United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York,
Chief Judge Edward R. Korman Presiding (CV-96-4849)

 
 
Bank Claims
2005 Publication

Frequently Asked Questions

This section is divided into three parts. The first part answers some general questions you may have about the Claims Resolution Process for claims of Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution or their heirs to assets deposited in Swiss banks in the period before and during the Second World War. The second part answers more specific questions about the status of claims filed. Finally, the third part answers questions you may have about how your claim is adjudicated.

    Part 1. General Background

  1. What is the Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation?


  2. What is the background of the list of accounts published in February 2001?


  3. Have claims related to the list of A ccount O wner names published in 2001 been processed?


  4. Can I still file a claim with the CRT related to the list of a ccounts published in February 2001?


  5. What is the background of the list of names of Account Owners and Power of Attorney Holders published on January 13, 2005?


  6. What was the purpose of the list of names of Account Owners and Power of Attorney Holders published on January 13, 2005?


  7. Who will process claims to accounts from the 2005 List?


  8. What are the functions of the CRT?


  9. Why is the CRT located in Switzerland?


  10. Is the CRT a Swiss Tribunal?


  11. What progress has been made with the Deposited Assets claims processing?


  12. There has been press recently about residual funds. What is this?


  13. Part 2. Filing Requirements

  14. Who does the CRT consider to be a Victim or Target of Nazi Persecution?


  15. What if I have questions about my claim?


  16. Will I need to attend a hearing in person?


  17. What types of documents are important to submit in support of my claim?


  18. How will I know whether the CRT has received my claim?


  19. Will the contents of my claim be kept confidential


  20. Part 3. Resolution of Claims

  21. Who will decide my claim?


  22. On which issues will the CRT focus?


  23. What if I believe I am entitled to an account, but the Account Owner was not a Victim or Target of Nazi Persecution?



  24. Are there rules governing the CRT?


  25. What is the standard of proof my claim must meet?


  26. How does the CRT determine who is entitled to the proceeds of a claimed account?


  27. How does the CRT determine whether my relative and the Account Owner are the same person?


  28. If my claim is successful, will I get the full amount in the a ccount, as well as interest?


  29. If the CRT approves my claim, can I collect the money from the bank?


  30. Do I have the right to appeal the CRT .s decision about my claim?


 

Part 1. General Background

  1. What is the Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation?

    In late 1996 and early 1997, a series of class action lawsuits were filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (the .Court .) against certain Swiss banks, alleging that the Swiss banks collaborated with and aided the Nazi Regime by knowingly retaining and concealing assets of Holocaust Victims and by accepting and laundering illegally obtained Nazi loot and profits of slave labor. In the course of these lawsuits, the parties commenced settlement discussions.

    In August 1998, the parties reached an agreement, in principle, to settle the lawsuits for $1.25 billion ( .Global Settlement .) which was signed on January 26, 1999 . In exchange for the settlement amount paid by the Swiss banks ( .Settlement Fund .), the plaintiffs and class members agreed to release and forever discharge the Swiss banks and the Swiss government from, among other things, any and all claims relating to the Holocaust, the Second World War, and its prelude and aftermath. On August 9, 2000 , the presiding Judge, Edward R. Korman, determined that the proposed settlement of the class action was fair, reasonable and adequate and granted it final approval.


    Following the approval of the Settlement Agreement, a court-appointed Special Master, Judah Gribetz, drew up a plan of distribution that was approved by Judge Korman on November 22, 2000 , and upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on July 26, 2001 . According to the Special Master .s plan, a total of up to US $800 million of the Settlement Fund has been allocated to satisfy awards made by the CRT and approved by Judge Korman to Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution or their heirs who make claims relating to assets deposited in Swiss banks prior to or during the Second World War ( .Deposited Assets Class .). On February 5, 2001 , the names of the owners of approximately 21,000 accounts were published on the Internet.

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  2. What is the background of the list of accounts published in February 2001?

