- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Treasurer Ken Miller says two bills that would keep his office from linking Oklahoma residents with rightful life insurance proceeds are “shameful” and vowed Friday to sue the state if one of the measures becomes law.

Miller, a Republican who oversees Oklahoma’s Unclaimed Property Fund, said it received $18 million in unclaimed insurance proceeds over the last 12 months that his office will try to return to the rightful owners. But the bills, being sponsored by lawmakers who are also insurance agents, would hamper those efforts, he said.

The Senate bill, which Miller promised to challenge in court, would require insurance companies to check the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File twice a year to see if policy holders have died, but the bill would only apply to policies sold after 2016.

“I believe it’s a deceptive bill that makes it sound like life insurers are placing a mandate on themselves to try and identify due benefits, but instead it’s a tool to absolve the industry from paying policies in force today totaling more than $1 billion nationwide,” Miller said. “I have termed this bill shameful. I think that they both are.”

A separate House bill would prevent state agencies like the treasurer’s office from using private vendors to conduct audits of insurance companies, in which the vendor gets to keep a percentage of the recovered money.

Rep. Lewis Moore, who sponsored the House bill, said insurance companies already are highly regulated and contractually required to track down policyholders or their heirs. Moore, R-Arcadia, also said he’s concerned about granting “police powers of the state” to private companies.

“You’re imparting the heavy hand of government … onto these private companies that are working on a contingency basis,” Moore said.

Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, described his bill as “consumer friendly” and said it puts additional requirements on the industry to find beneficiaries.

The State Chamber of Oklahoma, an association of businesses and industries, including insurance companies, backs both measures. President and CEO Fred Morgan said in a statement that the chamber “supports the right of the state treasurer to audit companies he believes might have funds that they are not turning over, but the job shouldn’t be handled by bounty hunters looking for a quick buck at the expense of every industry: insurance, banking, oil and gas and even mom and pop operations.”

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SB 298: http://bit.ly/1G78aJY

HB 1741: http://bit.ly/1BWrbS2

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