The new Commissioner of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation might not be starting his new any time soon, if at all.
That’s based on a letter Florida’s Chief Financial Officer sent Wednesday to incoming Commissioner Russell Weigel demanding he sever ties with his existing securities firm before taking his new position.
Weigel is an investment attorney in Coral Gables and, according to the letter, has indicated to Florida Department of Financial Services staff he plans to continue his relationship with his existing firm and continue collecting payments from efforts related to existing clients even after he assumes his new role.
The office considers maintaining that relationship and continuing to reap financial benefits a conflict in his new role.
“As I stated to you in our December 17, 2019, meeting, this Office insists that you end all relations with your securities firm prior to commencing your role as Commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation. To be clear, this Office’s position has been and remains that you should end all business ties with your current firm if you still intend to begin your role as Commissioner of OFR,” wrote Florida Department of Financial Services Chief of Staff Peter Penrod.
The letter suggests Weigel’s start date could be further delayed if he even intends to take the position at all considering the Department of Financial Services demand that he sever financial ties with his securities firm. However, the letter originated from the Department of Financial Services, not the Office of Financial Regulation.
The OFR is not a constitutional office and reports to the full Governor’s cabinet, not just the CFO.
That’s a big deal for the office because Weigel’s start has already faced significant delays.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and his cabinet voted to hire Weigel Dec. 3, more than two months ago.
In late January, CFO Jimmy Patronis, who oversees the OFR, told reporters the new commissioner would be beginning “literally any day now,” according to POLITICO Florida.
Patronis said the delay was normal because Weigel would need to relocate.
“There is housekeeping that needed to be taken care of in his home,” Patronis said, according to Politico. “The move to Tallahassee is not a move that happens overnight.”
The commissioner’s position has been vacant since July after Patronis pressured the office to fire former Commissioner Ronald Rubin over allegations of harassment, which they did.
The OFR did not immediately respond to inquiries about Weigel’s situation or whether he has responded to the letter. Patronis’ office said they have not gotten a response, but they did discuss the issue with Weigel and affirmed their belief that he should sever ties.
Still, Penrod praised Weigel’s experience in his letter.
Our Office is looking forward to working with you in your new role as the Commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation,” the letter began. “Your experience as a securities lawyer makes you supremely qualified to lead OFR.”
Here is the letter from Patronis’ office: