Plaintiffs alleged that AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company violated New York insurance law prohibiting misrepresentations by insurers of their financial condition, because AXA had not disclosed “shadow transactions” in its filings with the New York Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”). NYDFS defines “shadow insurance” as the use of captive reinsurers in foreign jurisdictions with lower reserve requirements to do an “end-run around higher reserve requirements.” Plaintiffs contended that AXA was not as financially sound as it had represented because in failing to disclose “shadow transactions,” AXA received higher ratings from rating agencies and was able to post fewer reserves thus selling a product that had undisclosed risks and created an “increased risk to the insurance system as a whole. . . .”

The court denied class certification and granted AXA’s motion to dismiss for lack of Article III standing. Plaintiffs did not allege that their premiums were higher because of the alleged “shadow transactions” nor that they had relied upon AXA’s representations in filings with the NYDFS. Violation of rights created by state law (as opposed to federal law), standing alone, does not allege an “injury” sufficient to establish Article III standing. Plaintiffs needed to have established that at least one of them had suffered an “invasion of a legally protected interest which is . . . concrete and particularized” and “actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” The Court also explained that since plaintiffs never alleged that they would not have purchased the policies had the disclosures been made or that they had suffered any financial harm because of the misrepresentations, the alleged risk of harm was only in the future and was a very tenuous risk at that. Jonathan Ross v. AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co., Case No. 14-CV-2904 (USDC S.D.N.Y. July 21, 2015).

This post written by Barry Weissman.

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