American Insurance Association v. Garamendi, 539 U.S. 396, 2 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 396 (2003)


Foundation would work with the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC), a voluntary organization whose mission is to negotiate with European insurers to provide information about and settlement of unpaid insurance policies, and which has set up procedures to that end. The German agreement has served as a model for similar agreements with Austria and France.

Meanwhile, California began its own enquiry into the issue, prompting state legislation designed to force payment by defaulting insurers. Among other laws, California's Holocaust Victim Insurance Relief Act of 1999 (HVIRA) requires any insurer doing business in the State to disclose information about all policies sold in Europe between 1920 and 1945 by the company or any one "related" to it upon penalty of loss of its state business license. After HVIRA was enacted, the State issued administrative subpoenas against several subsidiaries of European insurance companies participating in the ICHEIC. Immediately, the Federal Government informed California officials that HVIRA would damage the ICHEIC, the only effective means to process quickly and completely unpaid Holocaust era insurance claims, and that HVIRA would possibly derail the German Foundation Agreement. Nevertheless, the state insurance commissioner announced that he would enforce HVIRA to its fullest. Petitioner insurance entities then filed this suit challenging HVIRA's constitutionality. The District Court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcing HVIRA and later granted petitioners summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding, inter alia, that HVIRA did not violate the federal foreign affairs power.

Held: California's HVIRA interferes with the President's conduct of the

Nation's foreign policy and is therefore preempted. Pp. 413-429.

(a) There is no question that at some point an exercise of state power that touches on foreign relations must yield to the National Govern-ment's policy or that generally there is executive authority to decide what that policy should be. In foreign policymaking, the President, not Congress, has the "lead role." First Nat. City Bank v. Banco Nacional de Cuba, 406 U. S. 759, 767. Specifically, the President has authority to make "executive agreements" with other countries, requiring no ratification by the Senate or approval by Congress. See, e. g., Dames & Moore v. Regan, 453 U. S. 654, 679, 682-683. Making such agreements to settle claims of American nationals against foreign governments is a particularly longstanding practice. Although the executive agreements with Germany, Austria, and France at issue differ from past agreements in that they address claims associated with formerly belligerent states, but against corporations, not the foreign governments, the distinction does not matter. Insisting on a sharp line between public and private


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