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CA Department of Insurance

Two major insurers agree to Death Master File settlements totaling $600,000

News: 2017 Press Release

For Release: December 20, 2017
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Two major insurers agree to Death Master File settlements totaling $600,000

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today announced two multistate settlement agreements with State Farm and Aflac, as both agreed to use the Social Security Death Master File database to identify life insurance policyholders who have died and to also search for and pay benefits to their beneficiaries. State Farm agreed to a settlement of $250,000 and Aflac agreed to a settlement of $350,000.

"State Farm and Aflac have stepped up and done the right thing for policyholders," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "I urge other life insurers to follow the lead of the 30 other companies that have agreed to change their practices to benefit their policyholders and to use the Death Master File database to search for life insurance policyholders."

Insurance Commissioners for California, North Dakota, Florida, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania have led the national investigation into life insurers' use of the Social Security Administration's Death Master File database, which came about after it was discovered life insurers used the database to their benefit to identify deceased annuity holders, so they could stop making payments to them, but failed to use the database to identify deceased policyholders so that benefit could be paid to their beneficiaries. The practice violated California's Unfair Insurance Practices Act and similar laws in other states.

To date, state insurance regulators have either reached settlements or concluded the investigation of 30 of the top 40 companies, constituting 80 percent of the total life insurance market, based on market share. As a result life insurers have paid over $8.7 billion to life insurance beneficiaries nationwide and more than $890 million to California beneficiaries, alone.

To amplify efforts to match beneficiaries with life insurance policies, theCalifornia Department of Insurance and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' (NAIC) launched the Life Insurance Policy Locator which has matched 583 beneficiaries in California with lost or misplaced life insurance policies or annuities—totaling over $11 million returned to consumers. The NAIC reported 8,210 beneficiaries nationwide have been matched with $92.5 million since the tool's launch last November.

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Media Note:

Efforts continue to be focused on the examination of the remaining 10 insurers: Northwestern Mutual, Great West, Protective Life, American Equity, Principle Financial, Allstate, Western Southern, OneAmerica, Ohio National, and American National. The top 40 insurers are based on 2010 NAIC Annual Reports for Direct Life, Annuity and Other Considerations.

The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $310 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance website at Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.4357. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

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