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May 23, 2007: $2 Billion Settlement Ends Long Dispute Over WTC Insurance

Insurance companies reach a $2 billion settlement with real estate development and investment firm Silverstein Properties for the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. The agreement, which involves seven of the two-dozen insurers for the WTC, ends more than five years of legal wrangling. The other insurance companies involved have already paid out about $2.55 billion, meaning the total payout will be $4.55 billion. In September 2006, Silverstein Properties and the New York Port Authority had agreed to split the reconstruction of the WTC site between them, and to divide up the remaining insurance proceeds accordingly. Consequently, the Port Authority is to receive about $870 million from the latest settlement, while the remaining $1.13 billion will go to Silverstein Properties. (New York State 5/23/2007; Bagli 5/23/2007; Schuster 5/23/2007; Gralla and Wilchins 5/23/2007) Silverstein Properties acquired the lease on several of the World Trade Center buildings, including the Twin Towers, in July 2001 (see July 24, 2001). (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 7/24/2001) As the New York Times summarizes, “At that time, two dozen insurers had signed binders pledging to provide $3.5 billion in insurance coverage, but had not finished the documentation.” Therefore, after 9/11, an “ugly dispute developed over which insurance policy was in effect at the time of the attack. Mr. [Larry] Silverstein [the president of Silverstein Properties] argued that since two jetliners slammed into the two towers, he was entitled to a double payment on the $3.5 billion policy. But many of the insurers countered that they had agreed to a different policy that did not permit double claims.” (Bagli 5/23/2007) In 2004, federal juries had decided that Silverstein Properties could collect a maximum of $4.68 billion for the loss of the WTC. The current settlement therefore means the insurers are obliged to pay 97.2 percent of that maximum. (Levitt 5/23/2007; New York State 5/23/2007; Schuster 5/23/2007; Gralla and Wilchins 5/23/2007) Silverstein Properties had separately been awarded $861 million of insurance money in 2002 for the loss of World Trade Center Building 7, which also collapsed on 9/11 (see May 2002).


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