DCBS Media Release
August 1, 1997
John Hancock settlement affects Oregon policyholders
(Salem) Owners of about 17,600 Oregon life insurance policies purchased from John Hancock Mutual and John Hancock Variable Life Insurance Companies may be eligible for benefits from a nationwide $350 million class action settlement.
The proposed settlement is intended to resolve a lawsuit filed against John Hancock on behalf of approximately 3.7 million present and former policyholders across the country who may have been harmed by the insurer's sales practices. John Hancock policyholders who purchased whole life, universal life, and variable life policies between 1979 and 1996 may be eligible for benefits under the settlement. Owners of John Hancock fixed or variable annuities and mutual fund shares who bought the products with proceeds from the surrender of, withdrawal of value from, or a loan against one of the above policies may also be eligible. The two John Hancock companies in question collected $56 million in Oregon premiums during 1996.
The lawsuit alleges that various John Hancock sales practices involved misrepresentations about how long an insured consumer must pay premiums, misrepresentations of life insurance policies as investments, inducement of insured consumers to replace their existing policies when the replacement was not in their best interests, and other inappropriate practices.
The U.S. District Court in Massachusetts gave the settlement preliminary approval in June, and plans a hearing in October to determine its fairness to policyholders before granting final approval. State insurance regulators in Massachusetts, where John Hancock is headquartered, have also opened an investigation of the company and will share their findings with their counterparts in Oregon and other states.
Affected policyholders in Oregon and elsewhere should have received a notice by mail from John Hancock in July explaining the class action suit, the settlement, the forms of relief for which they may be eligible, and their right to opt out of the settlement if they wish to pursue relief on their own.
John Hancock policyholders who have questions about the settlement should call the insurer's toll-free customer service line, at 1-800-964-3039. Policyholders who think they may be eligible but have not received the notice should also call that number.
Consumers who have remaining questions about the John Hancock proposed settlement or who need help resolving a complaint involving any insurer's company or agent practices may call the Oregon Insurance Division's complaint line at 503-947-1853.