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New York State Imposes Fines on Aflac and Transamerica

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AFLAC Headquarters building in Columbus, Ga. (Photo: John Disney/ALM)

Two insurers agreed to pay close to $2.5 million in restitution and penalties on Monday for failing to provide information required by law to policyholders in New York state.

The American Family Life Assurance Co. of New York, or Aflac, and Transamerica Financial Life Insurance Co. violated more than a dozen of the state’s insurance laws and regulations between 2006 and 2014, the New York State Department of Financial Services said.

Monday’s action by the New York department was the second in as many weeks against life insurance companies that did not follow the state’s insurance regulations when contacting customers. Athene Life Insurance Co. and First Allmerica Financial Life Insurance Co. entered into similar agreements with the New York department last week after the agency found those companies did not communicate with their policyholders as required by law.

(Related: New York Regulators Impose $15 Million Fine Over Life Notice Problems)

Aflac’s violations involved both its communication with customers and its marketing practices.

The company’s agreement with the New York department listed several violations of the state’s laws and regulations from 2009 to 2011. The agreement said Aflac did not give potential customers information that’s required by law before an application for a policy is taken. That information is not detailed in the agreement.

Aflac also failed to mention in ads for policies with accelerated death benefits that receiving those benefits could affect someone’s eligibility for public assistance programs, the DFS said. It also left out that those benefits might be taxable.

The company also did not train its agents to follow the state’s regulations about replacement life insurance policies, the New York department said.

Aflac made restitution totaling $961,478 to New York consumers as part of the agreement. The company also paid a civil penalty of $176,890 to the agency.

The agreement with Transamerica detailed violations from 2006 to 2009 and 2010 to 2014.

During the first period, Transamerica failed to tell customers their policy was going to lapse and did not provide information on how to reinstate their coverage, the New York department said. Their disclosure form also did not tell customers that receipt of accelerated death benefits could affect their eligibility for public assistance.

More violations were documented during the second period. The company failed to tell policyholders when late premiums were due and what the consequences of not paying them would be during that time, according to the agreement. It also did not provide a timeline for policyholders to follow when those notices were sent.

Transamerica did not follow a number of other regulations as well, such as one that requires it to show that a policyholder received a completed notice and disclosure statement, the agreement said. It also did not file required policy forms with the New York department, the agency said.

Transamerica made restitution to policyholders of $582,436 as part of the agreement. The company will also pay a civil penalty of $762,700 and turn over $105,415 in unclaimed funds to the New York department .

Maria Vullo, superintendent of the New York department, said in a statement Monday that the agreement is another action by the agency to protect policyholders in New York.

“Consumers should be able to trust that their insurers are providing them with information that helps them make the best decision,” Vullo said. “DFS’s regulation protects the interest of the public by establishing minimum standards of conduct to be observed in the replacement or proposed replacement of life insurance policies.”

Representatives for Aflac and Transamerica did not immediately return requests for comment.

— Read New York State Fines Life Insurer Over Reinsurance Arrangement, on ThinkAdvisor.

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