For Release: November 9, 1999
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER QUACKENBUSH TO SUBPOENA COMPANIES TO DECEMBER HEARINGS TO INVESTIGATE EFFORTS TO RESOLVE UNPAID HOLOCAUST-ERA INSURANCE ISSUES
Demands upaid policy lists as "vital to our efforts to link up survivors and heirs with the documents necessary to help verify a claim -- and get that claim paid"
LOS ANGELES – On the 61st anniversary of Kristallnacht, Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush today announced that he will be conducting in early December two separate hearings to investigate insurance company readiness to comply with California’s Holocaust Registry law. The hearings will be held at the Department on Insurance Offices on December 1, 1999, in Los Angeles and December 2, 1999, in San Francisco.
"The time for company excuse making and obfuscation is over. We will move here in California with maximum speed to make clear to insurance companies the absolute importance of putting forward their lists. That has been my philosophy all along, and I am pleased to have additional support on the issue in the form of a California law signed by Governor Davis (AB 600, Knox) that mandates the production of such lists by companies," said Commissioner Quackenbush.
The Department of Insurance is charged with promulgating regulations to implement AB 600, which was passed as an urgency measure by the Legislature. Prior to the passage of this legislation, Commissioner Quackenbush has been aggressive in his pursuit of lists of policies held by insurance companies -- enlisting a research firm to scour archives throughout Europe and continually lobbying the companies in the International Commission on Holocaust-era Insurance Claims to produce their lists.
"We will be issuing subpoenas to a number of companies beginning next week, including those in the International Commission, so that we can gauge exactly where they are, and intend to be, with respect to complying with California law. Those that believe they are not compelled to turn over their lists should understand now that they will not long be doing business in California should they maintain such a defiant position," said Commissioner Quackenbush.
Commissioner Quackenbush made his announcement at a press conference at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, after having met with the California Holocaust Settlement Alliance – a group formed to support the efforts of the Department of Insurance to provide restitution to Holocaust survivors and heirs.
The meeting of the Alliance and the timing of the press conference held special symbolic importance due to the horrific events which transpired on Kristallnacht, "The Night of Broken Glass." During Kristallnacht, Nazi soldiers looted and burned more than 200 synagogues and Jewish businesses, resulting in many brutal murders and the arrests of 35,000 Jews.
Commissioner Quackenbush introduced Dorrit St. John – a Holocaust survivor who shared her story of survival and vigilance. As a small child, Ms. St. John witnessed the destruction of her father’s business on November 9, 1938 – Kristallnacht.
While she had been told by her father that he had insurance policies, she had no specific information. Upon learning of the efforts of the Insurance Commissioner to help survivors, she contacted his office, and filled out a questionnaire.
"I had no documentation or direct information about the policies," said Ms. St. John, "however, I still hoped he might be able to help me. Under the direction of the Commissioner’s department, the Austrian Archives were researched. Then one day, I received a telephone call from his department telling me that they had found not one, but seven insurance policies which my father had."
"The story of Dorrit St. John is exactly the story I believe will be repeated thousands of times over once we have access to insurance company lists of unpaid policies. Only then, will thousands of survivors and heirs be able to determine whether their family had insurance coverage. That is why I will continue to demand that access, emphasizing again that companies will soon find the doors of business in California closed to them should they refuse compliance with our laws," said Commissioner Quackenbush.
Commissioner Quackenbush also announced that he soon will unveil an aggressive legislative package to put additional pressure on companies to honor their obligations to Holocaust survivors and heirs.
"I currently have this Department reviewing all options to pursue regulations to effect economic sanctions on companies that continue to stand on the sidelines and fail to enter into negotiations to resolve unpaid Holocaust-era insurance policies," said Commissioner Quackenbush.