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WASHINGTON STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: HIGH COURT RULING ALLOWS AG ACTION AGAINST INSURANCE COMPANIES

 OLYMPIA, Wash., June 28 /PRNewswire/ -- An antitrust ruling today by the U.S. Supreme Court clears the way for Washington and other states to pursue allegations that domestic insurance companies have conspired with foreign firms to dictate terms for business insurance policies, the Washington State Attorney General's (AG) Office said today.
 "Our policy always has been that consumers will benefit when businesses have to compete on the basis of price, quality and service," Attorney General Christine O. Gregoire said. "The court's ruling reinforces antitrust laws by clarifying the limits of exemptions that make it clear anti-competitive boycotts will not be tolerated. We look forward to proceeding to trial."
 In the (5-4) ruling, the high court agreed with Washington and 18 other states that antitrust charges involving foreign insurers could be brought in federal courts. The states' case, originally filed in 1988, charged 32 insurance companies, reinsurance firms and brokers, including four domestic firms, Hartford, Aetna, Allstate and CIGNA, with conspiracy to boycott other insurers offering policies on terms the four did not want to offer. A reinsurance firm is one that provides coverage for an insurance company.
 The boycott was aimed at reducing the availability of pollution liability coverage and "long-tail coverage," which protects the insured against claims arising several years after the initial incident.
 In this case, the primary consumers are any businesses, non-profit organizations and governmental agencies that purchase commercial general liability insurance, which protects them against liability to third parties for injury or property damage. Private businesses and non- profit groups have hired private attorneys and will be pursuing the allegations. States' attorneys general will be filing lawsuits on behalf of local governments and municipalities.
 In prior rulings, the trial court dismissed the states' claims, holding that the companies' actions were immune from antitrust laws because the firms were doing business with foreign companies. However, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the states two years ago the insurers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
 The states filed their lawsuit on behalf of citizens and local government agencies injured by the alleged boycott. It is uncertain when the trial will begin in federal district court in San Francisco.
 -0- 6/28/93
 /CONTACT: Tina Kondo, assistant attorney general, 206-464-6293, or Christine Anthony, public information officer, of the Washington State Attorney General's Office, 206-753-1476/


CO: Attorney General of Washington ST: Washington IN: INS SU:

SB-AL -- SE005 -- 6424 06/28/93 16:49 EDT
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Date:Jun 28, 1993
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