The settlement of Dutch WW Ii insurance assets: agreement and the Sjoa Foundation
The independent Sjoa Foundation for Individual Insurance Claims arose by necessity in the light of settlement of insurance payments on behalf of Jewish insured parties who died during the Second World War. It was preceded by a period of in-depth discussions and research conducted regarding the settlement of the insurance payments. In November 1999 the Dutch Association of Insurers (DAI) and the Dutch Central Jewish Board (CJO) reached an agreement that was part of the nationwide programme on the settlement of Jewish unclaimed assets with financial institutions (insurers, banks, stock exchanges) and the government. Research conducted by independent commissions and consultations the CJO has had with various sectors have resulted in agreements on all the different grounds. Requests for information regarding potential insurance assets and payment of insurance claims are being handled from 1997 on and since 2000 by the Sjoa Foundation.
The Sjoa Foundation and the agreement between the CJO and the DAI cannot be viewed separately. The main lines of the agreement, the destination of the monies, the primary objective the agreement is based on, research carried out by the independent Scholten Commission, the audit of the Dutch Supervisory Board, the role of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, and the operations of the Sjoa Foundation so far are described below.
The Agreement of November 1999
The primary objective of the agreement
that the CJO and the Association of Insurers signed in November 1999 is to clarify matters concerning unclaimed insurance monies for the victims of the persecution of the Jews and their surviving relatives. The agreement is a final settlement. The sum of € 22.6 million was based on the value of the unclaimed insurance assets that have been established by the Scholten Commission, the CJO and the Association of Insurers. CJO and DAI consider the agreement as a ‘finalising document' by means of which the CJO and the Association of Insurers ‘do the victims of the Shoah justice'. The insurance sector has made a total of € 22.6 million available: € 9 million was intended for individual payments (Stichting Individuele Verzekeringsaanspraken Sjoa), € 11.3 million for purposes to be determined by the Jewish community itself and € 2.3 million for the research and Internet project, Monument to the Jewish Community.
Division of fundsIndependent Sjoa Foundation for Individual Insurance Claims
The CJO and the Dutch Association of Insurers have set up the Stichting Individuele Verzekeringsaanspraken Sjoa (Sjoa Foundation for Individual Insurance Claims) in order to assess and honour requests for payment of Jewish war policies. The objective of this independent foundation, which will remain active for ten years, is to find out whether people are entitled to payment. Read more
Half of the total amount involved in the agreement (€ 11.3 million) was paid to the MAROR Foundation. This foundation administrated the funds received from private organizations (banks, insurers and Stock Exchange) and the government. The total sum received was € 346.7 million. After extensive discussion within the Jewish community it was decided to divide this sum as follows:
· € 50 million for a Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund for projects outside Netherland and Israel, and of the remaining sum:
· 80% for individual payments, these payments have been completed;
· 20% for communal purposes for a period of 20 years, of which:
o 74% in the Netherlands
o 26% in Israel
Monument to the Jewish Community
The research project 'Monument to the Jewish Community' is set up as an educational project, with the objective of keeping alive the memory of the Dutch-Jewish community that experienced the Second World War. The aim is to paint as complete a picture as possible of the Jewish community before and during the Second World War, using the great amount of information from archives that have been investigated in recent years.
Present generations can add to the information on family, friends and acquaintances via the Internet with the information they have themselves. The Internet address is www.joodsmonument.nl
. Through this project, the insurance sector wished to show its respect for all the victims of the persecution of the Jews.
The vast majority of the value of the insurance policies confiscated by the Liro bank (approximately ninety-eight percent) was reimbursed shortly after the war. In most cases, the insured amount was paid to the beneficiary or the surviving relatives. A small proportion of the insurance policies could not, however, be paid out because no beneficiaries had either claimed them or could be traced. Around 1955 - in accordance with the Dutch law of inheritance - the (then) surrender values of these policies were transferred to the state, as ‘estates without known heirs’. Approximately NLG 430,000 of this estate ultimately remained in the possession of the state. It has been established that the insured value of these insurance policies is worth four times the surrender value. Pursuant to the agreement concluded by the Association of Insurers and the CJO in November 1999, insurance companies will be paying out this insured value, plus compensation for loss of interest (minus the surrender value that is still in the possession of the state). A number of unclaimed insurance policies (primarily the industrial insurance) that was not included at the time of the surrender to the state, is included in the agreement. Association director (in those days), Eric Fischer, explained that it was no longer possible to reconstruct the unpaid assets by means of all the individual policies. One of the major reasons, he said, was that key policy archives were either entirely or partly missing. Fischer: “The information on these policies was destroyed, mostly after a legally required retention period of ten years after the insurance companies had fulfilled their obligations. Based on our own research and consultation of the remaining archives, together with the CJO we have been able to make a reasonably accurate estimation of the value of the unclaimed policies. Compensation for loss of interest since 1943 has been added to the amounts insured at that time.”
The Scholten Commission's report
The most important commission for the insurance sector, the supervisory commission's investigation into WWII financial assets in the Netherlands, or the “Scholten Commission” in short, named after it’s chairman W. Scholten, LL.M., presented its final report in mid-December 1999.