    Independently of the class action lawsuits described above, in 1996, the Swiss Bankers Association, the World Jewish Restitution Organization and the World Jewish Congress (representing the Jewish Agency and Allied Organizations) concluded a Memorandum of Understanding designed to establish a process whereby dormant wartime accounts could be identified. The Memorandum of Understanding established the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons ( .ICEP .), which was chaired by Mr. Paul Volcker, to identify Swiss bank accounts of Victims of Nazi Persecution that have been dormant since the Second World War or have otherwise not been made available to those Victims or their heirs and to assess the banks . treatment of those accounts.

    In December 2000, after a comprehensive ICEP investigation of Swiss bank records, certain accounts were identified by the ICEP auditors as being either probably or possibly owned by a Victim of Nazi Persecution. Thereafter, and in connection with the Global Settlement, the Swiss Federal Banking Commission mandated that the Swiss Bankers Association bring about the publication of certain accounts probably or possibly related to Victims of Nazi Persecution.

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  3. Have claims related to the list of A ccount O wner names published in 2001 been processed?

    Approximately 32,000 claims have been filed in connection with the original list of names of owners of approximately 21,000 accounts that probably or possibly belonged to Victims of Nazi Persecution. In addition, the CRT is processing an additional approximately 40,000 Initial Questionnaires, which were submitted to the Court in 1999 by potential class members. Although these Initial Questionnaires were not claim forms, the Court, in an Order signed on 30 July 2001 , ordered that those Initial Questionnaires which can be processed as claim forms be treated as timely claims. See Order Concerning Use of Initial Questionnaire Responses as Claim Forms in the Claims Resolution Process for Deposited Assets ( July 30, 2001 ). as of February 2006, including theCRT-I awards, over $295 million has been awarded to date covering 3,397 accounts. It is anticipated that several thousand additional claims will be processed and paid.

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  4. Can I still file a claim with the CRT related to the list of a ccounts published in February 2001?

    No. The deadline for filing claims to an a ccount published in February 2001 has expired.

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  5. What is the background of the list of names of Account Owners and Power of Attorney Holders published on January 13, 2005?

    On June 10, 2004 , several of the concerns impacting the resolution of Deposited Assets Class claims were addressed in an agreement between settlement counsel of the plaintiff class and counsel for the defendant Swiss banks. The parties entered into an agreement approved by the District Court on June 17, 2004 , the "Second Memorandum to the File." The agreement was intended to improve the claims processing of the Deposited Assets Class by adding a New York office of the CRT and publishing names of approximately 2,700 Account Owners and 400 Power of Attorney Holders. The new list (the .2005 List .) includes names previously identified during the ICEP investigation of Swiss banks as possibly belonging to Holocaust victims. These names were not included in the list of names previously published with the endorsement of the SFBC in 2001. In addition, the 2005 List contains names of Account Owners and Power of Attorney Holders previously identified in a survey of dormant bank accounts conducted pursuant to the 1962 Swiss Federal Decree on Assets of Victims of Racial, Religious and Political Persecution as probably belonging to Nazi Victims and later published by Swiss authorities, as well as names of Polish and Hungarian Account Owners whose World War II era Swiss bank accounts were the subject of post-War international agreements between Switzerland, Poland and Hungary. Additional names of Account Owners were identified in records available to the CRT from archival sources. The 2005 List was published on January 13, 2005.

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  6. What was the purpose of the list of names of Account Owners and Power of Attorney Holders published on January 13, 2005?


  7. The purpose of the 2005 List was to enable eligible claimants to identify the owners of Swiss bank accounts that were open or opened between 1933 and 1945 and to make claims to those accounts to which they may be entitled.

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  8. Who is processing claims to accounts from the 2005 List?

    In order to provide a fair and equitable resolution of claims against the accounts published in the original list of 2001, as updated by the 2005 List, the Special Master recommended that the CRT be given authority to receive and process such claims.

