A dozen years ago, lawyer Chris Cutler was among a small group of Securities and Exchange Commission staffers examining the books of relatively unknown Texas energy company Enron Corp.
"When the SEC opened its investigation, three of us started going at it and then we realized it would take a lot more people," Cutler said. "It grew to eight people (at the SEC). Then criminal authorities got interested and soon you had all these U.S. attorney offices vying for who was going to take (the lead) on this."...
Hancock Bank and Whitney Bank are closing between 40 and 45 branches starting in August in a five-state area, including Florida, parent Hancock Holding Co. confirmed Friday.
Hancock/Whitney has 13 bay area branches, along with multiple locations in Bradenton, according to its Web site.
Hancock spokesman R. Paul Maxwell said the company will likely disclose locations of some of the affected branches within 10 days after clients are notified. Most of the closings will take place Aug. 30, followed by "a handful of possible additional closures" by the end of the year, the bank said....
05/17/13 Personal Finance
TAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott was all smiles during a stop in Tampa on Friday morning, his only complication being which of two economic victories deserved the bigger celebration: a big drop in Florida's unemployment rate or a sales tax cut for manufacturers.
In tandem with signing the tax cut bill, Scott touted the state's jobs report, which included an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent, an almost five-year low. Among the other highlights: Florida added 9,000 construction jobs from March to April, more than any other state and a sharp reversal from the years it led the country in shedding construction workers....
Florida homeowners are grappling with a familiar nightmare this time of year, and it's not fear of a major hurricane.
Once more, property owners enter hurricane season threatened with paying higher insurance rates — particularly if they're with state-run Citizens Property Insurance — even though Florida has been spared major storm damage for eight years.
The argument over higher rates is sharply divided....
St. Petersburg-based Priority One Financial Services is investigating "several material misstatements" in its revenues.
Executives with the specialty finance company did not return calls for comments Thursday.
However, in an email to staffers obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, Priority One president Heather Mariscal said the misstated revenues were reported by Jason Kendall, who ran the company's Veritas insurance unit. She told employees Kendall is no longer with the company and should not be granted access to the building under any circumstances. ...
Tampa Bay is still clustered among the most financially distressed major metros in the country. But cheer up: Consumers here are healing at a faster pace than anywhere else.
In fact, out of the country's 30 biggest metros, Tampa Bay was one of just three to post better scores than last time in the Consumer Distress Index being released today by credit counseling agency CredAbility. And the other two metros on an upward swing, Orlando and Detroit, improved only marginally compared with a noticeable boost for Tampa Bay....
ST. PETERSBURG — As head of high-flying Medicare insurer Universal Health Care, Dr. Akshay Desai was a prominent member of many boards and organizations. Among them: the Parents Council of Wake Forest University.
Desai and his wife, Seema, whose two oldest children attended the North Carolina school, joined dozens of other parents selected in part for their ability to make an "annual contribution'' to the Wake Forest Fund. ...
05/10/13 Working Life
Florida's economy added 9,570 private sector jobs in April, the second-biggest jump behind Texas, according to estimates released Friday by payroll and employee benefits company ADP.
The report — the first time ADP has released a regional breakdown for its oft-cited monthly report — may be a sneak preview for Florida's unemployment and jobs report coming from government estimates May 17....
05/09/13 Real Estate
TAMPA — It has been a rough spring for Jeff Vinik, at least by multimillionaire standards.
His hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, missed the playoffs. He decided to close his multibillion-dollar hedge fund, Vinik Asset Management LP. And he is no longer involved in the restoration of Channelside Bay Plaza.
But Vinik still has grand plans for his hockey team, his charitable foundation and, particularly, his considerable downtown real estate holdings....
Humana is apparently in a healthy internal competition over which of its Tampa Bay operations can grow the fastest.
Its latest jobs boost: Humana's NetPark campus in east Tampa is adding 170 call center jobs, primarily telesales positions to market the company's Medicare benefit plans and other products.
All told, the Louisville, Ky., insurer is adding more than 500 telesales and client service jobs nationwide at its call centers across the country as it ramps up for the annual Medicare open enrollment period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Its other call centers are in Miramar; Madison, Wis.; Phoenix; and San Antonio, Texas. ...
Milestones are toppling like dominos on Wall Street.
First the S&P 500 crossed over 1,600 and kept going; on Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 15,000 for the first time.
But most of Tampa Bay's top public companies aren't setting new records.
Out of the seven largest bay area public companies — those notching at least $3 billion a year in revenues — only one hit a record high this week. ...
The newly formed Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission on Monday launched a nationwide search for an industry professional to run the reorganized commission.
The executive director of the commission will be charged with attracting film, TV, still photography, digital media and new media productions to the area as well as promoting media opportunities from here.
Local economic development leaders say they prefer someone with at least six years' experience leading or working in a film/digital media commission office. The post comes with an annual salary of $75,000 to $90,000....
05/04/13 Personal Finance
Remember last spring? And the one before that?
The economy is chugging along after the holidays when suddenly a springtime slump strikes. Job growth turns tepid, companies tighten their belts, and that climb out of the enormous financial crater left by the Great Recession looks a little steeper.
A few troubling headwinds surfaced this past week with manufacturing slowing and more companies cutting back hours, even if they're not laying off workers....
Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is closing his Tampa-based hedge fund and returning billions of dollars to investors after a rash of disappointing results.
In a letter to investors Friday, Vinik said he will return all of Vinik Asset Management LP's capital to outside investors by the end of June. He'll focus his energy on the Lightning hockey team and his charitable foundation, he said....
05/01/13 Real Estate
In early 2012, Tampa Bay had the dubious distinction of losing more construction jobs year-over-year than any other metro region in the country.
Now the region has rebounded into the top 25 percent among metro areas nationwide in adding construction jobs, according to a report Wednesday from the Associated General Contractors of America.
The number of bay area construction jobs in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater rose 6 percent to 55,500 in the 12 months ending March 31. That ranked the bay area 79th among 339 metropolitan areas. ...