archived October 31, 2007

Florida jobless rates hold steady, construction jobs continue to fall

TALLAHASSEE — Jobless rates statewide and in South Florida held steady in September, according to a report released Friday by Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation. READ MORE.

Confidence among Florida workers fell in September, survey finds

FORT LAUDERDALE — Spherion Corp.’s Florida Employee Confidence Index fell for the second consecutive month, decreasing 3.3 points to 54.4 in September. READ MORE.

Mortgages stay put, wait for Fed

NEW YORK — Mortgage rates barely budged this week, with the average conforming 30-year fixed mortgage rate now 6.49 percent compared with 6.50 percent a week ago, according to's weekly national survey of large lenders. READ MORE.

Citrix Systems reports profit gains for the third quarter, stock tumbles

FORT LAUDERDALE — Citrix Systems Wednesday reported third quarter profit of $60.7 million, or 33 cents a share, on revenue of $350 million, compared with profit of $43.7 million, or 23 cents a share, on revenue of $278 million for the same period a year ago.“I’m very pleased with our third quarter results,” Citrix CEO Mark Templeton said. “We have been focused on execution, aligning all elements of the business to our strategy, driving the pipeline for new products and adding to our go-to-market strength.“Our results for the quarter demonstrate our success in these areas.”Citrix released the report after the close of the market Wednesday. Shares were down $1.77 to $40 early Thursday afternoon.For the nine months, Citrix reported profit of $152 million, or 82 cents a share, on revenue of $992 million, compared with project of $130 million, or 69 cents a share, on revenue of $813 for the same period a year ago.The company forecasted per share earnings of $1.05 to $1.06 for the year, including 24 to 25 cents for the fourth quarter.

Cross Match Technologies moves forward with stock offering

PALM BEACH GARDENS — Cross Match Technologies Inc. said Wednesday that it will proceed with its proposed initial public offering. READ MORE.

Delray delays motorcycle ban, will study Atlantic Ave. noise problem


DELRAY BEACH — So much for banning motorcycles from Atlantic Avenue. READ MORE.

Regulators subpoena Allstate companies on proposed rate hikes

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said Tuesday that it has issued subpoenas to representatives of Allstate and its Florida subsidiaries regarding their recently proposed homeowners rate hikes. READ MORE.

Office Depot launches technology recycling service at 1,100 stores

DELRAY BEACH — Office Depot said Tuesday that it is launching a tech recycling service at its 1,100 stores in North America. READ MORE.

FPL asks the PSC to approve Turkey Point nuclear expansion

JUNO BEACH — Florida Power & Light Co. Tuesday filed with the Public Service Commission plans to build two nuclear power units at Turkey Point in Miami-Dade County. READ MORE.

Foreclosures decline in September

DELRAY BEACH — Believe it or not foreclosures actually fell nationally and in Florida during September, according to, the Sacremento, Calif., tracking company. READ MORE.

Falling dollar to concern among investors, Weiss survey finds

JUPITER — It's not recession or a market crash that most worries investors. READ MORE.

Broward men plead guilty to scam

DELRAY BEACH — Two Broward men have pleaded guilty to fraud charges for their role in a business opportunity scam that took investors for $8 million.William Chappie and Joseph Wentz each pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire and mail fraud and violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and face a maximum of eight years in prison under the plea agreements.The two men sold dealerships for something called the Youth Light and Age Arrester and the Wonder Light Wand, claiming the devices erased wrinkles, age spots and sun damage. They told prospective dealers that the devices could be placed in to salons and spas, which could charge $100 for treatments.About 350 investors bit on the scam, according to authorities. Chappie and Wentz are to be sentenced Jan. 3.

Study: Wal-Mart 'systematically' uses appeals to avoid local taxes

By DAVID SEDORE, Palm Beach Staff

DELRAY BEACH — A Washington-based research group says Wal-Mart Stores Inc. routinely appeals local property tax appraisals in systematic effort to avoid paying taxes on its nearly 3,000 stores and 100 distribution centers nationally.The company denied the allegation. READ MORE.

Job numbers push mortgage rates higher, Bankrate survey finds

NORTH PALM BEACH — The Labor Department’s better-than-expected jobs report helped push mortgage rates higher, according to average conforming 30-year fixed mortgage rate climbed to 6.5 percent, according to's weekly national survey of large lenders released Thursday. READ MORE.

Spherion study finds workers, employers differ on job satisfaction

FORT LAUDERDALE — Despite a historically low unemployment rate and the  effects of a labor shortage, many workers say their employers are not taking steps to retain them, according to a report released Wednesday by Spherion Corp.In addition, only 43, of workers say they are satisfied with their present jobs, according to the report. READ MORE.

Spodak Dental opens West Atlantic office.

archived oct. 19, 2007

State rejects USAA's rate hike

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has rejected USAA’s request for a 53.9 percent hike in homeowners insurance rates.OIR determined that the filings were incomplete and were not certified as required by Florida law.The matter had been set for a public hearing today.USAA provides insurance to the military and their families, and is one of the largest carriers in Florida.

Noven says lithium drug failed trial

MIAMI — Noven Pharmaceuticals said Monday that a once-daily form of lithium to treat depression failed a major trial. READ MORE.

