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MetLife, Prudential Sued Over Handling Of Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits

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MetLife and Prudential are facing whistleblower lawsuits over how they handled unclaimed life insurance benefits. The lawsuit seeks over $1 billion in damages on behalf of Illinois State and was filed January 2011.

The lawsuit alleges that the insurance giants did not hand unclaimed life insurance policies to Illinois’ abandoned property department, said The Wall Street Journal. The lawsuit was just unsealed by a Cook County, Illinois state-court judge.

Life insurers are typically mandated to pay claims after receiving notification of policyholder’s death and a valid death certificate. If a beneficiary does not claim a death benefit on his/her own, insurance companies can utilize the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master,” a database of all Americans who die. The database is meant to better ensure death benefits are paid to rightful beneficiaries.

While it is has long been known that insurance companies use the Death Master for other aspects of their business—such as to cease annuity payments when a recipient dies—insurers are also known to ignore database information when it comes to their having to pay out claims, noted NewsInferno

The plaintiff in this case, Total Asset Recovery Services LLC of Auburn Hills, Michigan, an investigative firm specializing in unclaimed-property searches, alleges that its use of public records and detective work led it to find that from 1988 to 2010, MetLife and Prudential neglected to transfer 4,766 policies valued at $524.3 million to Illinois, and that both insurers “knew or should have known” these policies were overdue for transferring as abandoned property, explained The Journal. The lawsuit also alleged that MetLife and Prudential committed “massive fraud” by not transferring the policies.

MetLife told The Journal that the lawsuit “vastly overstates” the dollar figures on the policies involved and Prudential declined to comment; however both companies say they obey state unclaimed-property laws, exceeding contractual requirements in their policies and that they are cooperating with the investigations.

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