Arizona Among the First States to Adopt Model Legislation for Money Transmission Services

 

Phoenix, AZ - The Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions (DIFI) applauds Governor Doug Ducey’s signing of SB1580 into law. Sponsored by Senator David Livingston (LD22), SB1580 adopts the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) Model Money Transmission Modernization Act, which strengthens the quality and effectiveness of state regulation of money transmission services.

The lack of uniform and consistent money transmission laws from state to state has led to unnecessary regulatory burden for the industry and inefficiencies in supervision for regulators. In response, regulators, industry, and consumer stakeholders worked together over several years in conjunction with CSBS to develop the money transmission model law.

SB1580 addresses the needs of a rapidly growing payments industry, modernizes the licensing and supervision standards across the states, and increases transparency and consistency for the industry. More specifically, the model legislation seeks to:

  • Ensure states can coordinate in all areas of regulation, licensing, and supervision to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burden and more effectively use DIFI’s resources.
  • Protect the public from financial crime.
  • Standardize the types of activities subject to licensing.
  • Modernize safety and soundness requirements to ensure customer funds are protected in an environment that supports innovative and competitive business practices.

“Arizona is very pleased to be one of the first states to enact these necessary reforms to money transmission laws and standards,” said Director Evan Daniels. “As DIFI seeks to advocate for tailored, effective regulation that facilitates innovation, SB1580 is a significant step in that regard by relieving unnecessary regulatory burdens, promoting safe markets, and enabling efficient supervision.” 

 

DIFI CONSUMER ASSISTANCE RESULTS IN OVER $4 MILLION IN RESTITUTION PROVIDED TO ARIZONA CONSUMERS IN PAST YEAR 

Phoenix ― The Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions (DIFI) assisted Arizona consumers in obtaining over $4 million in reimbursements and restitution in the past year on matters involving insurance claim settlements, home warranty payments, surprise medical bill disputes, and premium refunds.  The most common complaints the Department received included claim delay, claim denial, unsatisfactory settlement offers, and agent handling.

Examples of matters DIFI assisted in resolving include:

  • A consumer received over $26,000 in a claim settlement for a totaled vehicle after filing a complaint with DIFI when an insurer failed to respond to a claim and deliver payment.  After receiving the complaint, DIFI contacted the company, which quickly contacted the consumer and settled the claim.
  • After receiving surprise bills regarding a family member’s emergency room and hospital visits, a consumer contacted DIFI’s surprise out-of-network billing dispute resolution program, which ultimately enabled the consumer to save $2,540.
  • After contacting an insurer following a consumer complaint, DIFI discovered additional information from the consumer was required to settle the case.  After assisting the consumer with the process for submitting that information, the consumer provided the information and immediately received almost $45,000 to settle the claim.

“I am proud of the results delivered in the past year by our hardworking consumer assistance team,” said DIFI Director Evan Daniels. “Consumer protection will always be an important pillar of DIFI’s mission and we are always ready to assist where we can and provide good information whenever possible.”

 Tips to Make the Insurance Claims Process Easier

Before you have a claim:

  • Know your policy.  Take time to read your policy and ask questions of your insurance representative.
  • Inventory your personal property.  Make an inventory of your personal belongings today! There are simple smart-phone and tablet apps that make this process fast and easy.
  • Get an insurance check-up.  Are you comfortable with the type and amount of coverage you have? You could be paying for coverage you no longer need.
  • Know your healthcare appeal rights.  Arizona law affords broad rights to appeal denied health insurance claims or services and nearly 50% of those initial denials are overturned.
  • Keep in touch.  Keep your insurer or agent apprised of significant events that can affect your insurance, such as change of address, new car, home improvements, or advising your health insurer if you’re admitted to the hospital. Notify your insurer of any new dependents or new drivers.

