On October 26, 2015, three life insurance companies (the “Kemper Companies”) filed a lawsuit against the Illinois State Treasurer (the “Treasurer”) and private auditing firm, Verus Financial LLC, over the Treasurer’s unclaimed property audits of the Kemper Companies. The lawsuit is the latest litigation between life insurers and state regulators over the practices by regulators and private auditing firms requiring life insurers to engage in onerous searches of the Social Security Death Master File (“DMF”), escheat funds based on those searches to the state and turn over decades worth of personal policyholder data to a private auditing firm engaged by the state for a contingency fee. In 2014, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform issued a report (the “ILR Report”) addressing the concerns raised by life insurers. The ILR Report highlights the inaccuracies of the DMF, the burdensome searches imposed on life insurers and the financial incentives of the auditors. Additionally, the ILR Report stresses case law finding that most states’ laws do not require insurers to conduct DMF searches. In light of the ILR Report, the Kemper litigation emphasizes the aggressive stance taken by the Illinois Treasurer and accentuates the risk that contingency fees for unclaimed property audits will lead to abuse by auditors seeking private profit.
The Illinois Treasurer’s news release regarding the Kemper litigation can be found here and the ILR Report can be found here.