Dutch move could end Transamerica boycott

Potentially ending a boycott against S.F.-based Transamerica, the Dutch Association of Insurers has submitted a proposal to join an international commission looking into Holocaust-era insurance claims.

The commission's chairman, former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, must first accept the proposal. But if he does, the World Jewish Congress is expected to call off its boycott of Transamerica, which is owned by Dutch insurance giant Aegon.

"We have moved from confrontation to cooperation," Elan Steinberg, the WJC executive director, told Reuters on Wednesday.

"The director has advised us that he is recommending that they join and we welcome this development," added Steinberg, who didn't immediately comment on the boycott.

The Dutch Association of Insurers includes three of Holland's biggest firms, Aegon, ING and Fortis.

Eric Fischer, the association's president, met Tuesday night with the WJC and gave Steinberg a copy of the proposal to Eagleburger, dated March 24.

The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims has been trying to get Aegon, ING and Fortis to join for some time. Meanwhile, the companies had been seeking recognition for a Dutch settlement program in which they already are participating.

By joining, companies submit themselves to an investigation of their Holocaust-era dealings and are expected to turn over policyholder lists to the commission, which in turn will work to get payment on any unpaid claims.

This week, the Dutch insurance group also turned over to California the names of 1,000 policyholders from the Holocaust era who might have unpaid claims.

California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush praised Aegon, ING and Fortis for their continued cooperation in California.

"Once again, the Dutch companies have demonstrated a remarkable moral commitment to assist the effort to provide restitution of insurance policies to Holocaust survivors and the heirs and beneficiaries of victims," Quackenbush said Tuesday in a statement.

"These actions truly serve as a model that other companies would do well to emulate."

The list submitted by the Dutch association will be put on the California Department of Insurance's Web site at www.insurance.ca.gov

Those names will eventually be posted on the international commission's Web site as well, where there are already 10,000 names of people who are owed money for unpaid claims, Steinberg said. That site is at www.icheic.org

Meanwhile, California is still butting heads with two German insurance companies, Munich Reinsurance and Gerling. The state's next meeting with each company is scheduled to be in a court of law.

At a hearing scheduled for May 14 in Superior Court, the state will ask a judge to enforce a previous subpoena against Munich Re and to restate that California has jurisdiction over the company.

At a hearing tentatively scheduled for May 24, a U.S. District Court judge will hear arguments from Gerling, which is seeking to escape the probe of California investigators. The company has filed a motion to dismiss.

Dan Edwards, the state's deputy insurance commissioner, said recently that Gerling is trying to paint a picture that it knows of no outstanding Holocaust-era claims.

"They are laying down a paper trail of denial," he said.

Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr was J.’s managing editor and Hardly Strictly Bagels columnist until he retired in 2016 to travel and live abroad. He and his wife have a home base in Mexico, where he continues his dalliance with Jewish journalism.