MetLife Inc. will pay nearly $500 million in a settlement involving more than 30 states that claimed it didn’t provide life insurance benefits to some of its policyholders, the company said Monday. The largest life insurer in the United States said it expects to pay about $188 million of the $478 million this year, and the remainder over the next 17 years.
The New York-based life insurer, which has major operations in Bloomfield, Conn., settled as part of a much wider investigation by several states into life insurance practices. State regulators investigated MetLife’s use of the Social Security Administration’s "Death Master" file, a database of people who have died.
California Controller John Chiang said a joint investigative hearing held last year revealed MetLife had information about the deaths of some of its life insurance policyholders but failed to pay what was owned. "These settlements make it clear that if the industry isn’t willing to make the payments legally required, we will take action, including lawsuits, to compel them to do right by their customers," Chiang said.
MetLife maintains it pays more than 99 percent of life insurance claims and it has been working with regulators to ensure everyone is paid.
Connecticut’s Insurance Department is not currently part of the agreement. Department officials will review the settlement to decide whether it will become a signatory, a spokeswoman said. It’s similar to a settlement with Prudential that the Connecticut department reviewed and agree to take part in, she said. Prudential Financial agreed to pay $17 million in a 20-state agreement finalized in February.
By not joining as a signatory, Connecticut regulators would reserve the right to investigate and seek a separate settlement with MetLife.