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Class Actions in Context

Class Actions in Context

How Culture, Economics and Politics Shape Collective Litigation

Edited by Deborah R. Hensler, Christopher Hodges and Ianika Tzankova

In recent years collective litigation procedures have spread across the globe, accompanied by hot controversy and normative debate. Yet virtually nothing is known about how these procedures operate in practice. Based on extensive documentary and interview research, this volume presents the results of the first comparative investigation of class actions and group litigation ‘in action’, in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Chapter 6: Collective redress in Vie d’Or: A reflection on a European cultural phenomenon

Ianika Tzankova

Subjects: law - academic, arbitration and dispute resolution, comparative law, consumer law, law and society, law of obligations


The collapse of financial powerhouse Lehman Brothers in September 2008 marked the start of a financial crisis the scale of which had not been experienced for almost a century. From this time onwards the bankruptcy or nationalization of a troubled financial institution would hardly be considered a rarity. The financial landscape was different in 1993 when Vie d’Or, a life insurance company established in the south of the Netherlands, went bankrupt. In the 1990s in the Netherlands, financial institutions rarely went bankrupt and the life insurance business was considered to be a safe activity. Moreover, in the Netherlands, as in other European countries, there is a strong reliance on public regulatory oversight and enforcement to prevent the collapse of financial institutions. When an exceptional event takes place, the government is expected to provide a solution or at the very least to somehow facilitate a compensation scheme for the victims. The bankruptcy of Vie d’Or left about 11,000 Dutch consumers without life insurance policy and with damages estimated to total €80 million. It is not surprising, then, that at the time the matter attracted extensive media and political attention. In 2011, after 16 years of collective litigation, the consumers succeeded in obtaining compensation of about 50 percent of their damages through a collective settlement. The latter was approved and declared binding by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal on an opt-out basis in April 2009.

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