By Irina Hovannisian
Citizens of Armenia whose ancestors were massacred by the Turks have begun receiving cash payouts as part of a landmark settlement with a U.S. firm that had issued insurance policies to thousands of Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire.
The $20 million deal with New York Life Insurance Co., which was announced three years ago, settled a class action lawsuit that was filed by Armenian-American descendants of Ottoman Armenian policy holders killed in the 1915 genocide. The company had sold more than 2,300 such policies that were never paid to their surviving relatives.
The settlement set aside at least $11 million for descendants in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora, $3 million for four Armenian-American charities and $2 million for administrative costs. Nearly two thousand Armenian nationals have since failed claims with a special “settlement fund” set up by New York Life and the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Some 1,240 of them have been deemed eligible for compensation totaling $3.67 million.
The first five claimants received undisclosed sums through HSBC Bank Armenia on Thursday, bank officials told RFE/RL. They said the process is due to be complete in six weeks.
The compensation of Diaspora Armenians, many of them U.S. citizens, began in early November.
The New York Life settlement paved the way for a similar agreement with French insurer Axa that was announced in Los Angeles in October 2005. The company agreed to donate at least $3 million to various French-based Armenian charities and another $11 million towards a fund designed to pay out policyholders of Axa units that did business in the now defunct Turkish-run Ottoman Empire.