ANCA Reacts to New York Life Insurance Settlement

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) issued the following statement on the recently announced settlement of the New York Life Insurance case dealing with the return of Armenian Genocide-era assets:

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) applauds the efforts of Martin Marootian and the plaintiffs for leading the campaign to hold New York Life accountable–even if only in small measure–for failing to meet its obligations toward the policyholders who perished in the Armenian Genocide. This case and its outcome mark a significant milestone for the Armenian nation in that the lawsuit was the first of its kind to seek the return of Genocide-era assets long thought lost–denied–or forgotten.

To place this settlement in its proper context–it is important to note that–while the heirs and grandchildren of Genocide-era policy holders will now receive some portion of those funds–we should remember that those moneys were not available when these orphans of Genocide needed them the most. Instead–they were collecting interest in New York Life’s coffers and remained there for some 89 years until this action was taken. It is truly unfortunate that a company that Armenian policyholders trusted in 1914 was only compelled to do the right thing after special laws were enacted in California and a group of tenacious Armenia’s were able to wrestle those funds free.

As plaintiff’s counsel Vartkes Yeghiayan stated to the press–this case "proves anew that the past is not dead and not even past. I know that this settlement will not bring back the life of even one Armenian child. But this settlement is important–because it symbolizes our resolve to achieve justice for our ancestors who were massacred in the Armenian Genocide." We are hopeful that this case will encourage more entities and states–which have wrongfully withheld genocide-era assets to act appropriately.

The ANCA played a significant role in working with the California State legislature to ensure passage of the California Armenian Genocide Life Insurance Act of 2000–which extended the statute of limitations for such actions until the year 2010 and granted jurisdiction to California courts to hear such cases. The ANCA also actively briefed the current as well as former California State Insurance Commissioners and the current State Attorney General on this important issue of concern to our community–prompting the Attorney General to file a friend of the court brief in support of this case early on.

The Armenian American community expects an orderly–fair and uniform claims process be put in place that fully accounts for each policyholder and each dollar owed and that a complete and public disclosure of all policyholder names be provided.

While the New York Life case is significant–it is by no means related to any claims for the deaths–thefts–bodily harm–and real and personal property confiscations undertaken by the government of Ottoman Turkey–the liability and responsibilities for which continue to be held by its successor state the Republic of Turkey. Nor does the multiplier or interest calculation assigned in this case relate in any way relate to those claims which continue to remain outstanding.

Finally–it should be noted that we are very concerned about evasive language used by the New York Life Company in referencing the Armenian Genocide in press releases regarding this issue. Such euphemisms contradict the settlement agreement itself–which refers to the Armenian Genocide explicitly and repeatedly. Characterizing the mass deportation and murder of over 1.5. million Armenian men–women–and children as anything other than "genocide" can only be viewed as an attempt to deny this crime against humanity and is categorically rejected by the ANCA. Such misstatemen’s only serve to insult the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide as well as the victims of all genocides.

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