Insurer slams attorney general's latest senior-focused lawsuit

Legal News Line Apr. 27, 2007, 5:00am

Lori Swanson

ST. PAUL -- An Iowa life insurance company has hit back at Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson for filing a lawsuit against it Thursday alleging improper sales to the elderly. Des Moines-based American Equity Investment Life Holding Co. stated late Thursday that the company "was denied any opportunity to discuss" the issue with Swanson prior to receiving the suit. Swanson had earlier announced she was suing American Equity for allegedly mis-selling $46 million in long-term annuities to 1,200 Minnesotans aged 75-plus between 2000 and 2006. It's part of a high-profile campaign by the attorney general against financial abuse of Minnesota's seniors. "It was not uncommon for [American Equity] to tie up over 50 percent of the senior citizen's net worth," Swanson charged in yesterday's filing. In some cases, she alleged, "the maturity date of the annuities was longer than the life expectancy of the senior citizen." In an official release late yesterday, American Equity said it "had co-operated fully with the Attorney General's requests for information" yet never got a chance to "discuss ... products and sales practices" with her before the filing. "We strongly believe the allegations of the Attorney General are without merit," American Equity's release stated. Swanson has charged American Equity with violations of Minnesota's insurance sustainablility law and laws prohibiting fraud, false advertising and deceptive trade practices. The suit seeks "restitution, injunctive relief, and civil penalties," her release states. But American Equity countered in its statement that "all products types offered by us in the State of Minnesota were reviewed and approved by the Minnesota Department of Commerce prior to sale." Last month Swanson brought a similar suit against California-based American Family Legal Plan for allegedly improperly selling trusts and annuities to about 2,000 Minnesotans, LegalNewsLine reported. Swanson's release says American Equity had nationwide sales in 2006 of "almost one billion dollars". The company's statement says it distributed "over $31.6 million" in payments to Minnesotans last year.

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