Legislation seeking to help survivors of those killed in the Armenian
Genocide collect on pre-genocide insurance policies has been launched
by a local lawmaker.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) on Thursday introduced the Armenian
Victims Insurance Fairness Act.
If passed and signed by the president, it would give states the
authority to assist survivors of the Armenian Genocide, and the
families of those killed, in making insurance claims.
The Armenian Genocide was a campaign of ethnic cleansing, which is
said to have been launched by the Ottoman Empire. The massacre killed
1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923. Burbank and Glendale are
home to one of the largest populations of Armenians outside of
The bill allows states to require insurance companies doing
business in a given state to disclose genocide-era insurance
information, a key provision since Armenian families have not been
able to get the insurance companies to disclose policyholders from
the era. The legislation also expresses congressional disapproval of
an executive branch policy or agreement that preempts states’ ability
to enforce the policy, Schiff said.
“A lot of my constituents have family members who were lost during
the genocide,” Schiff said. “Many have not been able to pursue claims
on the policies their families possess. [This bill] is a matter of
In September, Schiff introduced similar legislation to assist
survivors of the Holocaust. And as a state senator in 2000, he
introduced similar successful legislation for Armenians relating to
statutes of limitations for filing insurance claims.
“It’s absolutely important legislation,” said Ardashes Kassakhian,
director of government relations for the Armenian National Committee,
Western Region. “It addresses an issue that’s been overlooked for
more than 80 years.”
Officials look back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, when they said European and American insurance companies signed Armenians in
the Ottoman Empire to policies in what they knew were tenuous
circumstances in the midst of war and governmental oppression. Among
those insurance companies was New York Life, which settled a
class-action claim brought by Armenians in 2001. As part of the
settlement, the company reportedly agreed to pay up to $3 million to
Armenian civic organizations and to pay participants in the action 10
times the face value of the policy on claims. The firm also disclosed
a list of heirs to the claimants.
Schiff said that this is not a backhanded way to get the United
States to fully recognize the Armenian Genocide.
The term is not even in the text of the bill, he said. The bill
does not require proof of genocide.
“You have to prove you had a policy that covered the conditions
under which you lost life or property,” he said, adding that he hoped
the Turkish lobby would also see the distinction.