The U.S. Supreme Court last week struck down a California law requiring insurers doing business in the state to disclose claims payment and other information relating to Holocaust-era insurance policies.
In a 5-4 decision, the high court ruled that the California law–the Holocaust Victim Insurance Relief Act (HVIRA)–interferes with the conduct of foreign policy by the President of the United States and thus is preempted.
The court said 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 said, HVIRA takes a different approach by threatening to revoke the license of any insurance company that does not follow the laws disclosure requirements.
This undercuts the White Houses diplomatic discretion, the court said in an opinion written by Justice David Souter.
In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that HVIRA responds to the long-frustrated efforts of Holocaust victims and their descendents to collect unpaid insurance proceeds.
The federal government, she wrote, has become more active in this area recently, undertaking foreign policy initiatives aimed at resolving these claims.
While the federal approach differs from Californias approach, Ginsburg wrote, no executive agreement or other formal expression of foreign policy disapproves of state laws like HVIRA.
Absent such a statement, she said, the California law should stand.