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Panel Passes Holocaust Claims Bill

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Members of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee have passed H.R. 1746, the Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act, by a voice vote.

If enacted, the bill would help claimants get the money they are owed by insurers that sold insurance to individuals who were affected by the Holocaust, backers say.

The bill would require insurers to respond to inquiries concerning the existence of a policy within 90 days.

The bill also would require the New York State Holocaust Claims Processing Office to monitor company responses and report insurer compliance to Congress, and it would create a federal cause of action for any claim arising out of or related to a covered policy against any insurer.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Oversight Committee are sharing jurisdiction over the bill with the House Financial Services Committee.

The Foreign Affairs Committee already has passed a version of H.R. 1746.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, used an amendment to replace the Foreign Affairs Committee version with a substantially different version.

Frank removed a provision that would have required insurers that wish to do business in the United States to publish a list of Holocaust-era insurance policies.

Frank also made changes affecting the rights of some survivors to file suits.

Frank said he made the changes because some Holocaust survivors believed the earlier version of the bill would interfere with existing victim compensation efforts.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., the highest ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, supported the Frank amendment.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who sits on the House Oversight Committee, succeeded at adding stronger penalty provisions to the bill.

Sherman said he hopes H.R. 1746 will be a “useful model” for a bill he plans to introduce in 2009 that would help victims of the Armenian Genocide with their claims against insurers.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., has issued a statement supporting H.R. 1746.


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