During the claim process:

  • File your claim as soon as you can.
  • Provide complete, correct, prompt information.
  • Take notes and keep all correspondence.  Whether from your insurer or agent, keep copies of all notices, statements, and correspondence; take notes on all telephone conversations or in-person meetings, including dates, names, titles and a summary of conversation details, especially on health insurance issues.
  • Keep records of your time and expenses.
  • Mitigate damages.  Make temporary or emergency repairs to property (keep all receipts!); an insurance company may deny a claim if you make permanent repairs before they have the opportunity to inspect the damage.  Keep damaged personal property for adjuster inspection, and, if possible, take photographs or video of the damage before making temporary repairs.
  • Consider getting independent repair estimates before you meet with the claims adjuster.
  • Ask questions about your claim.  If there is a disagreement about the claim settlement, ask the company for the specific policy language in question and insist on a written explanation of the reason for any claim denials and the specific policy terms the company is relying upon in denying the claim.
  • Don’t rush into a settlement.  If the insurance company’s first settlement offer does not meet your expectations, negotiate and ask for itemized explanations.  Research the value of a comparable vehicle or the replacement cost of your belongings and use this information to support your counter offer. Research whether there are any deadlines for making repairs or settling a claim.

If you believe you have been a victim of improper insurance practices, you can file a complaint by visiting DIFI’s website.  Consumers can also contact DIFI with insurance questions at (602) 364-2499 or [email protected]

 

 

NEW LEGISLATION STREAMLINES ARIZONA’S FINANCIAL SERVICES LICENSING REQUIREMENTS

Phoenix, AZ - The Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions (DIFI) applauds the passage and signing of Senate Bill 1394, legislation proposed by DIFI that will streamline decades-old licensing requirements for businesses that currently must obtain separate licenses for trade names or assumed names - sometimes referred to as, “Doing Business As” or DBAs. 

Senate Bill 1394 removes the requirement to separately license trade names and allows most companies that DIFI licenses to operate with additional trade names under a single license. Consumers still are able to look up the licensee under a trade name and file complaints with DIFI against a company’s trade name. Licensees will save time and money by linking additional DBAs to a single license name without having to pay for and maintain multiple licenses. DIFI maintains all regulatory authority including the ability to investigate, examine, and take action against the parent business. 

The bill also will reduce the time DIFI currently spends on administrative functions for licensing DBAs, and frees up staff time to focus on swiftly processing new license applications and day-to-day license maintenance.   

“Senate bill 1394 reduces unnecessary regulation and allows DIFI to better leverage technology to fulfill its supervisory responsibilities. This bill is a win for consumers, Arizona’s financial services industry, and DIFI. I appreciate Senator Livingston’s sponsorship and Governor Ducey’s support for common sense legislation that benefits all stakeholders while creating more efficient state government,” said DIFI Director Evan Daniels.   

Directors of DIFI and Housing Urge Mortgage Servicers to Participate in Homeowner Assistance Fund Program 

Phoenix - Today, DIFI Director Evan Daniels and Department of Housing Director Tom Simplot issued a joint letter to mortgage servicers requesting their immediate assistance in completing agreements to participate in the Arizona Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF).

The HAF was established by the Arizona Department of Housing (ADOH) as a result of COVID-19 relief legislation passed by Congress last year. The HAF may provide Arizona homeowners who are behind on their mortgage with financial assistance on mortgage obligations up to $25,000 in either reinstatement or mortgage delinquency assistance, or, if the full amount is not used in reinstatement or delinquency, for three months of future mortgage payments.

Directors Daniels and Simplot issued the letter to mortgage servicers who have yet to submit the agreement  required to participate in the HAF program. Once a mortgage servicer completes the agreement, ADOH can begin making assistance payments on behalf of Arizona homeowners with mortgages serviced by those institutions.

ADOH began accepting online applications from homeowners as a pilot program on November 1, 2021. The United States Department of Treasury approved Arizona’s HAF plan on January 4, 2022, and the program is now fully operational. To date, ADOH has received over 3,500 applications for assistance.

In the joint letter, Directors Daniels and Simplot urged mortgage servicers to complete the agreement  timely to prevent foreclosure proceedings for affected Arizona homeowners.

“Many struggling homeowners have quickly made it through the HAF application and ADOH approval process and are now awaiting mortgage servicers to complete the process so payments can be made,” said ADOH Director Tom Simplot.

