Insurance hearings to begin

The companies are Assicurazioni Generali S.p.A. (U.S. branch), American Re-Insurance, Fireman's Fund, Fortis, Gerling American, Peerless, Providence Washington and Winterthur International American.

Quackenbush said earlier this month that the companies could be barred from selling policies in California — the nation's largest insurance market — if they refuse to honor the subpoenas.

The insurers also must certify they have searched for heirs of Holocaust policyholders and paid outstanding claims, according to a new law that takes effect April 6. It was approved unanimously by both the Assembly and Senate in September and signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis on Oct. 8.

If survivors cannot be found, the law states, the company must pay a comparable amount to a nonprofit group assisting Holocaust survivors.

About 20,000 Holocaust survivors live in California, Quackenbush said. This law is designed to help them, or the heirs of Holocaust victims, obtain policy payments that were never made.

As part of an international effort to force the companies to compensate survivors, several European-based insurers have set aside $100 million to pay claims and administrative costs, and an international commission has devised a formula for payments.

However, the international commission is moving at a slow pace, according to Quackenbush issued his own subpoenas. He was going to issue 15 subpoenas, but after making an announcement to that effect, many of the companies decided to be more cooperative, a spokeswoman said. The San Francisco hearing is slated for 10 a.m. Thursday at the California Department of Insurance, 45 Fremont St.