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Calif. insurance department, insurer groups reach settlement on Iran investments

Calif. insurance department, insurer groups reach settlement on Iran investments

SACRAMENTO—The California Department of Insurance and five insurer trade groups have settled litigation concerning efforts to curtail insurer investments in companies doing business in Iran, said state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

According to a statement released Friday by the insurance department, the settlement permits the insurance commissioner to maintain a public list of businesses involved in volatile sectors of the Iranian economy.

“As their financial statements already contain this information, insurers will no longer be required to file quarterly reports regarding their Iran-related investment activities nor will such investments be disallowed for purposes of determining financial solvency of the insurers,” said the department in a statement.

It noted that the settlement allow the commissioner to independently review and publicize the names of insurers with investments in Iran-related business.

The dispute dates back to 2010, when then-Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner sought to penalize insurers with ties to companies that did business with Iran. A group of five insurer trade organizations filed a petition with the California Office of Administrative Law, alleging that Mr. Poizner's actions were illegal.

The five trade associations are the American Council of Life Insurers, the American Insurance Assn., the Assn. of California Insurance Companies, the Assn. of California Life & Health Insurance Cos. and the Personal Insurance Federation of California.

In October 2010 in a nonbinding ruling, the Office of Administrative Law agreed with the insurers that Mr. Poizner had not followed proper procedures.

Mr. Poizner challenged the ruling. The settlement means Commissioner Jones will withdraw the lawsuit.

Both sides in the dispute hailed the settlement of the matter.

“The resolution of this litigation is an important step forward for our efforts to make sure that the public, insurers and investors are aware of companies doing business in the nuclear, military and energy sectors of Iran's economy, particularly in light of the growing nuclear threat posed by Iran,” said Mr. Jones in a statement. “The settlement preserves the department's ability to collect and publish information about insurer investments in companies doing business in Iran, while addressing issues raised about alleged conflicts with federal and state law.”

“The five insurance trade associations that were named ‘real parties of interest' are pleased that this issue has been amicably resolved under the current leadership of the California Department of Insurance,” said the trade associations in a joint statement. “We continue to emphasize that these investments are legal under both state and federal law. We also believe supervision of insurers' lawful foreign investments must remain uniform and is best administered at the federal level so that the United States can effectively respond to international challenges.”

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