FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS THIS LAWSUIT ABOUT?
The Court in charge of the case is the Fourth Judicial District Court for Hennepin County, Minnesota, and the case is known as Berthiaume, et al. v. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America and Imeriti, Inc. d/b/a Imeriti Financial Network. Judge Laurie J. Miller is the judge overseeing this class action and the proposed class settlement. The people who sued are called the Plaintiffs, and the companies they sued, Allianz and Imeriti, are called the Defendants.
The lawsuit is about whether Allianz violated Minnesota law in the manner in which it marketed certain Allianz annuity products sold by Sean M. Meadows, a former independent financial advisor previously associated with Allianz and Imeriti, and whether Allianz and Imeriti violated Minnesota law by breaching duties they owed to Mr. Meadows’ clients, including failing to prevent Mr. Meadows from directing his clients to surrender annuities within a short time after purchasing them, and aiding and abetting Mr. Meadows’ theft of investment funds in a Ponzi scheme. Plaintiffs allege that this caused them to pay surrender charges and incur other damages and that Allianz and Imeriti are responsible for their losses.
Allianz and Imeriti deny any and all responsibility for any misconduct by Mr. Meadows, an independent agent authorized to sell annuities from life insurance companies including Allianz, and they deny that they violated any legal duty to Plaintiffs or the class relating to annuities sold by Mr. Meadows or any misconduct by Mr. Meadows. Rather, Defendants contend that they acted properly and lawfully in all respects. Allianz further contends that it timely reported Mr. Meadows to law enforcement authorities. Mr. Meadows is now serving 25 years in federal prison after having been convicted on federal fraud charges.
WHY IS THIS A CLASS ACTION?
A class action is a lawsuit in which the claims and rights of many people are decided in a single court proceeding. One court resolves the issues for all class members, except for those who choose to exclude themselves. In other words, the class wins together or loses together. In a class action, representative plaintiffs, knows as “Class Representatives,” assert claims on behalf of the entire class. In this case, the Class Representatives are Robert Berthiaume, Doris Burnham, Richard Burnham, Nancy Mayer-Gosz, and Fletcher Lewis.
The Court decided that the claims asserted against Allianz and Imeriti can proceed as a class action because the Class Representatives satisfied the necessary requirements under Minnesota law governing class actions. The Court has not decided whether the Defendants did anything wrong.
ARE FILED PAPERS IN THIS LAWSUIT AVAILABLE?
Yes. Complete copies of the pleadings, the Stipulation of Settlement, the Court Order granting preliminary approval of the class settlement, and other papers filed in the lawsuit are available from the Hennepin County District Court Records Center. The address is Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S. 6th St., Room A250 Skyway Level, Administration (A) Tower, Minneapolis, MN 55487. The title of this case is Berthiaume, et al. v. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America and Imeriti, Inc. d/b/a Imeriti Financial Network, and the case number is 27-CV-17-15118.
In addition, you may obtain more information by contacting Class Counsel, listed below, or the Settlement Claims Administrator. Visit the Contact Us page for the Administrator’s contact information.
I AM STILL NOT SURE IF I AM A MEMBER OF THE CLASS
You are a member of the Class if you meet one or more of the following requirements and did not previously opt out of the Class:
All residents of the United States who, during the Class Period, purchased an Allianz annuity or other Allianz life insurance product from Sean M. Meadows and were defrauded of some or all of their investment. The Class Period commences on January 1, 2004 and continues through August 5, 2014. Excluded from the class is any parent, subsidiary, affiliate, controlled person, officer, director, agent, servant, employee, or immediate family member of Defendants.
All residents of the State of Minnesota who, during the Class Period, purchased an Allianz annuity or other Allianz life insurance product from Sean M. Meadows and were defrauded of some or all of their investment. The Class Period commences on January 1, 2004 and continues through August 5, 2014. Excluded from the class is any parent, subsidiary, affiliate, controlled person, officer, director, agent, servant, employee, or immediate family member of Defendants.
All residents of the State of Minnesota who are senior citizens or disabled, who during the Class Period, purchased an Allianz annuity or other Allianz life insurance product from Sean M. Meadows and were defrauded of some or all of their investment. The Class Period commences on January 1, 2004 and continues through August 5, 2014. Excluded from the class is any parent, subsidiary, affiliate, controlled person, officer, director, agent, servant, employee, or immediate family member of Defendants.
