For Release: November 30, 1999
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER CHUCK QUACKENBUSH ANNOUNCES LANDMARK AGREEMENT WITH AEGON TO RESOLVE INSURANCE CLAIMS OF CALIFORNIA HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS
Agreement Includes Commitment by Aegon to Provide Holocaust-Era Policy Information, Submit Currently Owned and Predecessor Company Lists (Corporate Family Tree), and Establish Humanitarian Fund For California Survivors
SACRAMENTO -- On the eve of two hearings to investigate the readiness of insurance companies to comply with California's Holocaust Registry Law, Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush today executed an agreement with Aegon, a Dutch Insurance Company, which was hailed by members of the California Holocaust Settlement Alliance (CHSA) as "groundbreaking in terms of moral responsibility and corporate commitment to honoring claims of Holocaust survivors and the heirs and beneficiaries of Holocaust victims."
"What we have achieved here is remarkable - the first-ever agreement in the United States to comprehensively address the insurance restitution concerns of Holocaust survivors and the heirs and beneficiaries of Holocaust victims," said Commissioner Quackenbush.
The agreement signed today underscores Aegon's historical efforts to pay claims, as well as specific agreements with Commissioner Quackenbush to:
- Cooperate fully with the California Department of Insurance (CDI) in investigating any California resident's claim brought to its attention, by emphasizing that the parties to the agreement both commit to pay expeditiously any and all rightful insurance claims of any victim, beneficiary or heir of the World War II Holocaust that is currently a legal resident of the State of California.
- Work with the Dutch Holocaust Claims Foundation (Sjoa Foundation**) to obtain access to Holocaust-era policyholder information to fully comply with California's Holocaust Registry Law (AB 600, Knox).
- Provide a list -- within 60 days -- of currently held and predecessor Aegon companies (corporate family tree) that insured potential Holocaust victims.
- Facilitate CDI access to records and claims paying procedures to properly verify claims payment processes.
- Establish a Humanitarian Fund, exclusive of California Residents' claims payments, of $1.2 million to assist victims of the Holocaust who reside in California.
Jona Goldrich, a member and Chair of the Executive Advisory Group of CHSA and Governor Gray Davis' appointed Liaison on Holocaust Affairs, remarked that "this is the first time I have seen a company act not to hide information, deny responsibility, and pursue avenues to delay payments. Instead, Aegon has done just the opposite. And it's a wonderful attitude - one that I hope other companies will adopt and put into action with similar agreements here in California and for the benefit of survivors in other states."
The agreement further underscores that within five days of the notification of a California resident's claim, Aegon shall submit the claim to the Sjoa Foundation. Aegon also agrees to take all reasonable steps necessary to ensure that the California resident's claim is investigated and resolved properly. A copy of all documentation related to the resolution of any California resident's claim shall be provided to the CDI.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and also a member of the CHSA's Executive Advisory Group, praised the agreement, saying, "Commissioner Quackenbush has once again helped break new ground on this issue - setting up a model for other companies to follow. Holocaust survivors and their family members are fortunate to have, and are eternally thankful for his continued leadership. Moreover, Aegon's dedication to the work needed to overcome legal and other obstacles now stands in stark contrast to the inaction of many other companies that have chosen the path of obfuscation, legal wrangling and footdragging, rather than that of committing to an aggressive and transparent restitution program for survivors."
Aegon's agreement comes prior to two hearings Commissioner Quackenbush called on November 9, 1999, to "gauge exactly where they [insurance companies] are, and intend to be, with respect to complying with California law." The agreement reached with Aegon, which had previously volunteered to attend the hearings without need of being subpoenaed, now precludes Aegon from the need to testify as originally planned at the December 1, 1999, hearing in Los Angeles, and they will continue to work, as agreed, to make available the information as necessary to comply with existing Holocaust-related reporting obligations in California (California Holocaust Registry Law).
"Finally, a company has stepped forward and said 'yes' to the fundamental issues that will help resolve this issue - allowing needed access to verify policies, processes and claims payments," said Michael Hirschfeld, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Committee, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and also a member of the CHSA's Executive Advisory Group. "In addition, Aegon - which had a relatively small share of the market during the World War II era -- has made a welcome humanitarian commitment to address 'heirless' claims that are the result of entire families perishing in the Holocaust - a financial commitment that will be moved speedily to the benefit of California survivors."
**The Sjoa Foundation was established in Holland as a result of a cooperative effort between Dutch Jewish organizations and the Dutch Association of Insurers for purposes of investigating and resolving unpaid insurance claims of Holocaust-era victims submitted by persons worldwide.
WEDNESDAY, December 1, 1999, 10:00 a.m.
California Department of Insurance
300 South Spring Street
Ground Floor/North Tower
(Across from Credit Union)
Los Angeles, California
THURSDAY, December 2, 1999, 10:00 a.m.
California Department of Insurance
45 Fremont Street
22nd Floor Hearing Room
San Francisco, California