Worker confidence declined in September, Spherion survey finds

FORT LAUDERDALE — Worker confidence dipped in September even as the job market rebounded, according to Spherion’s monthly employment survey.The Spherion Employee Confidence Index fell 1.8 points to 56.7 points in September, its lowest level this year and second consecutive decline. READ MORE.


Survey: Fixed rate mortgages fall

NORTH PALM BEACH — Fixed mortgage rates declined, with the average conforming 30-year fixed mortgage rate falling to 6.42 percent, Bankrate’s weekly mortgage survey has found.According to the survey, the average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.36 discount and origination points. READ MORE.

State Farm agrees to cut rates

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said Tuesday that it has reached an agreement with State Farm  to reduce homeowner insurance rates by an additional 2 percent for its Florida customers.The announcement was made in collaboration with the Office of Attorney General. READ MORE.


archived oct 17, 2007

Delray Chamber networks at Art Glass Environments.

David Solomon opens Carrs — The Traditional Barber with a flourish. Read Delray Focus.

The streets of Delray come alive ... Delray seeking volunteers for code enforcement board ...Read Focus Delray.

Florida to offer jobs credentialing program for employers, workers

TALLAHASSEE — Florida is sponsoring a jobs credentialing program aimed at helping employers find qualified employees.The program, called Florida Ready to Work, tests prospective employees in various categories to ensure they have the skills needed to succeed in the workplace. The program, free to both employers and employees, is being used in more than 40 states. “Florida Ready to Work is an exciting solution to the dilemma many businesses face in trying to find the right person for the right job," Education Commissioner Jeanine Blomberg said.  "The program allows businesses to define the skills they are seeking and recruit jobseekers who have those skills. We in the education community can tailor instructional programs to help jobseekers fill gaps in their skills and become more competitive in the job market."The program tests prospective employees on applied mathematics, reading for information and locating Information structured to assess communications and problem-solving skills as well.  There’s also an optional portion to test work habits.They test were developed by the same company that provides the ACT college admission test.

Banking fees hit all-time highs

NORTH PALM BEACH — Bankrate Inc. said Wednesday that banking fees have hit all-time highs in several areas, including ATM surcharges, bounced check fees and monthly service fees on interest checking accounts. READ MORE.

FPL Group to invest $2.4 billion to boost solar energy generating

JUNO BEACH — FPL Group Inc. said Wednesday that it will spend $2.4 billion to increase U.S. solar thermal energy generation.FPL made the announcement in New York at the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative with former President Bill Clinton and Gov. Charlie Crist present. READ MORE.

Consumer confidence drop could spell dismal holiday sales season

By DAVID SEDORE, Palm Beach Staff

DELRAY BEACH — Consumer confidence among Floridians increased slightly in September, while falling substantially nationally, according to separate reports released Tuesday.Both reports, released by the University of Florida and the Conference Board respectively, agreed on one grim conclusion: The economy most will get worse before it gets better. That’s likely to mean a blue holiday shopping season for retailers. READ MORE.

Housing sales, prices continue to fall statewide, according to report

DELRAY BEACH — Used home sales and prices continued to fall statewide in August, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. FAR reported 11,279 sales during the month, compared with 15,252 a year ago, a decline of 26 percent. The median price dropped 6 percent to $231,900 from $246,800 a year ago.Sales dropped in South Florida, but the median price actually gained ground in Broward and Miami-Dade, likely signaling more sales on the higher end of the spectrum.In Broward, sales dropped 23 percent to 538 from 702 a year ago; the price rose 2 percent to $368,800 from $362,000 a year ago. In Miami-Dade sales fell 45 percent to 385 from 695, but the price rose 4 percent to $392,900 from $378,800.In Palm Beach, sales fell 13 percent to 568 from 655; the median fell 5 percent to $366,200 from $386,000.The National Association of Realtors, meanwhile, said disruptions in the mortgage market are dampening sales. The market should settle in the coming months, which should improve sales."The volume of existing-home sales this year will be better than 2002, which was the second year of the housing boom," says NAR Senior Economist Lawrence Yun. "Conventional loans — the vast majority of available financing — are available to creditworthy borrowers.”

Lennar losses continue to mount

MIAMI — To the surprise of no one, homebuilder Lennar lost a ton of money during the third quarter.The company Tuesday reported a third quarter loss of $514 million, or $3.25 a share, on revenue of $2.2 billion, compared with a profit of $317.2 million, or $1.31 a share, on revenue of $4 billion for the same period a year ago.For the nine months, losses totaled $999.4 million, or $4.37 a share, on revenue of $7.6 billion, compared with a profit of $789.5 million, or $4.99 a share, on revenue of $11.5 billion.CEO Stuart Miller cited the deteriorating housing market."Heavy discounting by builders, and now the existing home market as well, has continued to drive pricing downward,” Miller said. “Consumer confidence in housing has remained low, while the mortgage market has continued to redefine itself, creating higher cancellation rates."The company has had to cut prices as well in order to sell off homes, and that has cut into margins and larger write downs of inventory.

Office Depot to build its first certified green store in 2008

DELRAY BEACH — Office Depot said Tuesday that it will build its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified store in Austin, Texas in mid-2008. The LEED Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for designing, constructing, and operating high performance green buildings.Office Depot also said it is exploring the possibility of developing a store prototype that meets LEED standards. Office Depot already has piloted the green building concept of “daylight harvesting” at its Greensboro, N.C. store.

