11 more Calif. insurers settle unclaimed property

Eleven more insurance companies that do business in California have agreed to settle claims involving failure to either pay death claims or escheat the money to the state.

The settlement with California comptroller John Chiang brings to 18 the number of insurers that have settled with the state over allegations of failure to pay death claims.

See also: How 10 states are handling unclaimed property

The companies involved in the latest settlements include:

  • Genworth;
  • Hartford;
  • ING;
  • New York Life;
  • Northwest Mutual;
  • Pacific Life;
  • Sammons (Midland and North American);  
  • Symetra;
  • TIAA-CREF;
  • Transamerica; and
  • Western & Southern.

Chiang said the latest settlement means that California has settled with insurance companies that write more than 50 percent of all the issued and active life insurance policies nationwide.

Chiang estimated that the settlements have an aggregate value of $266.7 million belonging to California beneficiaries, and an estimated $2.4 billion nationally.

See also: Scrounging for Dollars

The American Council of Life Insurance immediately issued a statement that contended that, “The fact is, the vast majority of claims made for benefits are paid promptly – in the normal course of business.”

The statement said that unclaimed life insurance benefits represent a very small percentage of total claims paid.

“But life insurers operating in California and throughout the nation know the percentages represent real people and historically, if those consumers did not come forward, unpaid claims were and continue to be paid to the states as unclaimed property per the current state laws,” the statement said.

“Many companies are using new technology to take proactive measures to locate missing policyholders and the industry is working with regulators and lawmakers on new ways to help ensure all beneficiaries get the benefits they are due,” the ACLI statement said.

Like previous settlements, the agreements announced today require the companies to:

  • Restore the full value of all impacted accounts dating back to 1995;
  • Fully comply with California’s unclaimed property laws and cooperate with Chiang’s efforts to reunite these death benefits, annuity contracts and retained asset accounts with their owners or, in many cases, the owners’ heirs;
  • Pay the policy beneficiaries 3 percent compounded interest on the value of the held amounts from 1995, or from the date of the owner’s death, whichever is later;
  • Adopt business procedures to ensure full compliance with the unclaimed property laws in order to protect policyholders and their families.

These latest multistate settlements are worth up to $763 million nationwide, with up to $86.7 million going to California beneficiaries,” Chiang said.

Last month, Chiang sued American National Insurance Company, Galveston, Texas, for allegedly stonewalling providing the state access to all its records.

Chiang settled with John Hancock Insurance Company in 2011, and there have been nationwide settlements involving 20 or more states with six large insurers.

And, starting last September, West Virginia has filed suit against 69 insurers involving alleged noncompliance with unclaimed property laws. One of those suits has been dismissed; the others are pending.

Recently, the John Hancock Companies were hit with a class action lawsuit regarding their life insurance death benefit payments policy.

And, Verus Consulting Group LLC is conducting audits in 45 states regarding compliance with unclaimed property laws, and Xerox Unclaimed Property Clearinghouse is conducting audits for California.

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