United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York,
Chief Judge Edward R. Korman Presiding (CV-96-4849)

 
 
Insurance Claims
 

Insurance Claims-Frequently Asked Questions

(An updated version of "Insurance Claims-Frequently Asked Questions," including information about the 2005 List of Published Names of Holocaust-Era Insurance Policyholders and the related claim opportunity will be available shortly on this page. Please check this website periodically for updates.)

This section answers questions that claimants may have about the Insurance Claims Process for claims concerning WWII-era insurance policies issued to Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution by certain Swiss insurance companies that are Releasees under the Settlement. It also provides answers to frequently asked questions about the filing of claims.

A. BACKGROUND

1. What is the Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation?

(For the judgment concerning the Holocaust Victims Asset Litigation, see www.swissbankclaims.com)

In late 1996 and early 1997, a series of class action law suits were filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York against certain Swiss banks, alleging that the Swiss banks collaborated with and aided the Nazi Regime by knowingly retaining and concealing assets of Holocaust Victims and by accepting and laundering illegally obtained Nazi loot and profits of slave labor. In the course of these lawsuits, the parties commenced settlement discussions.

In August 1998, the parties reached an agreement to settle the lawsuits for US $1.25 billion that was signed on January 26, 1999 ("Global Settlement"). In exchange for the settlement amount paid by the Swiss banks ("Settlement Fund"), the plaintiffs and class members agreed to release and forever discharge the Swiss banks, the Swiss Government, and Swiss industry from, among other things, any and all claims relating to the Holocaust, the Second World War, and its prelude and aftermath.

The Settlement then was amended to provide for an Insurance Claims Process for claims concerning WWII-era insurance policies issued to Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution by certain Swiss insurance companies that are Releasees under the Global Settlement.

On August 9, 2000, the presiding Judge, Edward R. Korman determined that the proposed settlement of the class action, including the Amendment providing for the Insurance Claims Process, was fair, reasonable and adequate and granted it final approval.

2. What insurance claims are covered and released by the Settlement?

The Settlement provides a mechanism to resolve claims relating to direct insurance policies or guarantees ("Policies") issued by Participating Insurance Carriers to Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution under which a policyholder, beneficiary, or heir is entitled to payment ("Policy Claims") or that were looted by the Nazi Regime ("Looted Asset Claims").

The Participating Insurance Carriers are members of the Swiss Life Group and the Swiss Re Group that may have issued Policies to Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution and are listed in Exhibit 1, which can be viewed by clicking here. European affiliates of Swiss Life Group and Swiss Re Group that are not believed to have issued such policies are listed on Exhibit 1A, which can be viewed by clicking here. All of the companies listed on Exhibits 1 and 1A are Releasees under the Settlement.

3. What funds will be used to pay Policy Claims?

A total of $50 million, split between the Participating Insurance Carriers and the Settlement, will be available to satisfy Policy Claims. The Participating Insurance Carriers will pay half of each valid Policy Claim (up to an aggregate of $25 million), and the other half will be paid from the $1.25 billion Settlement amount. Based on a careful analysis of the available information, the parties believe that the $50 million amount should be adequate to cover all valid Policy Claims. In the unlikely event that the sum of all valid Policy Claims exceeds $50 million, the excess may be paid from the $1.25 billion Settlement amount or the $50 million may be split pro rata among the valid Policy Claims.

4. Who will adjudicate Policy Claims and Looted Asset Claims?

In order to provide a fair, speedy, and equitable resolution of Policy Claims and insurance-related Looted Asset Claims, the Tribunal has been given authority to receive and adjudicate Policy Claims.

The Tribunal is an independent body established by ICEP in 1997. Initially, the Tribunal's mandate was to adjudicate claims of entitlement to approximately 5,570 foreign dormant accounts that had been published in two lists by the Swiss banks in 1997.

On December 8, 2000, Judge Korman appointed Mr. Paul Volcker and Mr. Michael Bradfield, for Chairman and Counsel, respectively, of the ICEP, as Special Masters, to organize and supervise the Tribunal.