Delray group opposes the Klein-Mahoney insurance reform bill

DELRAY BEACH — The National Wildlife Federation has joined the Florida Coalition for Preservation in “expressing serious concern” over portions of the Homeowners Defense Act, which would create a national solution to skyrocketing hurricane insurance premiums. READ MORE.

SEC sues two in Boca stock scam

BOCA RATON — The Securities and Exchange Commission said Monday that it has sued two Florida men for their part in a market manipulation scam that took investors for $4.4 million.The two men, Paul Harary, 43, and Douglas Zemsky, 44, agreed to settle the case without admitting or denying the allegations, and also plead guilty in a parallel criminal case. Haray agreed to pay to the court $4 million he earned from the scam, and Zemsky $97,000. READ MORE.

Dyadic fires CEO Emalfarb over alleged Asian improprieties

JUPITER — Dyadic International Inc. has fired its CEO and founder, Mark Emalfarb for allegedly concealing financial improprieties at its Asian operations, the company said Monday.Dyadic, which makes industrial enzymes,  also has abandoned its Asian operations and has told investors not to rely on the accuracy of company financial statements. It has contacted the Securities and Exchange Commission about the matter.The company is one of Palm Beach County’s most prominent biotechs, and its board includes Dr. Richard Lerner, head of The Scripps Research Institute.An investigation by outside counsel found no wrongdoing by other company managers.Dyadic in a news release said that its Asian subsidiaries' largest customer was secretly controlled by the units’ manager. The “customer” bought products from the Dyadic units and re-sold them for cash to businesses in China, apparently  to avoid Chinese reporting and VAT requirements.The Investigation revealed that certain former Emalfarb and managers of the Asian subsidiaries allegedly willfully concealed  these improprieties.


Florida's August jobless rate ticks up as economy continues to slow

TALLAHASEE — The slowing economy has more Floridians looking for work.Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation Friday reported that the statewide jobless rate increased to 4.0 percent in August from 3.9 percent in July. The national rate for August was 4.6 percent. READ MORE.

Worker confidence dipped in August, Spherion survey finds

FORT LAUDERDALE  — Confidence among Florida employees dropped in August, according to Spherion Corp.’s monthly survey of workers in the state. READ MORE.

Bill Gates tops Forbes' richest list; John Kluge is richest Floridian

By DAVID SEDORE, Palm Beach Staff

DELRAY BEACH — Forbes magazine’s annual listing of the 400 richest Americans includes 25 Floridians, 15 of whom live in South Florida.None live in Delray Beach.Palm Beacher John Kluge, 93, tops the local list with a fortune estimated at $9.5 billion. That’s good enough to rank 31st on the Forbes list. READ MORE.

Mortgage rates rise, outlook uncertain, Bankrate survey finds

NORTH PALM BEACH — Fixed mortgage rates inched up this week, with the average conforming 30-year fixed mortgage rate rising to 6.32 percent. According to's weekly national survey of large lenders, the average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.34 discount and origination points. READ MORE.

Cruise giant Carnival Corp. reports record earnings for third quarter

MIAMI — Carnival Corp. Thursday reported third quarter earnings of $1.4  billion, or $1.73 a share, on revenue of $4.3 billion, a record for the company.A year ago, the company earned $1.2 billion, or $1.55 a share, on revenue of $3.9 billion.For the nine months, earnings totaled $2.1 billion, or $2.58 a share, on revenue of $9.9 billion, compared with earnings of $1.9 billion, or $2.32 a share, on revenue of $9 billion.The nine-month earnings also set a record."Our earnings were up 12 percent driven largely by the successful introduction of new ships for both our North American and European brands in time for our peak summer season,” CEO Micky Arison said. “Our North American brands enjoyed another strong European season, a solid Alaska season, and a modest year over year improvement in revenue yields in the Caribbean.“The recovery in the Caribbean has continued as the demand for Caribbean cruises remains strong," Arison said.Carnival also cited stronger pricing on cruises booked closer to departure dates.

Spherion buys Dallas staffing firm

FORT LAUDERDALE — Spherion Corp. said Thursday that it is buying Dallas-based Todays Staffing Inc. from CDI Corp. for $40 million.Todays Staffing was founded in 1982, and has more than 60 locations throughout the United States and Canada. Todays provides temporary, temporary-to- permanent and permanent clerical, administrative, legal and financial staffing. It had revenue of $125 during the fiscal year ended June 30.The deal is expected to close by the end of the month, with Todays Staffing integrated into Spherion by the end of the year. The deal is expected to add to Spherion earnings in 2008.Shares of Spherion were were down $1.35, or more than 14 percent, to $8.14 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Personal income grows in Florida

WASHINGTON — Personal income grew in Florida by 1.6 percent during the second quarter, compared with an increase of 1.2 percent nationally, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. READ MORE.

Levitt Corp to lay off 89 workers

FORT LAUDERDALE — Homebuilder Levitt Corp. is laying off 89 workers in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, according to two filings with the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation.In a filing made Wednesday, Levitt said it would let go of 58 workers in Fort Lauderdale; Tuesday, the company informed the state it would lay off 31 in Orlando. All lay offs are effective Nov. 19.The company is the latest homebuilder to cut payroll in the face of the slumping market for homes. Last month Levitt reported second quarter losses of $58.1 million, including $63 million in impaired homebuilding inventory.Levitt is the parent of Core Communities, developer of St. Lucie West and Tradition, also in St. Lucie County, and Levitt & Sons, the company that built Levittowns in New York and Pennsylvania to house returning World War II veterans.The company has seen tough economic times before — Abraham Levitt founded the company in 1929.

