Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has resolved one suit linked to index annuities and filed a second index annuity suit.
A state court in Minneapolis has approved a settlement agreement for a suit Swanson filed against American Equity Investment Life Holding Company, West Des Moines, Iowa, in April 2007.
The state of Minnesota argued in the suit that American Equity sales representatives saddled some senior citizens with unsuitable annuity products and also misrepresented annuity products in some dealings with senior citizens.
The settlement agreement will create a new system for American Equity to review the suitability of deferred annuity sales to Minnesota consumers, and it also will create a system for handling claims filed by older consumers who believe they bought unsuitable American Equity annuity products, or American Equity annuity products that were misrepresented during the sales process, officials say.
The claim review process could enable 2,400 seniors to apply for about $125 million in refunds, officials say.
Consumers eligible to apply for a refund include those ages 65 or older who bought a deferred annuity from American Equity between Jan. 1, 2001, and the present.
“If it is determined that an American Equity deferred annuity sale was unsuitable or based on misrepresentations, American Equity will offer the consumer a refund of their premium, without surrender charges or penalties, plus 4.15% interest compounded annually,” officials say.
American Equity also has agreed to pay Minnesota $250,000.
American Equity issued a statement welcoming the settlement but emphasizing that it has not admitted any liability or acknowledged the validity of any claims that were asserted in Swanson’s suit.
“The settlement represents a business decision that will allow us to return our attention to our primary goals,” American Equity Chairman David Noble says in a statement. “The burdens of litigation are enormous, and we prefer to use our time and resources in furtherance of our efforts to provide superior products and excellent service.”
The suitability and claim review processes required by the settlement agreement “are similar to processes already in place at American Equity,” the company says.
In related news, Swanson says she has filed a suit in a Minneapolis state court against AmerUs Group Company Inc., Des Moines, and American Investors, affiliated companies in the indexed annuity market that have been acquired by Aviva P.L.C., London.
The state of Minnesota is alleging in the suit that some older Minnesota consumers bought annuities that were unsuitable or were misrepresented.
The state also is alleging that the companies sold annuities in Minnesota through living trust mills.
AmerUs and American Investors say they already have agreed to an annuity marketing consent order with the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
“We question why the Minnesota attorney general is pursuing matters that were already raised and resolved by the state of Minnesota,” AmerUs and American Investors say in a statement responding to the suit.
The companies offered to meet with Swanson and work out a resolution, but she “never accepted any of our offers to meet and discuss these matters,” the companies say.
The consent order shows AmerUs and American Investors already have taken steps to improve their compliance and suitability processes, the companies say.
“We require completed suitability forms from all our agents, in all states, for all policyholders regardless of age,” the companies say. “In many cases, our requirements exceed those required by the state in which the policy is issued…. Less than 1% of our customers have made complaints relating to our products, and we believe this speaks volumes about the importance we place on compliance.”