5. What are the functions of the Tribunal?

The Tribunal's task is to process individual Policy Claims. In this regard, the Tribunal determines whether each particular claimant has plausibly demonstrated that the policyholder, beneficiary, or insured was a Victim or Target of Nazi Persecution and that the claimant should now be considered the rightful beneficiary.

The Tribunal then evaluates the validity of the claim based on whether there is documentary evidence that demonstrates that (a) a Participating Insurance Carrier issued the Policy, and (b) the Policy has not already been paid to the policyholder, beneficiary, or rightful heir. In many instances where there is no evidence that a policy was paid, the policy will be treated as unpaid.

6. Why is the Tribunal located in Switzerland?

The Tribunal has its offices in Switzerland because that is where the many relevant documents are located.

7. Is the Tribunal a Swiss Tribunal?<

No. The Tribunal is an international tribunal. Its Claims Judges and staff are from many different countries all over the world.

B. FILING REQUIREMENTS

8. Who can file a claim with the Tribunal?

If you believe that you or a relative is the rightful beneficiary (including heirs of rightful beneficiaries) of a WWII-era Policy, and the policyholder, beneficiary, or insured was a Victim or Target of Nazi Persecution, then the Tribunal has the authority to consider your claim.

9. Who does the Tribunal consider to be a Victim or Target of Nazi Persecution?

A Victim or Target of Nazi Persecution is defined as any person who was persecuted or targeted for persecution by the Nazi regime because he or she was or was believed to be Jewish, Romani, Jehovah's Witness, homosexual, or physically or mentally disabled or handicapped.

10. Where can I file a claim?

Insurance Claims Registration Office
Claims Resolution Tribunal
P.O. Box 9259
Garden City, New York 11530-9259

11. Where can I obtain copies of the Insurance Policy Claims Form in different languages?

To make a claim, claimants must complete an Insurance Policy Claims Form and submit it to the Tribunal. Claims Forms may be photocopied. They may also be obtained in any of the Tribunal's five working languages by calling the appropriate number that you may obtain by clicking here, or by downloading a copy of the claim form from this web site by clicking here. Detailed instructions are printed on the face of the Claims Form.

12. Why is the Insurance Policy Claims Form so long?

The Claims Form is necessarily a complicated document. It is complicated because it attempts to obtain a complete history of the insurance policy, and of claimant's relationship with the policyholder, as is now possible after more than 50 years. It is recognized that some of this information may no longer be obtainable. It is essential, however, for informed, fair and prompt decisions on claims by the Tribunal that all relevant available information be provided.

13. Does it cost anything to file a claim?

There is no fee for filing a claim or having the claim adjudicated by the Tribunal. However, the Tribunal will not reimburse claimants for any expenses they may incur in connection with filing a claim, such as expenses for conducting independent research or obtaining legal representation.

14. Do I need to hire a lawyer to help me with my claim?

It is not necessary to hire a lawyer. The Insurance Policy Claims Form is designed to help you provide the relevant information, and therefore you should fill it out carefully and completely. The Claims Judges who will adjudicate your claim will request additional information if they believe it is necessary.

15. What if I have questions about the Insurance Policy Claims Form or my claim?

First, please read the instructions on the Insurance Policy Claims Form. They have been designed to explain to you what is required in each and every question. If you have further questions with regard to your claim or the Claims Form, to obtain help please refer to the list of assistance organizations and their telephone numbers by clicking on Volunteer Assistance Organizations.

16. Can I file a claim on behalf of other family members?

Yes. Should you wish to file a claim on behalf of other family members, each family member whom you are representing must sign the Claims Form in the spaces provided.

17. What if I have already submitted an insurance claim elsewhere?

Although we appreciate that it will require additional effort on your part, even if you have submitted an insurance claim elsewhere, you should still fill out and return the attached Insurance Policy Claims Form.

18. Will I need to attend a hearing in person?

No, the proceedings are conducted in writing. If the Tribunal needs further information, you will be contacted either by telephone or in writing.

19. In what language must I complete the Insurance Policy Claims Form?

The Tribunal adjudicates claims in five different languages: English, Hebrew, French, Spanish and German. The Tribunal cannot process your claim unless the claim form is filled out in one of these languages. However, please note that supporting documents may be submitted in their original language.

