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California Commissioner Investigating Whether Insurers Have Iranian Investments

Posted on 30 Jun 2009

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California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner on Monday kicked off an investigation into whether insurers based there have investments in Iran or its agents.

The probe will require all carriers based in California to reveal investments they have with companies that do business with Iran's defense, nuclear, petroleum, natural-gas and banking sectors.

Mr. Poizner has also demanded that the California carriers divest Iranian government holdings and has ordered a survey of the insurers to ensure that they’re complying with state law. The department will also evaluate any indirect investments that insurers have with Iran to ensure that they are sound. If they aren’t, Mr. Poizner can force the carriers to divest those holdings.

Carriers’ reports on their investment details will be due in about 90 days.

A preliminary analysis by the state’s Department of Insurance revealed that carriers that conduct business in California have “tens of billions of dollars” of investments in companies that have substantial business in Iran, the department said in an announcement.

The state’s insurance code prohibits any investment pertaining to a foreign jurisdiction if the U.S. secretary of state deems that jurisdiction to be a state sponsor of terrorism.

In 2007, California pushed the state’s public-pension funds — including the Sacramento-based California Public Employees’ Retirement System — to divest their Iranian investments.