If you are still not sure whether you are included in the Class, you may ask for help. Please contact Class Counsel listed below, or call the toll-free dedicated helpline at 1-888-394-9699.
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE LAWSUIT?
On September 1, 2020, the parties to the lawsuit reached a Stipulation of Settlement, resolving all claims of the Class. The Court issued an order preliminarily approving the settlement on September 21, 2020. The Court will conduct a final fairness hearing to consider final settlement approval on December 4, 2020. If the Court grants final approval of the settlement, Class Members will be eligible to file claims for certain settlement benefits as described in the Stipulation of Settlement and below under the section titled “What Benefits Does the Settlement Provide?”.
ARE THERE EXCEPTIONS TO BEING ELIGIBLE FOR SETTLEMENT BENEFITS?
Yes. To be entitled to settlement benefits, Class Members must demonstrate that (1) they surrendered or partially surrendered an Allianz annuity between January 1, 2004, and August 5, 2014, and (2) within 15 days before or after the surrender (3) either invested the surrender proceeds in another annuity with Sean Meadows or invested in a Meadows Financial Group (“MFG”) Investment. In addition, in order to be eligible to receive settlement benefits Class Members must complete a written Claim Form for each eligible Allianz annuity contract, providing the information, documents, affirmations, and required notarization to the Settlement Claims Administrator, postmarked by the Claim Deadline, to be eligible for settlement benefits. Claim Forms will be distributed to Class Members after the Court grants final approval to the settlement.
WHAT BENEFITS DOES THE SETTLEMENT PROVIDE?
The settlement provides that Class Members who submit a timely, valid, and notarized Claim Form by the Claim Deadline may be eligible for a settlement benefit. The amount of the settlement benefit available varies depending upon whether you lost money on your Allianz annuity, whether you surrendered or partially surrendered your Allianz annuity and when, whether you invested any proceeds from any surrender of an Allianz annuity into another annuity through Sean Meadow or a Meadows Financial Group (“MFG”) investment and when, whether you received proceeds from any MFG investment, and what type of supporting documentation you submit.
There are two categories of settlement benefits for which Class Members may be eligible: An Annuity Loss Benefit, and an MFG Investment Loss Benefit. These benefits are described in detail in the Claims Process Rules, attached as Exhibit D to the Stipulation of Settlement.
Annuity Loss Benefit:
Class Members may be eligible to receive 50 percent of any net out-of-pocket loss on any eligible Allianz annuity owned and surrendered in full or in part between January 1, 2004 and August 5, 2014 (the “Class Period”).
The net out-of-pocket loss is calculated as the difference between (x) and (y), where (x) is the premium paid and (y) is all payments received from the annuity up to the date of that surrender transaction (including required minimum distributions, free withdrawals, and surrender proceeds) plus the cash surrender value of the annuity at the time of the transaction.
MFG Investment Loss Benefit:
In addition to any Annuity Loss Benefit, Class Members may also be eligible to receive an MFG Investment Loss Benefit. If you had multiple MFG Investments, you are entitled to recover for each such investment that qualifies for relief.
If you used proceeds from the surrender of an Allianz annuity for an MFG Investment prior to October 1, 2013 and you submit qualifying documentation of your investment, you may be eligible for 40 percent of your total MFG Investment loss.
If you used proceeds from the surrender of an Allianz annuity for an MFG Investment on or after October 1, 2013 and you submit qualifying documentation of your investment, you may be eligible for 50 percent of your total MFG Investment loss.
If you used proceeds from the surrender of an Allianz annuity for an MFG Investment but do not have any qualifying documentation, you may be eligible for 12 percent of your total MFG Investment loss.
HOW CAN I OBTAIN SETTLEMENT BENEFITS?
If the Court approves the proposed settlement, the Settlement Claims Administrator will mail a Claim Packet to all Class Members. To receive settlement benefits, you must return a completed Claim Form for each eligible annuity you owned to the Settlement Claims Administrator, postmarked with a date no later than the Claim Deadline.
In addition, the Claim Form must be notarized by a notary public in accordance with the laws of the state in which you reside governing in-person or remote notarization, affirming that you executed the Claim Form making the required statements and affirmations under oath in the presence of the notarial authority, and bearing evidence of the notarial authority in compliance with the law of the state in which it is being executed (e.g., a seal, etc.).
Please note that Claim Forms that are not complete, signed, and notarized will be invalid, and you will not be entitled to any settlement benefits.
