Tri-State Press Release August 13, 1998:
The New York State Insurance Department
State of Florida Department of Insurance
FIRST EUROPEAN INSURER AGREES TO RESOLVE OUTSTANDING CLAIMS OF HOLOCAUST VICTIMS
Zurich Insurance Signs Memorandum of Understanding Establishing Historic International Commission
North Dakota Insurance Commissioner, Glenn Pomeroy, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) President and Chair of the NAIC International Holocaust Commission Task Force; New York Governor George E. Pataki; New York Superintendent of Insurance Neil D. Levin, Vice Chair of the NAIC International Holocaust Commission Task Force; California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush and Florida Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson today announced that the Zurich Insurance Company is the first European company to join state insurance regulators in signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU leads the way for the swift establishment of a historic International Commission.
The new Independent Commission will be charged with ensuring that unpaid claims of Holocaust victims are expeditiously paid. U.S. Senator Alfonse M. DAmato first proposed the idea of establishing an international commission at a Congressional hearing in February.
"Todays breakthrough is further evidence that our aggressive efforts in the fight to secure justice for Holocaust survivors and their heirs are paying off," Governor Pataki said. "The world is focused on recovering the assets of those who have been denied restitution for far too long, and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal until these families receive what is owed to them."
Senator Alfonse M. DAmato said, "It is rewarding to see how far weve come in our search for justice for Holocaust survivors and their heirs. Yesterday, I announced the historic $1.25 billion settlement with the Swiss banks. Todays commitment from Zurich to expeditiously resolve claims sends a strong message to other insurance companies and will go a long way in getting these outstanding claims paid once and for all. Now that the Swiss banks have made compensation, it is time for the insurance companies to do the same."
Superintendent Neil D. Levin said, "Todays announcement is a milestone in our efforts to hold insurance companies accountable to the thousands of Holocaust victims and their families. I am pleased that New York has helped bring together the 50 state insurance commissioners in the pursuit of long-overdue justice."
"Time is of the essence, and thats why weve been diligent in bringing the signing of this MOU to fruition," said Commissioner Quackenbush. "I expect that the other insurance companies weve been in negotiations with will follow Zurichs lead and lend their names to this MOU to quickly provide fair and long-overdue restitution for Holocaust victims and their heirs."
As outlined in the MOU, the International Commission will be comprised of 13 representatives and an appointed chairperson who will work to resolve all claims issues in two years.
The agreement comes as Florida, New York, California and 25 other states and municipalities were poised to begin imposing financial sanctions against Swiss interests. In Florida in recent weeks, Commissioner Nelson, in his capacity as State Treasurer, put the banks in question on notice that they would be banned from investment and other business in Florida -- absent a fair settlement in the class-action lawsuit.
"Florida was ready to yank the business with these Swiss banks by September, if a satisfactory settlement was not reached," Nelson said. "Now I will be talking with other state treasurers to see whether this settlement calls for any further action on our part."
Earlier this month, Nelson announced he was ending millions of dollars in state treasury business with these banks. Additionally, he asked the state panel that oversees investment of government employee pension funds to consider replacing any business with the banks, and he instructed the state-created insurance pool known as the JUA to drop these banks from its line of credit if there wasnt a fair settlement for the tens of thousands of Holocaust victims who deposited money in these banks as the Nazis gained power in Europe.
The MOU is the culmination of negotiations among the NAICs International Holocaust Commission Task Force, the World Jewish Restitution Organization and Zurich Insurance.
It is also the result of the April 8 Memorandum of Intent, which established the framework for the recovery of insurance assets by an independent International Commission.
By signing the MOU, Zurich agrees to the following:
- Cooperate fully with the International Commission to expeditiously resolve all unpaid claims;
- Provide full access to all of their relevant books, files, records and archives;
- Contribute to the establishment of a humanitarian fund; and
- Help pay for the investigation and audits by the Commission.