Phantom Rule’ May Have Limited Holocaust-Era Awards To Claimants
Former arbitrator says policy that should have favored survivors and heirs was not applied in many cases.
Stewart Ain – Staff Writer

When a commission investigating Holocaust-era life insurance policies ended its work in March after nine years, it boasted that it had awarded more than $300 million to survivors and their heirs.

Now, a former commission arbitrator is criticizing the group’s work, alleging that a “phantom rule” was used by some of the dozens of arbitrators, accounting in part for the denial of 84 percent of all claims filed.

The arbitrator, Albert B. Lewis, who is also a former New York State insurance superintendent, is calling for a reopening of these cases.

The “phantom rule,” as Lewis described it, was that without an actual insurance policy in hand, either from the company or the claimant, the onus was on the claimant in seeking financial redress.

In fact, though, when the commission was established, the actual rules called for a more sympathetic stance toward the survivors and their heirs, specifying that there would be “relaxed standards of proof” favoring the claimant in determining the awards.