20. What types of documents are important to submit in support of my claim?

The Tribunal understands that due to the circumstances surrounding the Second World War many documents are no longer available. However, if available, you should submit copies of any documents that would help the Claims Judges to determine your relationship to the policyholder, beneficiary, or insured and/or your entitlement to the proceeds of the Policy, for example, policies, receipts for premiums paid, passport or other identifying documents; birth certificates; death certificates; marriage certificates; correspondence such as postcards, letters, or business correspondence containing the policyholder's signature; wills; testamentary or probate documents; and certificates of inheritance. Please do not send originals.

21. How will I know whether the Tribunal has received my claim?

The Tribunal will acknowledge receipt of your claim. Because the Tribunal will be receiving large numbers of claims, please be aware that there may be a period of time before you are contacted about your claim.

22. What is the deadline for filing a claim?

The deadline for submitting an Insurance Policy Claims Form is September 30, 2001. Please note that in the interest of a speedy resolution of all cases, claims received after the deadline can no longer be treated by the Tribunal.

23. What should I do if I do not want to be included in insurance provisions of Amendment No. 2 to the Settlement?

You have the right to exclude yourself just from the insurance provisions of Amendment No. 2 to the Settlement. If you want to participate in the insurance claims process, you must not submit an exclusion request and you must submit a Claims Form. If you do not want to participate in the insurance claims process, you must individually and personally request to be excluded in writing by August 5, 2001. To request the exclusion, you must write a letter that states (1) the name of this Litigation (Swiss Banks), (2) your name, (3) your address, (4) and that you do not want to participate in the insurance provisions of Amendment No. 2 to the Settlement. The exclusion request must be signed by you personally and mailed to:

Insurance Claims Registration Office
Claims Resolution Tribunal
P.O. Box 9259
Garden City, New York 11530-9259

A request to be excluded from the insurance provisions of Amendment No. 2 will not constitute a request to be excluded from any other aspects of the Settlement (the deadline for requesting an exclusion from other aspects of the Settlement has already expired) and will not affect your right to participate in other aspects of the Settlement.

No request for exclusion will be considered valid unless all the information described above is included and the request is postmarked by August 5, 2001.

As long as you do not submit a written request for exclusion, you will be bound by the insurance provisions of Amendment No. 2 to the Settlement, regardless of whether you make a claim or receive a distribution from the Settlement Fund. If you request exclusion from the insurance provisions of Amendment No. 2 to the Settlement, you will not be eligible to receive compensation under those provisions. If you validly request exclusion from the insurance provisions of Amendment No. 2 to the Settlement, you will not be precluded from otherwise prosecuting a claim, if timely, against the Participating Insurance Carriers, based on any Policy Claim or Looted Assets Claim.

C. ISSUES RELATING TO ADJUDICATION OF CLAIMS

24. How will my insurance claim be processed and evaluated under the Settlement?

The Tribunal will process insurance claims in accordance with Amendment No. 2 to the Settlement.

At the start of the process, claims that are on their face not eligible for compensation under the Settlement will be identified. If a Claims Form is not filled out properly, the claimant will receive a telephone call or other contact requesting the necessary information or clarification so that the claim may proceed. Next, the relevant Participating Insurance Carriers will search their files, at their own expense, for any documents related to a claim. The official Swiss insurance supervisory authority will monitor the search process to ensure that the Participating Insurance Carriers are in compliance with their search obligations.

The Participating Insurance Carriers will provide the documents they find concerning Policy Claims to the Tribunal, which will use them to evaluate claims. The Participating Insurance Carriers will submit claims and documents concerning policies sold by non-Swiss affiliates and branches, and policies that were looted by the Nazis, to the appropriate national foundation initiative, e.g., German policies to the German Foundation Initiative, "Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future," for such foundations to use to resolve claims concerning those policies.

The CRT will evaluate the validity of the remaining claims based on whether the claimant is entitled to the proceeds of the policy and whether there is documentary evidence that demonstrates that (a) a Participating Insurance Carrier issued the Policy, and (b) the Policy has not already been paid to the policyholder, beneficiary, or rightful heir. In many instances where there is no evidence that a policy was paid, the policy will be treated as unpaid.

