NU Online News Service, June 23, 2003, 5:35 p.m. EDT — Washington
The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a California law requiring insurance companies doing business in the state to disclose claims payment information and other information relating to Holocaust-era insurance policies.
In a 5-4 decision, the high court has ruled that the California law, called the Holocaust Victim Insurance Relief Act, interferes with the conduct of foreign policy by the president of the United States and thus is preempted.
The court says the White House has negotiated executive agreements with Germany, Austria and France aimed at resolving controversies surrounding Holocaust-era insurance policies that rely on voluntary settlement funds and disclosure of policy information.
However, the court says, HVIRA takes a different approach by threatening to revoke the license of any insurance company that does not follow the law’s disclosure requirements.
This undercuts the White House’s diplomatic discretion, the court says in an opinion written by Justice David Souter.
In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argues that HVIRA responds to the long-frustrated efforts of Holocaust victims and their descendents to collect unpaid insurance proceeds.
The federal government has become more active in this area recently, undertaking foreign policy initiatives aimed at resolving these claims, Ginsburg writes.
While the federal approach differs from California’s approach, Ginsburg writes, no executive agreement or other formal expression of foreign policy disapproves of state laws like HVIRA.
Absent such a statement, she says, the California law should stand.