Former Tenet counsel sued over North Ridge Medicare payments

MIAMI — The Justice Department is suing Tenet Healthcare’s former general counsel, alleging she failed to disclose to the government that the for-profit hospital chain  received “millions of dollar” in Medicare payments that it was not entitled to.The suit, filed in Federal court, alleges that Christi Sulzbach knew that Tenet in the late 1990s illegally billed Medicare for payments under referrals from Tenet-employed doctors at North Ridge Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.  Sulzbach, associate general counsel and corporate integrity program director for Tenet, however, certified to the government that Tenet was in compliance with all federal requirements.The matter came to light in 1997 when a Tenet employee filed a whistleblower claim against the company.Eventually, in 2006, Tenet agreed to repay nearly $1 billion in illegal payments it received from Medicare at North Ridge and its other hospitals. While reviewing documents Tenet produced in response to the suit, the government alleges it discovered that Sulzbach had known about the North Ridge violation.The Justice Department alleges that Sulzbach could be liable for as $18 million — trebled — plus civil penalties.

Fed rate cut: What does it mean?

The Federal Reserve Tuesday cut its short-term Federal Funds rate to 4.75 percent from 5.25 percent. It was the first rate cut in four years and the steepest in nearly five years. The Federal Funds rate is the interest rate that banks charge each other for overnight loans. What does a rate cut mean for consumers? Depends if you’re borrowing or saving. READ MORE.

FPL seeks state PSC OK to expand Turkey Point, St. Lucie Nuke plants

JUNO BEACH — Florida Power & Light Co. Monday asked the Florida Public Service Commission for permission to expand generating capacity at Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear power plants. READ MORE.

College costs soar as families struggle to find ways to pay tab

NORTH PALM BEACH — College costs continue to soar, with tuition at public universities increasing 35 percent over the past five years, according to a survey conducted for Bankrate Inc. READ MORE.

Local economy shows signs of slowing but still relatively good

By DAVID SEDORE, Palm Beach Staff

DELRAY BEACH — Middling.That might be the best word to describe the state of Palm Beach County’s economy as viewed by Greta von Unruh, executive director of the Economic Development Research Institute. READ MORE.

Florida regulators shoot down Hartford's insurance rate hikes

TALLAHASSEE — Florida regulators have rejected eight property insurance rate hikes requested by subsidiaries of The Hartford Financial Services Group. The filings submitted were not actuarially justified and lacked supporting information, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation. The companies cover about 100,000 homeowners in Florida, and wanted average rate hikes of about 30 percent. Hartford has until Sept. 30 to refile.The Office of Insurance Regulation sent notices of Intent to deny the rate filings, because the proposed rate increases did not reflect the savings brought by cheaper reinsurance available through the state’s hurricane catastrophe fund."I am committed to ensuring that insurance companies doing business in Florida are offering policyholders the best rates possible," said McCarty. "The rates proposed by The Hartford are not in line with this objective."

Cheap money: Fixed mortgage rates plummet, Bankrate says

NORTH PALM BEACH — Fixed mortgage rates plunged this week, with the average conforming 30-year fixed mortgage rate falling to 6.28 percent. According to's weekly national survey of large lenders, the average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.43 discount and origination points.The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage, popular for refinancing, dropped by the same amount to 5.96 percent. The average jumbo 30-year fixed rate sank to 7.2 percent. READ MORE.

Hospitals say State Farm is misleading consumers on PIP

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Hospital Association says State Farm is misleading consumers when it says it will cut auto insurance rates by 16 percent if required Personal Injury Protection coverage is eliminated. The law mandating that drivers have PIP is set to die Oct. 1.The FHA says a review of State Farm’s rate filings found prospective savings to be minimal — less than $8 over six months with additional medical coverage — and that increased rates for other coverage would further eat into it."We're calling on State Farm to disclose all the facts to Florida's consumers about the real implications of eliminating PIP from their policies," said Wayne NeSmith, President of the Florida Hospital Association.

Burger King to develop healthier kids menu, limit ads aimed children

MIAMI — Burger King Corp. said Wednesday that it is joining  11 major food and beverage companies in pledging to focus children’s advertising on healthier food items.It also committed to reducing calories, fat and saturated fat in meals aimed at children. READ MORE.

archived sept. 21, 2007

Job outlook for financial pros remains strong, survey finds

WEST PALM BEACH — A net 5 percent of chief financial officers in the West Palm Beach area expect to hire accounting and finance professionals during the fourth quarter of 2007, according to the most recent Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index.Ten percent of executives surveyed plan to add staff during the quarter and 5 percent anticipate reductions in personnel. The net 5 percent increase is down one point from the area's third-quarter 2007 forecast.The majority of respondents, 84 percent, foresee no change in hiring.Meanwhile, the index for the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market  found 12 percent of CFOs surveyed plan to add staff during the quarter and 7 percent anticipate reductions in personnel. The net 5 percent increase is up one point from the area's third-quarter 2007 forecast."Company expansion and recurring compliance mandates that create more demands for financial teams continue to contribute to a tight hiring market for skilled accounting and finance professionals," Robert Half CEO Max Messmer said. "The most experienced candidates are receiving multiple employment offers, and more organizations are extending counteroffers to retain top performers."

