H. R. 890
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
March 2, 2011
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen (for herself and Mr. Deutch) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned
To allow for the enforcement of State disclosure laws and access to courts for covered Holocaust-era insurance policy claims.
This Act may be cited as the
Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act
Congress finds the following:
The Holocaust, an event in which millions of people endured enormous suffering through torture and other violence, including the murder of 6,000,000 Jews and millions of others, the destruction of families and communities, and the theft of their assets, was one of the most heinous crimes in human history.
Before and during World War II, millions of people purchased insurance policies to safeguard family assets, plan for retirement, provide for a dowry, or save for their children’s education.
When Holocaust survivors and heirs and beneficiaries of Holocaust victims presented claims to insurance companies after World War II, many were rejected because they did not have death certificates or physical possession of policy documents that had been confiscated by the Nazis or lost in the devastation of the Holocaust.
In many instances, insurance company records and records in government archives are the only proof of the existence of insurance policies belonging to Holocaust victims.
Holocaust survivors and heirs and beneficiaries of Holocaust victims have been attempting for decades to persuade insurance companies to settle unpaid insurance claims.
In 1998, the
International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (in this section
referred to as
ICHEIC) was established by the National
Association of Insurance Commissioners in cooperation with several European
insurance companies, European regulators, the Government of Israel, and
nongovernmental organizations with the promise that it would expeditiously
address the issue of unpaid insurance policies issued to Holocaust
On July 17, 2000,
the United States and Germany signed an executive agreement in support of the
Remembrance, Responsibility, and the Future,
which designated ICHEIC to resolve all Holocaust-era insurance policies issued
by German companies and their subsidiaries.
On January 17, 2001, the United States and Austria signed an executive agreement, which designated ICHEIC to resolve all Holocaust-era insurance policies issued by Austrian companies and their subsidiaries.
The ICHEIC process ended in 2007 and companies holding Holocaust-era insurance policies continue to withhold names of owners and beneficiaries of thousands of insurance policies sold to Jewish customers prior to World War II.
Experts estimate that only a small fraction of the policies estimated to have been sold to Jews living in Europe at the beginning of World War II have been paid through ICHEIC.
In American Insurance Association, Inc., v. Garamendi, the United States Supreme Court held that under the supremacy clause of the Constitution of the United States, executive agreements and executive foreign policy calling for insurance claims against German and Austrian companies to be handled within ICHEIC preempted State laws authorizing State insurance commissioners to subpoena company records and require publication of the names of Holocaust era policy holders.
In the Garamendi case, the Supreme Court stated that Congress, which has the power to regulate international commerce and prescribe Federal court jurisdiction, had not addressed disclosure and restitution of insurance policies of Holocaust victims.
Subsequent court decisions have dismissed Holocaust-era insurance claims brought against an Italian insurance company, even though there is no executive agreement between the United States and Italy.
Congress supports the rights of Holocaust survivors and the heirs and beneficiaries of Holocaust victims to obtain information from insurers and to bring legal actions in courts, wherever jurisdiction requirements are met, to recover unpaid funds from entities that participated in the theft of family insurance assets or the affiliates of such entities.
Congress intends for this Act to establish a Federal private right of action to allow Holocaust survivors and heirs and beneficiaries of victims to recover under their covered Holocaust-era insurance policies, and to allow for State causes of action and disclosure requirement laws regarding Holocaust-era insurance policies to be valid and not preempted.
This Act expresses the intent of Congress to deem valid State laws protecting the rights of Holocaust survivors and the heirs and beneficiaries of Holocaust victims to obtain information from insurers and to bring actions in courts of proper jurisdiction to recover unpaid funds from entities that participated in the theft of family insurance assets or the affiliates of such entities.
Insurance payments should be expedited to the victims of the most heinous crime of the 20th century to ensure that justice is served.
This Act will enable Holocaust survivors and heirs and beneficiaries of Holocaust victims to obtain compensation commensurate with the real monetary value of their losses.
