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Northern Life Insurance Co. annuity holders urged to apply for restitution

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Oct. 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
October 4, 2011 3:25 pm

Thousands of persons who signed up for Northern Life Insurance Co. tax-sheltered fixed annuities are eligible for cash payments under a court-approved class action financial settlement.

The payments aren’t huge — lawyers in the case think they will average $60 to $80 each — but they are worth applying for.

The class action suit that brought the mediated $31 million settlement grew from allegations that Northern Life misrepresented how interest would accrued over the life of the annuity, said Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.

“Consumers across the country were misled, and I’m very glad to see this case finally resolved with restitution,” said Kreidler. “I urge anyone who qualifies to sign up for their share of the settlement.”

The settlement involves Northern Life Insurance Company’s marketing of tax-sheltered fixed annuities, primarily to teachers, starting in 1995. (The company, which was based in Seattle, merged with Minnesota-based ReliaStar Life Insurance Co. in 2002.)

The annuity documents, Kreidler said, misrepresented to consumers the way that interest would be calculated over the life of the annuities. Instead, Northern Life paid a high interest rate only in the first year of the contract, reducing the rate during all the remaining years.

Under the settlement, Northern Life has agreed to pay $29 to $40 for each $10,000 in value of a person’s annuity. The settlement provides up to $31 million for the payments. A King County Superior Court judge recently approved the mediated settlement, in which Northern Life did not admit wrongdoing.

Northern Life has notified 406,000 account holders that they are potentially affected by the settlement. An estimated 20,000 of those people are in Washington state.
“People are naturally skeptical of mailings,” said Kreidler,”but don’t just toss this one in the trash.”

The one-page claim form, also available at www.curtissettlement.com, must be mailed back or before Oct. 17, 2011. (It can also be scanned and emailed by that date.) Under penalty of perjury, signers must certify that they owned a fixed annuity issued by Northern Life sometime between Jan. 1, 1995 and the present time.

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