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H.R.890 - Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act of 2011
To allow for the enforcement of State disclosure laws and access to courts for covered Holocaust-era insurance policy claims.
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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 concernedCommentsClose CommentsPermalink
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
(1) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(2) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(3) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(4) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(5) Holocaust survivors and heirs and beneficiaries of Holocaust victims have been attempting for decades to persuade insurance companies to settle unpaid insurance claims.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(6) 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 victims.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(7) On July 17, 2000, the United States and Germany signed an executive agreement in support of the German Foundation ‘Remembrance, Responsibility, and the Future’, which designated ICHEIC to resolve all Holocaust-era insurance policies issued by German companies and their subsidiaries.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(8) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(9) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(10) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(11) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(12) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(13) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(14) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(15) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(16) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(18) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(19) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
SEC. 3. PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION.
(a) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(b) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(2) 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; andCommentsClose CommentsPermalink
SEC. 4. VALIDITY OF STATE LAWS.
(a) 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).CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(b) 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).CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(1) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(2) EXECUTIVE AGREEMENTS- 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(d) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
SEC. 5. 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
SEC. 6. APPLICABILITY.
(a) In General- 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--CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(2) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(b) 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.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
SEC. 7. DEFINITIONS.
(1) APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES- The term ‘appropriate 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 Senate.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(3) INSURER- The term ‘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 person.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink