Three more life insurance companies that owed unpaid claims to policy beneficiaries have settled with the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
That brings to nine the number of companies out of 16 examined that have agreed to pay $143 million to beneficiaries. An additional $31 million owed to people who cannot be located will go into the state unclaimed property fund.
The latest settlements are with AXA Equitable Life Insurance, Jackson National Life Insurance and New York Life.
The nine insurers also have made $12.6 million in settlement payments to the state. The policies are worth thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to an unspecified number of Minnesotans.
During so-called "market conduct" exams several years ago, state insurance examiners from Minnesota and other states, who are collaborating, noted that insurers were using a "death master file" maintained by the U.S. Social Security Administration to halt annuity payments to clients who had died. However, Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said it was clear that some insurers were not taking sufficient measures to identify and contact beneficiaries for payment when they also discovered that an insured person had died.
"They made the argument that unless there was a claim they weren't obligated to pay," Rothman said in advance of an announcement to be made on Tuesday. "We began an investigation. Under the settlements, these life insurance companies must honor their payment obligations to our consumers."
The first company to settle with Minnesota was Prudential in 2013.
The insurers generally have taken the position that they were doing nothing wrong and that they welcomed the inquiries by Minnesota and other states and that they would expedite efforts to find beneficiaries.
"It's also a reminder to consumers in Minnesota to make sure their life insurance companies have up-to-date information themselves and their beneficiaries," Rothman said. "Many people are never told they are named beneficiaries. Even children. They sometimes have no idea of the policy or that they are entitled to make a claim. Talk to your loved ones."
Those who believe they are owed money by the most recent insurers to settle should have identifying information, including policy numbers and their Social Security number. The companies are: AXA Equitable Life, 888-292-4636; Jackson National, 800-565-9044; New York Life, 866-695-0796.
At the end of last year, the total amount of insurance proceeds and other money owed to Minnesotans had grown to $706 million. Commerce safeguards the funds until claimed by rightful owners. The database is at www.missingmoney.com.
And consumers can contact Commerce at www.mn.gov/commerce, or 651-539-1600, or 800-657-3602.