Nabi sells Biologics unit, will move headquarters to Rockville, MD

BOCA RATON — Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, Florida’s largest biotech, is selling its Biologics business unit to Biotest Pharmaceuticals Corp. for $185 million and moving its headquarters to Maryland.Nabi shares surged nearly 21 percent on the news to $4.16 in late afternoon trading. READ MORE.

Lockheed Martin delivers second anti-mine vehicle to the Navy

RIVIERA BEACH — Lockheed Martin said Monday that it has recently delivered the second production Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle to the U.S. Navy.The unmanned, semi-submersible vehicle used to counter underwater mines, will be deployed on the Navy’s Arleigh Burke Class destroyers and the littoral combat ship. The first RMMV was delivered to the Navy in April.The vehicle tows a sensor to detect and identify mines at a safe distance.Lockheed Martin produces the vehicle at its Riviera Beach plant.

Foreclosures keep on climbing

DELRAY BEACH — The news on the foreclosure front continues to be nothing short of dismal.

More than 25,000 Florida homes were foreclosed on in August, an increase of nearly 150 percent over year-ago numbers, according to of Sacremento, Calif. READ MORE.

FPL to give away light bulbs

JUNO BEACH — Want a free light bulb? Take a survey.Florida Power & light said Monday that it plans to give away 50,000 light bulbs to customers who take  a free online energy efficiency survey.Residential customers will receive one free compact fluorescent light bulb and qualified business customers will receive two bulbs when they take the survey, which is aimed at providing tips for saving energy and money.“We want to encourage our customers to continue down the important path of better understanding how to manage their energy consumption,” said Marietta Rojas, energy survey program manager for FPL. “That is why we are giving them a free low-mercury compact fluorescent lamp. It is a great way of continuing their commitment to becoming more energy efficient.”The survey provides recommendations and suggestions for saving electricity and money based on the size of a home or business, the age and amount of electricity used by appliances, electronic equipment and other items.

OIR broadens State Farm insurance investigation, reschedules hearing

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty has expanded the Office of Insurance Regulation's review of State Farm and rescheduled a public hearing for November.OIR sent subpoenas to State Farm last month requiring company officials to appear and discuss their recently filed non-renewal plans, multi-lines discounts, State Farm's decision to withdraw from the condominium business in Florida, and the impact these decisions may have on State Farm's rates.Based on an extensive review of the State Farm documents, a decision has been made to expand the scope of the review and the length of the public hearing.The public hearing is now scheduled to be held at the Senate Office Building, Room 401, at the Capitol on Nov. 14 and 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.State Farm previously announced plans to drop 50,000 policies in coastal areas.

Worker confidence dips slightly in August, Spherion survey finds

FORT LAUDERDALE — The confidence level of U.S. workers dipped slightly in August, according to the latest survey from Spherion Corp.The Spherion Employee Confidence Index, a monthly gauge of overall worker confidence, fell 0.3 points to 58.5 in August, compared to 58.8 in July and 56.7 a year ago. Harris Interactive conducted the survey on behalf of Spherion. READ MORE.

Tenet Healthcare names Powers to head its key Florida operations

DALLAS — Tenet Healthcare Corp. said Thursday that it has named Marsha D. Powers to head the company’s Florida region, which includes 11 hospitals in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The region has been a problem for Tenet, which reported a loss for the second quarter and could face bankruptcy reorganization unless business improves, according to some observers.“Improving the performance of our Florida hospitals is a key element of Tenet’s turnaround strategy, and Marsha Powers brings the right combination of experience, leadership skills and positive energy to this vital task,” said Tenet Chief Operating Officer Stephen Newman said. The Florida region includes 3,800 beds, about 5,200 affiliated physicians, more than 9,600 employees and an annual payroll of nearly $644 million.Powers, 53, was a division president of Triad Hospitals Inc. for six years, overseeing the operations of 11 hospitals, two ambulatory surgery centers and a physician management organization in Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. She managed a division budget with $1.2 billion in net revenue.She takes the job as of September 28.

GMAC ResCap lays off 50

FORT LAUDERDALE — The credit crunch has claimed another victim.GMAC Residential Capital — the home mortgage arm of GMAC Financial Services — will lay off 50 workers at its Fort Lauderdale office, according to a filing made with Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation.Last month, several credit-rating agencies lowered GMAC Rescap to junk status, making it more expensive for the company to borrow.The company does business under a variety of names, including Ditech, GMAC BNk, GMAC Mortgage and GMAC RFC. The layoffs will take place between Nov. 2 and Dec. 31.GMAC Financial is 51 percent owned by Cerberus Capital, with General Motors holding 49 percent. Cerberus is the firm buying Chrysler.Last month four mortgage companies — GreenPoint, First Magnus, HomeBanc and First NLC Financial — announced layoffs of 617 workers in Florida.In another matter, DiVosta Building Corp. of Palm Beach Gardens added 11 to the list of workers it has laid off so far this year.