Policy Claims found valid will be paid at either (a) the net cash surrender value, which is the policy value adjusted to reflect the amount for which the policy could have been redeemed at the relevant time, increased to today's value by a reasonable multiple, or (b) in cases in which the insured perished in the Holocaust, the death benefit, which is greater than the net cash surrender value, increased to today's value by a reasonable multiple. If there is no evidence of policy value, claimants still will receive the estimated net cash surrender value or the death benefit, which will be calculated by reference to comparable policies issued during the relevant time frame.

25. On which issues will the Tribunal focus?

The Tribunal will focus on whether there is documentary evidence that demonstrates that (a) a Participating Insurance Carrier issued the Policy, and (b) the Policy has not already been paid to the policyholder, beneficiary, or rightful heir. In many instances where there is no evidence that a policy was paid, the policy will be treated as unpaid.

The mere fact that you or your relative and the policyholder have the same or a similar last name is not enough, by itself, to support a claim.

26. What if the insurance company that issued the Policy for which I am claiming is not on the list of Participating Insurance Carriers?

Only Policies issued by Participating Insurance Carriers 1, or by affiliates of Participating Insurance Carriers are eligible for resolution through the Swiss Settlement insurance claims process. If the company that issued the Policy is not on these lists, your claim may be eligible for resolution through the ICHEIC or the German Foundation Initiation.

27. What if I do not know the name of the insurance company that issued my Policy?

If you do not know what company issued the Policy for which you are claiming, but you think it may have been a Participating Insurance Carrier, please provide the basis on your Claims Form to determine which of the Participating Insurance Carriers will search for evidence of your Policy.

28. What if I believe I am entitled to the proceeds of a Policy, but the policyholder, beneficiary and insured were not Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution?

The Tribunal's jurisdiction is limited to the adjudication of claims to Policies as which the policyholder, beneficiary, or insured were Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution. Hence, the Tribunal does not have the authority to treat claims to other Policies.

29. Will a list of policyholders be published?

On or before July 15, 2001, the Court may recommend that some or all of the Participating Insurance Carriers publish a list of names of holders of policies subject to Policy Claims or Looted Assets Claims. Based on the type of records currently available and the steps to be undertaken by the Participating Insurance Carriers, the parties do not anticipate the need for such publication. If the Court does recommend a publication, each Participating Insurance Carrier has the option of withdrawing from the insurance provisions of Amendment No. 2 to the Settlement Agreement and of forgoing the benefits thereof.

30. How will the Tribunal determine if my relative and the policyholder, beneficiary, or insured are the same person?

When a claimant files a claim to the proceeds of a Policy that the Tribunal determines to be admissible, the Tribunal will compare information provided by the claimant about the person he or she believes is a policyholder, beneficiary or insured with documents and information provided by the Participating Insurance Carriers to help the Tribunal make a determination and award.

31. If my claim is successful, will I get the full amount of the Policy Proceeds?

Awards will be based on the net cash surrender value of the policy, which is the policy value adjusted to reflect the amount for which the policy could have been redeemed at the relevant time, or death benefit of the policy, which is greater. Awards will be grossed-up to today's values.

The Participating Insurance Carriers will pay half of each valid Policy Claim (up to an aggregate of $25 million), and the other half will be paid from the $1.25 billion Settlement amount. Based on a careful analysis of the available information, the parties believe that the $50 million amount should be adequate to cover all valid Policy Claims. In the unlikely event that the sum of all valid Policy Claims exceeds $50 million, the excess may be paid from the $1.25 billion Settlement amount or the $50 million may be split pro rata among the valid Policy Claims.

32. If the Tribunal approves my claim, can I collect the money directly from the Participating Insurance Carrier?

No. The Global Settlement releases the Participating Insurance Carriers from claims of Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution and their heirs. Therefore, the Tribunal will not issue decisions enforceable against the Participating Insurance Carrier, but will issue Certificates of Validity redeemable for payment from an account funded from the Settlement Fund.

33. Do I have the right to appeal the Tribunal's decision about my claim?

Claimants whose claims are denied on the merits may appeal the decision within sixty days of receiving the decision, provided that they are able to identify an error in the earlier ruling or to provide relevant new evidence.