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The Insurance Journal reports that class action lawsuits in federal courts on both coasts have been initiated on behalf of small businesses in California, New York and New Jersey against American International Group (AIG) over workers’ compensation reporting. Plaintiff attorneys say the case could involve thousands of firms doing business from the 1970s until the early 2000s and could result in damages up to hundreds of millions of dollars, although no figure has yet been established.

AIG says the suits are an attempt to reopen charges that have already been settled.

The suit filed this week against AIG and its subsidiary companies, and former AIG CEO Maurice Greenberg, charges unfair business practices, fraud and violations of the federal racketeering statutes. The attorneys who filed the suit allege that beginning in the 1970s AIG engaged in a scheme to misreport the amount of workers’ comp premium it collected in each state, which resulted in insured employers paying more in certain workers’ comp fees. Plaintiffs claim that by making it appear that less money in workers’ comp premium was collected, AIG caused insurance regulators to assess artificially inflated fees on insured employers for certain state mandated workers’ comp programs, the attorneys argue.

In 2010 AIG agreed to pay $146.5 million in fines and additional taxes to state insurance regulators for alleged under-reporting of premiums to states more than a decade ago. AIG has also agreed to pay $450 million to resolve litigation brought by other insurance carriers over the misreporting. The deal was believed to have resolved a multi-state probe that examined whether AIG violated premium reporting rules governing workers comp insurance from 1985 to 1996. The misreporting had the effect of lowering the premium taxes and premium-based assessments AIG paid, according to regulators.

In a response to this week’s suit AIG referred to that deal. “The court filings attempt to recycle allegations of wrongdoing from decades past that AIG has already resolved via settlements with its regulators and with civil plaintiffs,” AIG said in a statement issued to Insurance Journal on Thursday. “AIG will defend the cases vigorously.”

However that deal did not give damages to the companies that were paying the higher premiums as a result of AIG’s “scheme,” an attorney on the case said on Thursday. “The wrong that we’re suing for has not been dealt with at all,” said Drew Pomerance, a partner in Roxborough, Pomerance, Nye and Adreani LLP, the firm representing the class in California. “AIG has not compensated any insured employers affected by this conduct.” With an air of confidence he added: “There’s been judgment against them before, and we expect to get a judgment against them this time.”

Based on previous litigation and analysis, Pomerance estimates AIG underreported premiums by $2 billion, which could lead to a large figure for any damages that may be sought. “It looks like there was more than $2 billion of underreporting and probably substantially more over the years,” he said. “It could be tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.”

The first court of appearance in California is a case management conference set for Jan. 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. Similar appearances are expected in New York and New Jersey, according to Pomerance.