Publix CEO Charlie Jenkins to step down, Ed Crenshaw to replace him

LAKELAND — Publix CEO Charlie Jenkins Jr. said Wednesday that he plans to retire as CEO on March 29. He will become Publix chairman the following day.The company also announced that President Ed Crenshaw will be Jenkins’ replacement as CEO.Jenkins began his career in 1969 as the assistant to the vice president of real estate. In 1974, he became vice president of real estate and was elected to the board of directors. Jenkins became executive vice president in 1988, chairman of the executive committee in 1990 and chief operating officer in 2000. He was named CEO in 2001.He will become chairman March 30.“The board of directors is pleased that Charlie has agreed to accept this position, and we look forward to working with him to continue the success of Publix,” said current Chairman Howard Jenkins.Crenshaw began his Publix career in 1974 as a front-service clerk in Lake Wales. He became director of retail operations for the Lakeland Division in 1984. In 1990, he became vice president of the Lakeland Division and was elected to the board of directors. In 1991, Crenshaw moved to Atlanta to start the Publix Atlanta Division as division vice president. He was promoted to executive vice president of retailing in 1994 and to President in 1996.

Pediatrix sued over stock options

FORT LAUDERDALE — Pediatrix Medical Group Inc. faces a shareholder suit over its stock options backdating program that improperly benefited some company employees and directors.The suit, filed Thursday in federal district court, names the company,  company officers and members and former directors alleging that they violated their fiduciary duties, federal securities laws and engaged in corporate waste,  mismanagement, unjust enrichment and fraud in their handling of the stock options program.Pediatrix conducted an internal investigation of its stock options Program, finding that some options were improperly backdated in a way to benefit recipients. Both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. attorney’s office are reviewing the matter, according to company filings.

Pediatrix buys Va. anesthesiology group as part of new initiative

FORT LAUDERDALE — Pediatrix Medical Group Inc. said Tuesday that it has bought Fairfax Anesthesiology Associates of Virginia for an undisclosed sum and has formed a new division, American Anesthesiology.The deal launches Pediatrix’s effort to develop a national group practice specializing in anesthesia services.Fairfax Anesthesiology Associates is a group practice founded in the 1970s, and includes 53 anesthesiologists and 60 certified registered nurse anesthetists who provide care for more than 60,000 patients annually. FAA is the exclusive anesthesiology provider at Inova Health System’s Inova Fairfax Hospital.Pediatrix paid cash for the practice, which is expected to add about 2 cents a share to annual earnings based on FAA’s current business, and do not include any potential efficiencies from managed care contracting and improved collections. Other terms were not disclosed.

FPL announces plans to cut rates

JUNO BEACH — Florida Power & Light said Tuesday that it is cutting rates for residential customers by nearly 1 percent beginning in January.The company cited greater efficiency at its carbon-burning generating plants. Industrial and commercial customers will also be paying slightly less.This is the second year in a row that FPL has reduced rates.“We remain committed to doing everything we can to keep our rates as low as possible,” said FPL President Armando Olivera. “By increasing the efficiency of our network we’re making sure that we maintain reliable service while minimizing the impact of rising fuel prices.”Under the proposed cut, a customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month will see a 94-cent decline to $102.49.FPL said current price projections could be altered by unforeseen events, such as a major hurricane striking the Gulf of Mexico.

Citrix shares to continue trading on Nasdaq exchange pending review

FORT LAUDERDALE — Citrix Systems Inc. said Friday that Nasdaq will continue to list the company’s shares pending a review by the exchange’s listing and hearing review council.Nasdaq has threatened to delist Citrix because the software company has failed to file financial results for the past few quarters because of an internal investigation into its stock options program. Citrix has completed that investigation but is awaiting a ruling from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s office of chief accountant before issuing the missing statements and restating previous results.

Pristine Properties partners with Cabela's in recreational land firm

DELRAY BEACH — Pristine Properties has affiliated with outfitter Cabela’s to form Cabela’s Trophy Properties in Florida. Cabela’s Trophy Properties will specialize in representing buyers and sellers of recreational properties in the state.“Cabela’s Trophy Properties is a global network of professionals who are on track to become the ultimate one-stop-shop for the purchase, sale, financing, leasing, development, improvement and management of recreational properties,” said Seth Hayden of Pristine Properties.Pristine Properties has specialized in selling recreational properties in Florida. Cabela’s brings to the deal expertise in recreational and sporting marketing.

PBCC braces for budget cuts as student enrollment increases

LAKE WORTH — Palm Beach Community College’s enrollment is up 5.3 percent this term at the same time that it is bracing for budget cuts stemming from projected shortfalls in state revenue.Cuts could range between 4 percent and 10 percent. The Legislature is set to convene Sept. 18 to deal with the budget shortfall.PBCC officials they say a 4 percent cut would equal a $2.1 million reduction in its $52.8 million recurring state allocation. A 10 percent cut would mean lop off more than $5 million from its budget. “The enrollment increase suggests that the college is responding to the education and training needs in our community, but I am concerned about what these potential budget cuts will mean for our institution,’’ said PBCC President Dennis P. Gallon. “I’m not certain that we can continue to maintain an open-door policy and provide a quality education for our students without significantly impacting some aspects of college operations.Our first priority, however, will be to ensure that these looming budget cuts do not impact services and instruction to our students.”PBCC previously cut $1.25 million from its proposed 2007-08 budget earlier this year because of the governor’s veto of a 5 percent tuition increase for the state’s community colleges and universities.

Highland Beach man faces prison time for drug diversion scheme

MIAMI — A Highland Beach businessman faces as much as 25 years in prison after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, prescription drug diversion and money laundering in federal district court.Sheldon Kresler, former co-owner  of wholesale drug company Crystal Coast, faces five years for the wire fraud and drug diversion convictions and 20 years for money laundering. Kresler was part of a ring that allegedly made as much as $8.5 million by selling illegally obtained and counterfeit drugs, many of which are used to treat AIDs patients.According to federal prosecutors, a charity group called African Christian Relief bought eight orders of Infed, a prescription drug used to treat iron deficiency at deeply discounted prices with the understanding that it would be used to treat poor patients in Angola.Kresler’s company, however, was buying the drug and selling it in the U.S. at substantial profits. In a three-month  period, Kresler’s firm made nearly $1 million on the Infed sales.

Factoring company executive gets 20 years for bank fraud, conspiracy

MIAMI — The former chairman of E.S. Bankest has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his role in a massive bank fraud and money laundering scheme.Federal Judge Adalberto Jordan also ordered Eduardo Orlansky, E.S. Bankest’s former chairman, to pay nearly $165 million in restitution. A jury last year found Orlansky  guilty of 44 counts of bank fraud, wire fraud, money-laundering and conspiracy for his part in a nine-year scheme that cost Espirito Santo Bank nearly $165 million. Jordan called the losses from the fraud scheme “staggering.” Three co-defendants also were found guilty.E.S. Bankest was a factoring company and part of the E.S. Group, which also includes Espirito Santos Bank of Miami. Factoring companies make loans using accounts receivables as security.According to the prosecution, Orlansky and others borrowed millions of dollars from Espirito Santos customers using fabricated receivables. Ultimately the bank covered the losses.

Office Depot cuts CO2 emissions

DELRAY BEACH — Office Depot said Tuesday that it has cut carbon dioxide emissions at its stores, offices and warehouses by 10.1 percent.Between 2005 and 2006 Office Depot said it reduced electricity and natural gas consumption even as it increased its overall “footprint” by 1.7 million square feet."Office Depot’s environmental strategy is structured around a vision to increasingly buy green, be green and sell green,” said Yalmaz Siddiqui, environmental strategy sdvisor for Office Depot. "By reducing greenhouse gases so dramatically in one year, we have clearly shown a commitment to being green and reducing our carbon footprint."During the year, Office Depot:·  Refitted its North American stores with T5 energy-efficient lights;·  Installed high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning units;·   Added light-sensors in stores to automatically turn off lights when bathrooms and break rooms are not occupied; and·  Rolled out an energy management system that tracked energy usage and trends from a central location, set temperatures for all store, identified use anomalies, such as light left on and allowed managers to fix problems remotely

GreenPoint Mortgage closes offices, cuts 72 jobs statewide

By DAVID SEDORE, Palm Beach Staff

DELRAY BEACH — GreenPoint Mortgage Funding  Corp. is laying off 72 workers statewide, including 32 in its Deerfield office.The company, a unit of Capital One Financial Corp., is shutting down operations nationwide, the result of “current conditions in the secondary mortgage market.”The company said it will cease originating new loans, but it will finalize loans in the pipeline that have rates locked.GreenPoint is the third mortgage company to announce layoffs in Florida during the past two weeks. First Magnus last week said it was shutting down operations and firing 208 workers.HomeBanc closed four offices and laid off 183 workers. Both First Magnus and HomeBanc filed for bankruptcy reorganization.Altogether GreenPoint is closing 32 offices in 19 states. About 1,900 workers are affected.

Nationwide to drop commercial, homowners insurance policies

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nationwide Insurance said Tuesday that it is dropping more than 40,000 policies in Florida, including 39,000 homeowners, in a bid to reduce hurricane exposure.It will also eliminate 1,600 commercial policies. “Nationwide is making some difficult choices today that will better position the company to deal with the many challenges posed by the Florida insurance market,” said Jeff Rommel, the company regional vice president for Florida operations. “We have an obligation to act responsibly to ensure long-term stability for Nationwide’s customers, agents and associates.”Nationwide, which once had more than 400,000 homeowners policies statewide, has been reducing its presence in Florida for two years. After the cuts, it will have 176,000 homeowner policies statewide.The company will send out notices beginning in September, with policies being “nonrenewed” beginning in January.Most of those dropped will receive offers of coverage from Security First Insurance. State Farm announced a similar move earlier this month, prompting an investigation by the Office of Insurance Regulaton.

Roofers' group asks lawmakers to postpone roof upgrade law

WINTER PARK — A trade group is lawmakers to postpone a law that would require many Florida homeowners to upgrade their roof-to-wall connections when they replace their roofs.The Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association is calling the law, which goes into effect Oct. 1, too expensive and unenforceable.Under the law, homes built before 2002, valued at $300,000 or more and located in coastal areas must have mandatory roof-to-wall connection upgrades made when the roof is replaced. The association also argues that the kind of upgrades that must be made are structural and beyond the scope of most roofers."This will add tremendous cost to the replacement of the roof," said association Executive Director Steve Munnell. "On a $12,000 roof replacement, it could easily add another $6,000."The association is urging Governor Charlie Crist and Florida House and Senate leaders to take action when the legislature meets in special session next month to postpone the law for one year to allow various groups to draft a more workable plan.

Consumer confidence falls sharply

Conference Board index

DELRAY BEACH — The housing market continues to slump. The stock market is foundering. Credit is drying up.So it’s no surprise that consumer confidence, as measured by two key reports, is sinking as well. READ MORE.

Statewide used-home sales, prices continued to slide in July says FAR

DELRAY BEACH — Used-home sales continued to fall in Florida during July, according to the Florida Association of Realtors.Statewide, the number of used homes fell 24 percent to 11,674 from 15,378 in July a year ago; the median price declined 5 percent to $237,500 from $250,400.In Palm Beach County, sales declined 15 percent to 605 from 714; the median price fell 5 percent to $372,200 from $390,100 a year ago.Broward sales fell to 559 from 721, a 22 percent decline. The median price fell 2 percent to $373,700 from $380,400 a year ago.Miami-Dade sales declined 25 percent to 505 from 673; the median price dropped 1 percent to $377,400 from $382,200.Nationally, the median price ticked up slightly to $230,300, an increase of 0.1 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors.NAR, meanwhile, sees used-home sales gaining momentum toward the end of the year, with wider strengthening in 2008."Existing-home sales should be relatively stable over the next few months, holding in a modest range, with some pent-up demand growing from buyers who've been on the sidelines," NAR Senior Economist Lawrence Yun said.

NCCI files to cut workers comp rates for employers by 16.5 percent

BOCA RATON — At least the cost of one form of insurance is dropping in Florida.Boca Raton-based National Council on Compensation Insurance on Friday asked the Florida Office on Insurance Regulation to lower workers comp rates by an average of 16.5 percent.The lower rates would go into effect Jan. 1 if OIR approves the filing. NCCI makes a single filing for all workers comp insurers doing business in Florida.NCCI cited a 12.6 percent decline in the amount of time lost from work place injuries and a decline in ultimate costs of claims filed NCCI cited the massive overhaul of the state’s workers comp laws the Legislature enacted in 2003.If approved, workers comp rates will have declined on average by 50.4 percent since 2003, according to NCCI.The NCCI proposal would cut rates for manufacturers 15.6 percent; contractors by 16 percent; office and clerical by 19.4 percent; goods and services by 17.1 percent and miscellaneous by 13.2 percent.

Ocean Harbor Insurance joins coaltion to extend no-fault

TALLAHASSEE — Ocean Harbor Casualty Insurance Co., an auto insurer that specializes in providing basic coverage, has joined the Coalition to Protect Florida's Drivers, a group backing the extension of the state’s no-fault insurance law. The law, which requires drivers to have minimum insurance coverage, is set to expire Oct. 1. The Legislature is set to meet in special session on Sept. 18 to address budget matters but appears unlikely to tackle no-fault. READ MORE.

First Magnus Financial shuts offices, lays off more than 200

By DAVID SEDORE, Palm Beach Staff

PALM BEACH GARDENS — First Magnus Financial, the second-largest mortgage lender in the country, has closed its three Florida offices and laid off 208 workers, according to a filing with Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation.The layoffs include 51 workers at its Palm Beach Gardens office, 91 in Fort Lauderdale and 66 in Maitland.Tucson-based First Magnus shut down operations on August 16 and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.Its web site said the company had decided “not to fund any future mortgage loans and is no longer accepting any mortgage loan applications or funding any future loans previously originated and not yet funded.”The company cited the collapse of the secondary market for mortgages.“We explored all options before taking this action, but we were left with no viable alternative,” the company said.First Magnus is the latest victim of the melt down in the mortgage industry. HomeBanc filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month, closed its Florida offices and let go of 183 workers.Since the beginning of the year, 40,000 mortgage industry employees have lost their jobs.

Florida Crystals to partner with UF to build ethanol research plant

WEST PALM BEACH — The University of Florida has selected Florida Crystals Corp.'s Okeelanta facility as the site to build a $20 million cellulosic ethanol research and demonstration plant in Palm Beach County.The plant will produce 1 million to 2 million gallons of ethanol a year. It is the second project of its kind that Florida Crystals is undertaking.The project is to be financed through a state grant to encourage alternative energy resources. University of Florida technology will be used to convert sugarcane bagasse — or waste — and other biomass into ethanol.“This partnership is an important step in developing reliable, clean energy resources for Florida," said Florida Crystal’s Gaston Cantens. Florida Crystals owns power plants in Palm Beach County that generate electricity by burning bagasse and other plant waste.

Miami biller charged in massive scheme to defraud Medicare

MIAMI — A Miami woman faces as much as 15 years in prison after being charged with submitting $170 million in fraudulent bills to Medicare.Rita Campos Ramirez, owner of R&I Medical Billing Inc. is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of submitting false claims to Medicare. Campos has agreed to plead guilty.U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta announced the charges Monday.According to the criminal information filed in federal district court, Campos was employed as a biller for 75 Miami health clinics that purported to provide infusion therapy for HIV patients. Clinic owners provided Campos with bills stating that patients were being infused with HIV drugs in amounts that were medically impossible.Over three-and-a-half years, Campos billed Medicare for $170 million on behalf of the clinics. Of that amount, $105 million went to the clinics. Campos


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