The state of Minnesota has filed a lawsuit against Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America for selling deferred annuities to senior citizens that were unsuitable for seniors' financial needs.

The suit also claims that the insurance company did not adequately disclose that seniors could have their limited savings tied up for as long as 15 years, could not cash in their annuities early without paying hefty surrender penalties, and that payments advertised as "immediate" bonuses were not payable for up to 15 years.

"Allianz and its agents aggressively marketed deferred annuities to seniors without regard to the suitability of the sale and without disclosing that seniors' limited savings could be tied up for years," Attorney General Lori Swanson said.

"It is wrong for a company to mislead seniors into tying up their retirement savings in unsuitable investments in order to generate commissions," she said.

Swanson noted that the sale of unsuitable, long-term annuities to senior citizens using aggressive and deceptive sales tactics has recently drawn significant national attention. She said her office was reviewing other companies' annuities sales practices for evidence of unsuitable sales and/or deceptive marketing.

Swanson said that Allianz agents often lured seniors to attend "estate planning" or "wealth management" seminars, the real purpose of which was to sell Allianz annuities to the seniors who attended. Swanson said Allianz also lured seniors to purchase the annuities by offering "immediate" bonus payments of five to ten percent of the principal of the annuity. In fact, the lawsuit alleges that Allianz does not pay the "immediate" bonus for as long as 15 years.

The lawsuit contends that, after luring seniors in the above fashion, Allianz agents often:

• Failed to ensure that the annuity was a suitable investment for the particular senior. Minnesota law requires an agent to ensure that an annuity is suitable for the purchaser's financial needs. Allianz's deferred annuities are often unsuitable investments for seniors because the circumstances of many seniors requires them to have current income or access to liquid funds to pay living expenses, nursing home expenses, or medical costs. With Allianz's deferred annuities, seniors could see their savings tied up for as long as 15 years.

• Misled seniors regarding the terms of these "deferred" annuities. In a deferred annuity, after holding the annuity until its "maturity" date (often five to ten years), the senior cannot simply cash it in but rather must have the annuity payments spread out, or "annuitized," over another lengthy period of up to five to ten years.

• Misled seniors regarding the hefty surrender penalties of up to 15 percent that apply if the senior withdraws more than a small portion of their money before the annuity "matures" (which sometimes exceeds the life expectancy of the senior.)

Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America is based in Golden Valley, Minnesota and is owned by Allianz SE of Germany, the largest financial services company in the world. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America has approximately $75 billion in assets and approximately $3.5 billion in net worth.