This final report
, which includes, in addition to its findings, conclusions and policy recommendations, consists of scientific investigation into financial assets by financial institutions.
At the time of its inauguration on 13 July 1997, the Scholten Commission was given the assignment of 'carrying out an investigation into the actual systematics regarding the restoration of rights in respect of the financial assets of war victims of the Second World War held at banks and insurance companies in the Netherlands. This can include the role of banks and insurance companies as well as, where relevant, the role of the government'. In doing so, the commission must refrain, in view of the assignment, from investigation aimed at specific individual cases.
During the more than two years of its investigation, the Commission therefore focused on the question of which assets, entitlements to insurance and other assets might still be wrongfully in the possession of banks, insurance companies and the state. The restitution was carried out to a major extent in the framework of the restoration of rights. "An extremely complex operation, which commands a great deal of respect, but whereby a number of side remarks should also be made", said Scholten. He was referring primarily to the length of time the restoration of rights has taken and the often bureaucratic method.
Insurance companies' restoration of rights
The Commission was unable to discover any serious flaws within the insurance sector: insurance policies were systematically restored after the war. Some gaps were detected on a small scale, primarily with regard to industrial insurance policies (chiefly small insurance policies). These gaps were included in the settlement between CJO and the Dutch insurers. The CJO and The Association of Insurers support the recommendations of the Commission and have promised to cooperate in an audit.
The Dutch Supervisory Board commissioned Ernst & Young Forensic Services, in cooperation with Ernst & Young Accountants, to determine whether insurance companies were still holding policies that had not been paid out, either directly or indirectly, in order to dispel as far as possible the uncertainty regarding individual cases. The investigation also concluded an evaluation of the procedures adopted by the insurance companies involved for processing claims.
was published in December 2002. The main conclusion was that the Dutch insurance sector did everything reasonably possible to find Jewish insurance policies that were wrongfully not reinstated or paid out. Furthermore they concluded that the companies that dealt with claims and requests for information followed a careful procedure for this that was separate from the way in which standard claims are processed.
International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC)
ICHEIC was established in 1998 following negotiations among European insurance companies and U.S. insurance regulators, as well as representatives of international Jewish and survivor organizations and the State of Israel.
In March/April 2000 the Dutch Association of Insurers joined ICHEIC under the condition that the Dutch situation and the Agreement with the CJO was respected, implying for instance that any claim referring to a Dutch insurance company would be handled and paid out by the Sjoa Foundation, according to the multipliers laid down in the Agreement.
Another condition was the conduct of an independent audit on the presence of unclaimed policies in the archives of insures.
In August 2001 ICHEIC and the Sjoa Foundation concluded an Operating Agreement on the processing of ICHEIC applications concerning Dutch insurance companies. These applications would be handled and paid by the Sjoa Foundation pursuant to the Agreement between the DAI and the CJO. Information about unpaid policies would be published on the Internet by the Sjoa Foundation. The Sjoa Foundation agreed to establish a second review process by an independent Objections Committee.ICHEIC ceased accepting new applications on March 31, 2004 and closed in March 2007. A total of 1,756 ICHEIC applications were received by the Sjoa Foundation, of which 95% were undocumented. The Sjoa Foundation sent 1,609 decision letters to ICHEIC with the following results:
· 1206: no information found
· 305: information given about settled policies
· 82: payments, in total ca. € 900.000,-
· 14: not taken into consideration
· 2: withdrawals
Sjoa Foundation for Individual Insurance Claims
The Stichting Individuele Verzekeringsaanspraken Sjoa (Sjoa Foundation for Individual Insurance Claims) was set up in November 1999 in order to assess and honour applications for payment of Jewish life insurance policies, that had not been paid out after the Second World War. The objective of this foundation, which will remain active for at least fifteen years, is to find out whether people are entitled to a payment, either by the processing of applications or by their own research.
In 2000 the Sjoa Foundation published a list of names of ca. 750 policyholders/insured parties on the Internet concerning unclaimed policies that insurers had found in their records. The Foundation and DAI had requested an exemption to Dutch privacy laws to publish the names of holders of unclaimed policies of all Dutch insurers. The Commissioner on Dutch privacy law wrote a “letter of comfort” in order to publish this list.
At the end of 2004 some 1,370 names were added to the list. The list is adjusted regularly and can be seen at the site of the Sjoa Foundation
. The list now contains some 2,000 names.
The current situation at the Sjoa Foundation
At the end of 2011 the Sjoa Foundation has received 18,398 requests for information, either directly or via the Dutch and Israeli Claims Centres.
These requests for information have been submitted by 3486 people; 2,052 (59%) of the requests come from the Netherlands, 575 (17%) from Israel, 432 (12%) from the United States and 427 (12%) from other countries.
Most of these requests, about 78% are not documented and give no information about the insurance policy, about 11% give some information about the policy and 11% are claims in response to the Internet list.
17,836 Requests (97%) have been settled and 1,559 policies were paid to 9,968 rightful claimants to a total amount of € 6.814.363,-.
Prior to November 1999, the Dutch Association and insurance companies, in close cooperation with CJO, investigated 1,300 requests for information. Of these requests, 44 claims, amounting to € 450,000 were paid out.