A separate Claim Form will be provided and is required for each policy for which settlement benefits are sought.
If more than one person owned the policy when it was surrendered, each Owner must sign the Claim Form.
ARE THE ESTATES OF DECEASED POLICY OWNERS ENTITLED TO RELIEF?
Yes. The rights under the proposed settlement of a deceased policy owner may be exercised by the estate of the owner upon a reasonable showing of proof of authority from the purported representative of the estate. Beneficiaries under the policies are not included in the Class, however, and the proposed settlement relief is not available to any such beneficiaries.
WHEN WOULD I GET MY SETTLEMENT BENEFITS?
The Court will hold a hearing on December 4, 2020, called the Fairness Hearing, to decide whether to grant final approval of the settlement. If the Court approves the settlement, the Settlement Claims Administrator will mail a Claim Packet to all Class Members to be completed and returned to the Settlement Claims Administrator. Upon receiving a valid completed and notarized Claim Form postmarked by the Claim Deadline, the Settlement Claims Administrator will forward the Claim Form to Allianz to be reviewed and the settlement benefits calculated. If the lawyers representing the class and the defendants agree on your settlement amount, Allianz will have thirty (30) days after the settlement benefits are calculated and finalized to process the Claims and remit to you the appropriate amount of settlement benefits by check. If the lawyers disagree on the settlement amount, a neutral third party will decide the appropriate amount and Allianz will have 30 days from that decision to remit to you the appropriate amount of settlement benefits by check.
WHAT AM I GIVING UP TO GET A SETTLEMENT BENEFIT?
Unless you previously excluded yourself from the Class, you are a member of the Class if you meet the class definition. That means: (1) that you cannot sue, continue to sue, or be part of or receive any benefits in or from any other lawsuit, arbitration, administrative or regulatory proceeding, order, or other legal proceeding anywhere against Allianz, Imeriti, and certain other released parties included as “Releasees” under the Stipulation of Settlement, concerning the marketing, solicitation, purchase, administration, or surrender of your Allianz annuity or other life insurance product, Allianz and/or Imeriti’s supervision of Sean M. Meadows, Meadows’ theft of funds, or any other legal claims that were made or could have been made in this case; and (2) that you give up, or release, any and all claims – regardless of whether they are presently known or suspected, presently unknown or unsuspected, presently existing, or might exist in the future – against the Releasees relating to (a) the annuities or other life insurance products at issue in this case or the manner in which those annuities or other life insurance products were marketed, solicited, purchased, administered or surrendered, (b) Allianz and Imeriti’s supervision of Sean M. Meadows, (c) Meadows’ theft of funds, (d) any other legal claims that were made or could have been made in this case against Allianz, Imeriti, and/or the Releasees, and/or (e) any and all matters concerning or relating to this settlement (including, without limitation, the award, election, and/or implementation of any settlement relief with respect to a policy). It also means that all of the Court’s orders, whatever they provide, will apply to you and legally bind you, even if you object to the proposed settlement.
DO I HAVE A LAWYER IN THIS CASE?
The Court appointed Amy Conners, Jennifer Olson, and Thomas Heffelfinger of the law firm Best & Flanagan LLP as Class Counsel to represent the Class. If you are a member of the Class and do not wish to be represented by Class Counsel, you have the right to hire your own attorney to represent you in the lawsuit at your expense. If you hire a lawyer to speak for you or appear in Court, your lawyer must file a Notice of Appearance.
HOW WILL THE LAWYERS BE PAID?
Class Counsel will ask the Court for an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses of $1,750,000. Class Counsel also will ask the Court to award payments to the Class Representatives of $75,000 for all Class Representatives combined. The Court may award less than these amounts. Allianz and Imeriti will pay the attorneys’ fees and expenses and any payments to Class Representatives in the amount awarded by the Court, up to the foregoing amounts. These amounts will not come out of or reduce the specific settlement benefits awarded to Class Members. Allianz and Imeriti also will separately pay costs to administer the settlement.
HOW DO I TELL THE COURT THAT I DO NOT AGREE WITH THE SETTLEMENT?
