Fish, executive director of the National Association of Professional Allstate Agents, a group not affiliated with Allstate Corp., "they're pretty much angry with Allstate at this point because of how long it took to get this resolved."

Allstate, which recorded profits of $4.6-billion last year, saw its stock drop 46 cents Friday to close at $50.07.

Tom Zucco can be reached

at zucco@sptimes.com

or (727) 893-8247.

State lifts Allstate's new-policy ban 05/16/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 19, 2008 2:04pm]
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