Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Florida Gov. Accused of Breaking Disclosure Laws

(CN) - Florida Gov. Rick Scott failed to report more than $200 million in assets on his state financial disclosure form, a violation of the Florida Constitution, a Democratic attorney general candidate claims in a lawsuit.

George Sheldon, a former deputy attorney general, is running against Republican Pam Bondi. But in a lawsuit filed in Leon County, Fla., just two and half weeks before Florida residents go to the polls, it's the state's Republican governor that Sheldon has in his cross-hairs.

Under the state constitution's Sunshine Amendment, candidates for governor "shall file full and public disclosure of their financial interests."

But Sheldon claims Scott, Florida's wealthiest governor ever, relied on a "web of complex financial arrangements" to hide his various financial interests from the public.

Scott is the former chairman and CEO of Columbia/HCA Health Corporation. After he resigned, he used the proceeds from his payout to form an investment company, Richard L. Scott Investments.

Sheldon alleges that based on publicly available documents, Scott's investment vehicles today appear to include at least six trusts as well as numerous other partnerships, funds and accounts with financial interests of at least $340 million. Yet his financial disclosure of June 16, 2014 reports a net worth of only $132.7 million.

Scott has filed similar disclosures annually since 2009, but since these disclosures do not include his network of trusts, partnerships, funds and accounts, it is impossible for voters to identify potential conflicts of interest between Scott's financial assets and his role as governor, Sheldon says.

Between 2007 and 2012, due to significant profits from successful investments, Scott and his wife have reported a combined income of more than $123 million. Yet the governor reports to Floridians a net worth that is only a fraction of this amount. The lawsuit claims Scott "discloses only what he chooses to disclose" and that "his reported net worth bounces wildly without explanation."

To illustrate his contention, Sheldon says: "In 2009, Rick Scott told Floridians he was worth $218.4 million. A year later he reported a net worth of $103 million. Then in 2011, he created an allegedly blind trust with a net worth of $82.9 million. In 2012, despite at least $25,000,000 in income this grew only slightly to $83.7 million. This year Scott reported a 2013 net worth of $132.7 million - a nearly 60 percent increase over the previous year."

Sheldon goes on to allege the governor has under-reported his financial interests, "the assets that he owns and controls."

"He reports one set of facts to the State of Florida and another set of facts to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Both cannot be true," Sheldon says.

The attorney general candidate says he filed the lawsuit to uncover the "full extent" of Scott's omissions in his financial filings with the state and to reveal what, if any, of Scott's financial interests conflict with his duties as governor.

Shelton seeks a declaration that Scott did indeed violate state law by filing deceptive financial disclosure statements, and an order compelling the governor to, "file the full and public disclosure as required by the Florida Constitution. "

In comments to reporters following him on the campaign trail, Scott defended his financial disclosure filing and blamed not Shelton for the lawsuit, but his Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race, former Gov. Charlie Crist.

"This is just pure Charlie Crist," Scott told reporters. That's what he does; he just attacks people."

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.