American Insurance Association v. Garamendi, 539 U.S. 396 (2003)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 02-722. Argued April 23, 2003—Decided June 23, 2003

The Nazi Government of Germany confiscated the value or proceeds of many Jewish life insurance policies issued before and during the Second World War. After the war, even a policy that had escaped confiscation was likely to be dishonored, whether because insurers denied its existence or claimed it had lapsed from unpaid premiums, or because the German Government would not provide heirs with documentation of the policyholder's death. Responsibility as between the government and insurance companies is disputed, but the fact is that the proceeds of many insurance policies issued to Jews before and during the war were paid to the Third Reich or never paid at all. These confiscations and frustrations of claims fell within the subject of reparations, which became a principal object of Allied diplomacy after the war. Ultimately, the western Allies placed the obligation to provide restitution to victims of Nazi persecution on the new West German Government, which enacted restitution laws and signed agreements with other countries for the compensation of their nationals. Despite a payout of more than 100 billion deutsch marks as of 2000, however, these measures left out many claimants and certain types of claims. After German reunification, class actions for restitution poured into United States courts against companies doing business in Germany during the Nazi era. Protests by defendant companies and their governments prompted the United States Government to take action to try to resolve the matter. Negotiations at the national level produced the German Foundation Agreement, in which Germany agreed to establish a foundation funded with 10 billion deutsch marks contributed equally by the German Government and German companies to compensate the companies' victims during the Nazi era. The President agreed that whenever a German company was sued on a Holocaust-era claim in an American court, the Government would (1) submit a statement that it would be in this country's foreign policy interests for the foundation to be the exclusive forum and remedy for such claims, and (2) try to get state and local governments to respect the foundation as the exclusive mechanism. As for insurance claims in particular, both countries agreed that the German

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