WINFIELD, W.Va. -- State Treasurer John Perdue has filed 10 lawsuits in Putnam County Circuit Court to force insurance companies to comply with the state's unclaimed property act.
Perdue alleges the companies have failed to turn over unclaimed property to his office and instead have used the funds to generate profit for themselves.
The companies named in the lawsuits are Nationwide Life, American General Life and Accident Insurance, AXA Equitable Life Insurance, Prudential Insurance Company of America, Harford Life and Annuity Insurance, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, New York Life Insurance, Monumental Life Insurance, Metropolitan Life Insurance and Lincoln National Life Insurance.
According to the suits, the insurance companies have a wide variety of ways to determine whether a policyholder is deceased, such as the Social Security Administration's "Death Master File."
"Abandoned property in the form of life insurance proceeds becomes reportable and thus payable upon proof of death or three years after the insured would have attained the limiting age under the applicable mortality table. A reasonable exercise in good faith and fair dealing statutorily imposed upon defendant includes an annual examination of life insurance policy holders to determine if they are deceased or three years past the applicable limiting age making payment mandatory to the West Virginia Unclaimed Property Fund," the lawsuits state.
Perdue claims policy provisions allow the companies to use interest earned on unclaimed funds to continue to pay premiums.
He is asking for a court to order all unclaimed funds held by insurance companies to be turned over to his officer for handling.
Also, Perdue wants the court to have the companies pay a penalty of 25 percent of the unclaimed funds, or between $100-$1000 a day for each day the funds should've been paid but were not, the complaints state.
Timothy C. Bailey, a Charleston attorney with Bucci, Bailey & Javins, was appointed a special state assistant attorney general to file and handle the lawsuits.
Bailey wouldn't say why the lawsuits were filed in Putnam County. State Sen. Mike Hall, who is running against Perdue, lives there.
"I won't say why they were filed over there other than to say it had nothing to do with [the election]," he said.
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.