If you are a Class Member, you can object to the settlement if you do not like any part of it. The Court will consider your views in connection with the Fairness Hearing described below. To object, you must file your objection with the Court and send copies of your objection in writing to the Parties, stating that you object to the proposed settlement between Plaintiffs, Allianz, and Imeriti in Berthiaume, et al. v. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America and Imeriti, Inc. d/b/a Imeriti Financial Network. Your written objection must include your full name, current address, telephone number, policy number(s), and signature, and state whether you object to a portion of or the whole settlement, set forth the legal and factual reasons why you object, and include any documents you wish to submit in support of your position. Your written objection must be mailed to each of the following places, postmarked no later than November 23, 2020.
4th District Civil Court
Hennepin County Gov’t Ctr.
300 S. 6th St., C-332
Minneapolis, MN 55487
Amy S. Conners
Thomas B. Heffelfinger
Jennifer L. Olson
Best & Flanagan LLP
60 S. 6th St., Ste. 2700
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Jeffrey D. Hedlund
Larry E. LaTarte
Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
2200 Wells Fargo Ctr. 90 S. Seventh Street
Minneapolis, MN 55402
David P. Pearson
Kyle R. Kroll
Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.
225 S. 6th St., Ste. 3500
If you do not timely submit an objection in accordance with the above requirements, you will not be treated as having filed a valid objection to the proposed settlement.
If you hire an attorney for the purpose of objecting to any aspect of the proposed settlement, the attorney must file an entry of appearance with the Clerk of Court no later than November 23, 2020, and send a copy of such entry of appearance to Class Counsel and counsel for Allianz and Imeriti (at the addresses listed above), postmarked no later than November 23, 2020.
WHEN AND WHERE WILL THE COURT DECIDE WHETHER TO APPROVE THE SETTLEMENT?
The Court will hold a Fairness Hearing on December 4, 2020, at 3:00 P.M. Due to the recent COVID-19 case increase in Minnesota, this hearing will be conducted remotely—no in person attendance is allowed.
At this hearing, the Court will consider whether the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. If there are objections, the Court will consider them. Judge Miller may listen to people who, prior to the hearing, properly and timely requested in writing to speak at the hearing, as described under section 19 of the Notice. The Court may also decide how much Class Counsel will be paid and the amount of any payments to the Class Representatives. At or following the hearing, the Court will decide whether to approve the settlement, but we do not know exactly when that decision will be made.
Remote access to the hearing will be available via a telephone conference line or via the Internet using Zoom (audio or video). To connect to the hearing, please do one of the following:
1. To attend by telephone, dial into the Court’s dedicated conference call line for this hearing:
• Dial the toll-free telephone conference call number: 833-568-8864
• If you are prompted to enter a meeting ID, enter: 160-597-0390
• If you are prompted to enter a meeting passcode, enter: 608306
2. To attend via the Internet using Zoom:
• Click or enter the following URL: https://courts-state-mn-us.zoomgov.com/j/1605970390?pwd=RFhPb3lLOThBdnl6QktxRmxiNkJFdz09
• The meeting ID is 160-597-0390
• The meeting passcode is: 608306
DO I HAVE TO COME TO THE HEARING?
No – attendance at the hearing is not required in order to be eligible for settlement benefits. Class Counsel will answer questions the Honorable Laurie J. Miller may have, but you are welcome to view the hearing remotely. You also may pay your own lawyer to attend the hearing if you so choose. If you submit a written objection to the proposed settlement, you don’t have to do anything else. As long as you properly submit your written objection and it is postmarked on time, the Court will consider it.
MAY I SPEAK AT THE HEARING?
You may ask the Court for permission to speak at the Fairness Hearing if you object to the terms of the settlement. To do so, you must do two things. First, you must object to the settlement in accordance with the procedures described above under section 16 of the Notice. Second, you must send a letter stating that it is your “Notice of Intention to Appear in the Settlement of Berthiaume, et al. v. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America and Imeriti, Inc. d/b/a Imeriti Financial Network.” You must include your name, address, telephone number, and your signature on your Notice of Intention to Appear. Your Notice of Intention to Appear must be sent to the Clerk of the Court, Class Counsel, Allianz’s Counsel, and Imeriti’s Counsel, and must be postmarked and received by the Court no later than November 23, 2020. You cannot speak at the hearing if you do not follow these procedures.
WHERE DO I OBTAIN MORE INFORMATION?
You may address written questions to the attorney listed below:
Best & Flanagan LLP
60 South Sixth Street, Suite 2700
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55402
Additionally, you can call the following toll-free number maintained by the Settlement Claims Administrator: 1-888-394-9699.
Please do not contact the Court or Judge Miller. They cannot answer any questions or discuss the lawsuit with you.