Minn. sanctions 4 big life insurers

Four of the biggest life insurance companies that operate in Minnesota will pay $200,000 in fines and change the claim forms they use in the state.

Officials with the state Commerce Department say the companies -- John Hancock, Prudential, MetLife and ING -- provided confusing or incomplete information to people filing for death benefits.

Commissioner Mike Rothman says the insurance companies pushed people to keep their death benefits in so-called "retained asset accounts" without offering them the option of taking a lump sum payment. The accounts generate interest and allow the companies to invest the money for profit. "When a loved one passes and you're filing an insurance claim," Rothman says, "consumers need simple and straightforward information to make informed decisions about the choice of a lump sum payment or the option for a retained asset account."

Rothman says it was unclear how many people experienced the problem, but he estimates thousands of Minnesotans were affected.

"The concern was and the problem was making sure that consumers had accurate information so that they could make an informed choice about receiving the lump sum payment or any other option like the retained asset account," he says.

Rothman says each of the companies agreed to the state's sanctions voluntarily.

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