“Arizona’s financial institutions play an important role in getting this relief to homeowners, and we are optimistic they will answer the call for Arizonans by quickly responding to this request,” said DIFI Director Evan Daniels.

 

Read the joint letter HERE.

 

 

DIFI DIRECTOR EVAN DANIELS APPOINTED TO NAIC AND CSBS INNOVATION COMMITTEES

 

 

Phoenix, AZ – DIFI Director Evan Daniels recently was appointed to serve in 2022 on innovation-focused committees established respectively by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (“NAIC”) and the Conference of State Banking Supervisors (“CSBS”). Director Daniels will serve as co-vice chair of the NAIC’s newly established standing committee on Innovation, Cybersecurity & Technology, the first new standing committee established by the NAIC’s membership in two decades. Director Daniels also will serve on CSBS’s Fintech and Innovation Steering Group. Both committees are charged with monitoring, evaluating, and providing regulatory recommendations regarding innovative products and services.

 

“Arizona continues to build momentum as a place that welcomes innovation, and I look forward to helping lead the discussion about when regulation is needed and when regulators should step out of the way,” said Director Daniels. “At a minimum, regulators should seek to be fully engaged in broadening their understanding of what is happening in the marketplace and how the industries they regulate are changing. These committees exist to help state regulators do exactly that, and I am honored to represent Arizona on them.”

 

These appointments continue Director Daniels’s leadership in innovation and regulatory policy. Before his appointment as DIFI’s director, Daniels led the first-in-the-nation Arizona Fintech Sandbox while part of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

 

 

DIFI ANNOUNCES SCOTTSDALE COMMUNITY BANK OPENING

Phoenix, AZ – The Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions (DIFI) today announced that Scottsdale Community Bank, a newly state chartered full-service commercial bank, is now open for business at 8767 E. Via De Ventura, Suite 190, Scottsdale, AZ. 85258.

In fulfilling the requirements of the regulatory process, Scottsdale Community Bank has received final regulatory approval from DIFI as well as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Scottsdale Community Bank’s opening represents Arizona’s first independent bank charter approval in over a decade. Scottsdale Community Bank seeks to provide personalized financial services while leveraging market opportunity with small and medium-size businesses, especially those wishing to pursue product offerings with local decision-making and concern for the Scottsdale community.

“Scottsdale Community Bank’s willingness to invest in Arizona demonstrates the state’s strong position as a great place to do business and the need for continued banking expansion. Community banks continue to perform a significant role in the country’s banking sector, and I welcome this addition to Arizona’s banking community,” said DIFI Director Evan Daniels.

 

Details about Scottsdale Community Bank can be found on its website: www.scottsdalecommunitybank.com. 

 

Fraud Unit

Phoenix, AZ - Following an Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions’ (DIFI) Fraud Unit investigation and prosecution by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, April Michelle Sandoval, 34, was sentenced to two years supervised probation and was fined $638.00 as part of a plea deal in which Sandoval pleaded guilty to Theft, a class six felony. As part of the plea deal, Sandoval also agreed to pay back the victim insurance company $36,722.

Sandoval’s charges resulted from drafting checks to herself with funds illegally taken from the victim insurance company and depositing those funds into her personal bank account between January 2019 and December 2019. The investigation was referred to DIFI Fraud investigators by The Great Northern Insurance Company dba Chubb Insurance Company. DIFI Fraud investigators determined Chubb suffered a loss of $36,722 as a result of the fraudulent payments Sandoval made to herself.

“Outcomes like this should serve as a warning to those considering fraudulent activities,” said DIFI Director Evan Daniels. “This case is another great example of how DIFI Fraud Unit investigators and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office work together to make sure insurance fraud criminals are held accountable.”

The DIFI Fraud Unit investigates allegations of fraud to protect insurance consumers and the insurance industry.  Combating fraud helps keep insurance premiums as low as possible for consumers.   According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud (CAIF), insurance fraud results in at least $80 billion in thefts every year from the American consumer. To learn more, visit https://insurancefraud.org/. To learn more about DIFI, visit https://difi.az.gov/about-difi.

