Aetna Considering Apology, Restitution Over Slave Policies

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - In an effort to right past wrongs, the Aetna insurance company said it may make a public apology - and pay restitution - for insuring slaves in America 150 years ago. The life insurance policies, issued in the 1850s, were intended to compensate slave owners for the loss of people who were then considered property.

A 34-year-old lawyer named Deadria Farmer-Paellmann is petitioning Aetna and several other US corporations to apologize for their involvement in slavery. She said the profits from slave policies "helped Aetna to become a multibillion-dollar corporation today," and as a result, "They have a moral obligation to apologize and share that wealth with the heirs of the Africans they helped maintain in slavery."

A spokesperson for Aetna is quoted as saying, "Aetna has long acknowledged that for several years after its founding in 1853, it may have insured the lives of slaves. We express our deep regret over any participation at all in this deplorable practice," said Fred Laberge. "We want to make clear that we take this matter very seriously, and we are actively engaged in determining what actions might be taken."

According to Farmer-Paellman, Aetna officials have told her the company will make a public apology and may expand the number of university scholarships it offers black Americans as a means of restitution.

If Aetna does apologize for its involvement in the slave trade, it would be the first US corporation ever to do so.

Atoning for past wrongs has become an international trend. Victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants are currently negotiating compensation from German companies over slave labor and unpaid insurance policies.