    The CRT was initially established in 1997 to arbitrate claims to 5,570 dormant accounts in Swiss banks that were published in 1997 prior to the completion of the ICEP investigation. That arbitration process is now referred to as .CRT-I. . The accounts adjudicated by CRT-I dated from 1933 to 1945 and had remained open and dormant. Those accounts were owned by both Victims of Nazi persecution and others who were not so persecuted. Ultimately, CRT-I adjudicated over 9,000 claims to accounts published in 1997. The work of CRT-I involving these accounts was completed in the spring of 2001. The CRT-I process awarded 207 accounts totaling $11,700,000 to Victims of Nazi persecution or their heirs, an amount payable from the $1.25 billion settlement.

    The CRT began a new phase of its existence when it was named to process Deposited Assets claims as part of the Global Settlement and is now known as .CRT-II . (in this document, .CRT .). Guided by the principle that individual claims to deposited assets in Swiss banks must be individually resolved, rules to govern CRT were developed to substantially accelerate the resolution of claims while maintaining the full benefits of due process of law. The CRT now operates under these rules, which have been approved by Judge Korman. On December 8, 2000 , Judge Korman appointed Mr. Paul Volcker and Mr. Michael Bradfield, former Chairman and Counsel, respectively, of ICEP, as Special Masters to establish, organize and supervise the Claims Resolution Process. On April 13, 2004 , Judge Korman appointed Dr. Helen B. Junz, formerly a member of the Bergier Commission, as an additional CRT Special Master. Mr. Volcker is no longer serving as CRT Special Master due to his commitment to the ongoing United Nations .food-for-oil . investigation. The Court must approve CRT awards for payment from the Settlement Fund.

    In addition, the CRT has processed and will continue to process claims to accounts whose owners . names were published on February 5, 2001.

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  9. What are the functions of the CRT?

    The CRT .s task is to process individual claims to Swiss bank accounts of claimants who seek the return of assets deposited in Swiss banks. In this regard, the CRT determines whether each particular claimant has plausibly demonstrated that an account was opened by a Victim or Target of Nazi Persecution and whether the claimant is entitled to the proceeds of that account. If a claimant makes a plausible case that he or she is entitled to such an account, the CRT will recommend that the Court approve an award of an amount that will be paid to the claimant from the Settlement Fund.

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  10. Why is the CRT located in Switzerland?

    The CRT has its offices in Switzerland because that is where the bank documents are located. Access to the relevant bank documents is of great importance when establishing whether a claimant is entitled to a claimed account.

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  11. Is the CRT a Swiss Tribunal?

    No. The CRT is made up of a highly qualified team of international lawyers, based in Zurich and New York , who possess wide-ranging language capabilities. They are assisted by paralegals, researchers, and an administrative staff. It reviews claims pursuant to Rules adopted and approved by the Court in the United States . All recommendations by the CRT are reviewed and must be approved by the Court.

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  12. What progress has been made with the Deposited Assets claims processing?

    As of December 2005, approximately 3,317 accounts with a current value of approximately $287 million have been awarded for CRT-I and CRT-II. For CRT-II, through December 2005, 1,925 awards have been made totaling approximately $275 million.

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  13. There has been press recently about residual funds. What is this?

    Judge Korman has determined in published opinions that the claims of the Deposited Assets Class have the most legal merit. Last November, the Court requested proposals on how to use possible unclaimed residual funds that may remain in the event that some portion of the $800 million allocated to the Deposited Assets Class remains unpaid. Over 100 proposals were submitted and summarized in the Special Master .s Recommendations for Allocation of Possible Unclaimed Residual Funds, of April 16, 2004 . However, as noted in a February 19, 2004 opinion, the Court has determined that as of now, it has insufficient data to estimate how much, or indeed whether any, of the $800 million designated for the Deposited Assets Class will be repaid and is awaiting more information from the CRT. