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Jimmy Patronis: ‘No confidence’ in state’s chief financial regulator

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is telling the state’s top financial regulator he “no longer ha(s) confidence” in Drew Breakspear‘s ability to lead the Office of Financial Regulation.

Patronis, a Panama City Republican running for re-election this year, sent a letter to Breakspear on Thursday.

“Over the last 10 months, I have developed concerns over the lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication from your office in its dealings with your customers and Florida’s financial services community,” he wrote. “My experiences with you and your office, and the feedback I have received from my staff, have validated these concerns. I believe this is due to a lack of leadership at the top.

“While I appreciate your years of service to the state, my obligation as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer is to ensure that Florida taxpayers are being provided with value by the entities I have a role in overseeing.

“I no longer have confidence in your ability to lead the Office of Financial Regulation.  I am extending you the courtesy of letting you know that I am prepared to discuss these issues during your assessment review at the Cabinet meeting on May 15, 2018. Should there be a change in leadership, I am prepared to recommend an interim commissioner to ensure continuity of operations.”

Breakspear has served as Commissioner of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation since November 2012. The agency polices the banking, finance and securities industries.

“I am proud of the work the Office of Financial Regulation has done to protect the people of Florida and regulate the financial services industry,” he said in a statement later Thursday. “To date, I have had no discussions with CFO Patronis concerning the issues raised in his letter. I have since reached out to him and look forward to discussing his letter with him soon.

“I will reserve making further comment until such time as we have had this discussion.”

Breakspear answers to the state’s Financial Services Commission, made up of Patronis, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Under state law, the Commission can fire Breakspear “by a majority vote consisting of at least three affirmative votes, with both the Governor and the Chief Financial Officer on the prevailing side.” Scott and Patronis are friends and political allies.

“We learned of the CFO’s concerns from his letter today,” Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said in an email. “This will be discussed at the next meeting of the Florida Cabinet.”

Patronis’ letter comes one day after he wrote to Citizens Property Insurance Corp. president and CEO Barry Gilway.

Saying “transparency should be a key component to any organization,” he asked Gilway to “consider … publicly documenting entities that lobby Citizens.” Lobbyists for Citizens register their appearances, but those who lobby Citizens do not have to.

Breakspear has “more than 40 years of experience, having worked in the international banking industry and management consulting,” his online bio says.

“Mr. Breakspear is a respected expert on corporate governance, compliance, and risk management. He is known for his acumen in corporate strategy, for his effectiveness in guiding audit organizations, and working with regulators globally.”

He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, according to the bio.

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