Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced at a press conference April 17 that his office’s Web site would list the names of the American affiliates of those European companies that conducted business during the Holocaust, between 1933 and 1945.
Washington state’s Holocaust Victims Insurance Relief Act of 1999 states that insurance companies licensed to do business in Washington are required to provide the Office of the Insurance Commissioner with the names from policies in effect between 1933 and 1945 in Europe. February 2002 is the deadline for people to file a claim through the International Commission on Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC), created to facilitate the release of policyholder names from European companies.
“Time is quickly running out,” said Kreidler. “Even if we hit February 2002, this issue won’t go away.”
He said listing the insurance companies’ names will help people pinpoint the companies involved and he hopes it will encourage the companies to release the names of the policyholders. As of April 10, only 45,000 names had been released by the insurance companies, representing only 2 percent of the 270,000 claimants, said Kreidler.
“It’s long overdue to step up to the issue,” he said.
By posting the insurance companies, people will find out which companies are doing a good job at releasing names and which aren’t, said Kreidler.
“There should never be a statute of limitation on doing the right thing,” he said.
Washington state’s Holocaust Victims Insurance Relief Act of 1999 created a Holocaust Survivor Assistance Office to assist survivors and their families in making claims against insurance companies; created a Holocaust Insurance Company Registry containing records relating to insurance policies, families and other pertinent information about Washington state survivors; and waived the statute of limitations for insurance policies issued to Holocaust survivors and victims and enabled Holocaust survivors/victims to sue insurance companies for failure to address those claims.
About a month ago, Kreidler laid off Danny Kadden, one of two staff members running the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Office. A week before Kadden lost his job, Kreidler said it was possible he would have to spread the work of the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Office to other members of his staff if he was unable to find the funding to pay two staff members dedicated to the work. He said states like Pennsylvania, with much larger Jewish populations, do not have dedicated people to do this work.
A California law that is similar to Washington’s is presently being challenged in federal court. The outcome of that case could impact the way Washington enforces its law. Kreidler says the outcome of that case is still in doubt.
Washington State has 138 Holocaust-era insurance claimants. To date, only two of those claimants have been paid.
“We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but nothing’s happened so far,” said Kreidler. “This is an opportunity to set the record straight.”
Any policyholder who feels he or she has not been treated fairly by an insurance carrier may file a complaint with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner by calling 1-800-562-6900 or visiting the agency’s Web page at www.insurance.wa.gov.