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Fighting For Survivors

Fighting For Survivors

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is offering to search the state’s unclaimed funds account to see if any of its nearly $12 billion belongs to Holocaust survivors or their heirs.

The money was in accounts that were turned over to the state by banks, brokerages and other financial institutions after years of inactivity. Some life insurance companies also turned over death benefits when they were unable to find the beneficiary.

DiNapoli’s offer comes at a time when Holocaust survivors continue to seek justice from European insurance companies they claim have refused to pay as much as $20 billion from Holocaust-era life insurance policies. An attempt by a specially created commission 15 years ago failed to resolve all but a handful of claims, and survivors have been thwarted in their attempts to sue insurance companies or to get Congress to enact legislation permitting them to sue.

In agreeing to help the survivors search the unclaimed funds account, DiNapoli said he hopes to reunite survivors and their heirs “with unclaimed funds that are rightfully theirs.” Bobby Brown, director of Project HEART, to which DiNapoli extended his offer, said he also plans to ask DiNapoli for his help in getting European life insurance companies to pay the death benefits of those killed by the Nazis.

State Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, chair of the Assembly Committee on Insurance, said he plans to develop legislation that would compel European insurance companies to pay all Holocaust-era death benefits.

We welcome these and other initiatives that have recently been suggested. With survivors now in their 80s and 90s, it is imperative that all outstanding Holocaust-era insurance claims be resolved now. And it is fitting that New York State, which led the way in securing a negotiated settlement over Holocaust-era claims with Swiss banks, should be in the forefront of trying to resolve the insurance issue.

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