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Fla. Wins Round In Viatical Case

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The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has received a favorable legal ruling in connection with an investigation of an out-of-state life settlement firm.

A federal judge in Tallahassee, Fla., has dismissed a motion by the firm, Coventry First L.L.C., Fort Washington, Pa., seeking to block the Florida insurance office from examining the firm’s agreements with consumers outside Florida.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephan Mickle has ruled that Coventry is a licensed Florida viatical settlement provider and therefore must let the state regulator review its business records. Although the Florida insurance office has no jurisdiction over Coventry transactions that involve consumers outside of Florida, it does have the right to inspect all of Coventry’s business records, Mickle says..

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty says the ruling validates his office’s authority “to safeguard Florida consumers by assuring that companies engaged in the viatical settlement industry are not evading Florida law or engaging in practices that would render them ineligible to do business in this state.”

The Florida insurance office wants to review Coventry business records for the period from Jan. 1, 2005, through Dec. 31, 2007; to verify that: the Florida transactions the company reported actually occurred in the state; that its reported non-Florida transactions actually occurred outside of Florida; and that ownership of life insurance policies involved in settlements was not changed to avoid Florida law, officials say.

Coventry has argued in court pleadings that although it is licensed in Florida, Florida law could not require it to allow state regulators to review its out-of-state transactions.

Mickle rejected this argument, along with Coventry’s argument that McCarty acted illegally in his attempts to review of Coventry’s business records.

From 2004 through 2007, Coventry bought 2,142 policies from viators in all states, paying about $711 million for policies with $4.4 billion in total face value, according to the Florida insurance office.

Coventry representatives were not immediately available to respond to the ruling.