 

Hero

Phoenix, AZ - The Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions (DIFI) has launched a new website that combines three previous agency websites into one, providing stakeholders and consumers with an updated resource for Department matters, resources, and education. 

 

On July 1, 2020, the previously standalone departments of Insurance, Financial Institutions, and the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority were consolidated into a single state agency. At consolidation’s onset, DIFI staff created a temporary website as a single entryway into each of the legacy agency websites. This strategy allowed website services and resources to remain available while an updated website was developed.

 

In conjunction with various partners, the updated website project began in June.  The project team, which included DIFI staff in the role of agency liaison to the developer, completed the design and build of the website in mid-October. The new website offers an updated and streamlined design that provides easily accessible transactions and searches. The design of the website started with the goal of making navigation of content more intuitive and with as few clicks as possible.  DIFI staff continues to make adjustments and improvements to the new site in an effort to make agency content easily accessible for consumers and industry professionals.

 

“I am proud of the work the DIFI team undertook to get this website live. Our website is often the main, and sometimes only, impression DIFI makes on many stakeholders and consumers. It therefore is vital that we seek to provide the best experience possible. The new, consolidated agency website is a significant improvement that we will be able to continuously improve and update going forward,” said DIFI Director Evan Daniels.


Please click here difi.az.gov to see our new site.

Phoenix, AZ - The Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions (DIFI) Automobile Theft Authority reports a 1.2% reduction in Arizona’s total vehicle thefts in 2020 according to recent data released from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Program. 

The FBI report notes 17,937 reported vehicle thefts in Arizona for calendar year 2020, down 1.2% from 2019 (18,151).  According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), Arizona ranks 14th in total number of vehicle thefts and 21st in the U.S. for the rate of vehicle theft (based on thefts per 100,000 residents).

In 2020, an estimated 810,400 vehicle thefts occurred in the U.S; an 11.8% increase from 2019.  The overall estimated vehicle theft rate in the U.S. was 246.0 per 100,000 residents, which marks the first time the U.S. rate exceeded Arizona’s rate (241.7).  Although vehicle thefts increased nationally in 2020, 10 states realized declines, including Arizona.

“The FBI report offers good news about decreased auto theft in Arizona last year. With continued grant funding from DIFI’s Automobile Theft Authority awarded to law enforcement, prosecutors, and for outreach and education, hopefully this downward trend continues. Most significantly, Arizona’s auto owners make the biggest difference by taking the time to park smart and secure their vehicles and belongings at all times,” said Director Evan Daniels. 

 

Fraud Badge

 

DIFI Fraud Unit Increases Staffing to Better Serve Southern Arizona

The Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions (DIFI) Insurance Fraud Division has increased staffing to enhance service to southern Arizona communities.

Effective September 20, 2021, DIFI assigned one full-time special agent to the Tucson area and another special agent to split time between Tucson and Phoenix. The agents newly assigned to the Tucson metro area will focus on investigating insurance fraud in Arizona’s southern counties of Pima, Graham, Greenlee, Santa Cruz, and Cochise.  

These special agents will have the ability to develop a network with law enforcement and other stakeholders to share information and conduct investigations on fraud-related matters. The agents will work cooperatively with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Vehicle Theft Task Force and local insurance company special investigation units.  A local presence in Tucson will allow for quicker response to industry and citizens living in Tucson and the southernmost areas of the state.  

In FY21 (July 2020-June 2021), the DIFI Fraud Division received 3,548 insurance fraud referrals, often referred to as “questionable claims.” DIFI Fraud Division investigations in FY21 resulted in court-ordered restitution in excess of $1.8 million dollars, in addition to fines imposed by the court.  Defendants’ sentences ranged from probation to multi-year prison terms.

“Criminals committing or conspiring to commit insurance fraud should understand that nowhere in Arizona is safe for them to get away with their crimes,” said DIFI Director Evan Daniels, “A full-time presence in Southern Arizona will devote needed resources towards questionable claims coming out of that part of the state and further develop coordination with our dedicated law enforcement counterparts.”

Media Contact:

James McGuffin

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