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Deadline nears for American General race-based premium settlement

Monday, Nov. 6, 2000, is the filing deadline for policyholders from American General Life and Accident Insurance Co. who wish to receive extra compensation in the insurer's class action settlement.

Christopher Casper, an attorney for the plaintiffs, says that if you are a policyholder and have received a notice regarding the settlement, you do not need to send a form back if you want the standard compensation that is offered to all class members. That compensation includes increased death benefits, premium reductions, or premium refunds.

However, you must send in your class action form by Nov. 6 if you wish to reinstate a policy that was canceled due to failure to pay premiums, or if you wish to receive a 20 percent discount on your policy by opting for a direct payment option in which you mail your premiums to the insurer. Casper says that many insurance companies used to collect premiums door-to-door, and the expense of using a collector was calculated in the policy premiums. However, when the door-to-door collection ceased at the American General companies, these companies never passed the savings on to policyholders.

Policyholders should receive compensation from American General by the end of 2000.

In July, American General agreed to a $206 million settlement for a nationwide class action lawsuit that alleges the insurer acquired companies that charged blacks more than whites for burial insurance policies. In addition, the insurer must pay $7.5 million in fines that will be divided up among all 50 states.

When burial policies were heavily sold in the 1940s and 1950s, actuarial evidence showed that blacks were a higher risk than whites, and thus companies charged them higher premiums. But while the common practice of separate pricing stopped in the 1960s, the companies acquired by American General did not change rates to reflect that.

Casper says that policyholders should receive compensation from American General by the end of 2000. If you believe that you are a class member, but have not received a class action notice, contact American General's class action settlement line at (800) 681-4944. If you are hearing impaired, call (877) 477-0959.

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