Under the circumstances faced by Holocaust victims and their families, courts should be open to Holocaust survivors and heirs and beneficiaries of Holocaust victims for a reasonable number of years after the enactment of this Act, without regard to any other statutes of limitation.
Private right of action
Civil actions To recover under covered policies
Any person who purchased a covered policy, or a beneficiary or heir of such person, may bring a civil action, in the appropriate United States district court, against the insurer for the covered policy or a related company of the insurer, to recover proceeds due under the covered policy or otherwise to enforce any rights under the covered policy.
Nationwide Service of Process
For a civil action brought under subsection (a), process may be served in the judicial district where the case is brought or any other judicial district of the United States where the defendant may be found, resides, has an agent, or transacts business.
A court shall award to a prevailing beneficiary in a civil action brought under subsection (a)—
the amount of the proceeds due under the covered policy;
prejudgment interest on the amount described in clause (i) from the date the amount was due until the date of judgment, calculated at a rate of 6 percent per year, compounded annually; and
any other appropriate relief necessary to enforce rights under the covered policy.
Validity of State laws
Validity of laws creating cause of action
Any State law creating a cause of action against any insurer or related company based on a claim arising out of or related to a covered policy shall not be invalid or preempted by reason of any executive foreign policy described in subsection (d)(1) or any executive agreement described in subsection (d)(2).
Validity of laws requiring disclosure of information
Any State law that is enacted on or after March 1, 1998, and that requires an insurer doing business in that State, including any related company, to disclose information regarding any covered policy shall be deemed to be in effect on the date of the enactment of such law and shall not be invalid or preempted by reason of any executive foreign policy described in paragraph (1) of subsection (d) or any executive agreement described in paragraph (2) of subsection (d).
Executive agreements and executive foreign policy covered
Executive foreign policy
An executive foreign policy described in this paragraph is a foreign policy of the executive branch of the Federal Government established before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act.
An executive agreement described in this paragraph is an executive agreement between the United States and a foreign government entered into before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act.
Statements of interest
No funds may be used by the Department of State, or any other department or agency of the United States, for the purpose of issuing a statement of interest seeking to encourage a court in the United States to dismiss any claim or action brought to recover compensation arising out of or related to a covered policy.
Statute of limitations
A court may not dismiss a claim or action that is brought under section 3, or under subsection (a) or (b) of section 4, within 10 years after the date of the enactment of this Act on the ground that the claim or action is barred under any statute of limitations or the doctrine of laches.
This Act shall apply to any claim or action that is brought, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of this Act, under section 3, or under a State law described in subsection (a) or (b) of section 4, including—
any claim or action dismissed, before the date of the enactment of this Act, on the ground of executive preemption; and
any claim or action that is deemed released as a result of the settlement of a class action that was entered into before the date of the enactment of this Act, if the claimant did not receive any payment pursuant to the settlement.
Claims or actions not precluded on certain grounds
With respect to any claim or action brought under section 3, or under a State law described in subsection (a) or (b) of section 4, it shall not be a defense that the claim or action is or was precluded, barred, waived, discharged, or otherwise invalid under the doctrine of res judicata, collateral estoppel or any similar doctrine.
In this Act:
Appropriate congressional committees
congressional committees means the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the
House of Representatives, the Committee on Foreign Relations in the Senate, and
the Committees on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the
covered policy means any life,
dowry, education, property, or other insurance policy that—
was in effect at any time after January 30, 1933, and before December 31, 1945; and
was issued to a policyholder domiciled in any area that was occupied or controlled by Nazi Germany.
In this paragraph, the term
the Nazi government of Germany; and
any government in any area occupied by the military forces of the Nazi government of Germany.
insurer means any person engaged in the business of
insurance (including reinsurance) in interstate or foreign commerce, if the
person issued a covered policy, or a successor in interest to such
legislative days means those days on
which both Houses of Congress are in session.
related company means an
affiliate, as that term is defined in section 104(g) of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley
Act (15 U.S.C. 6701(g)).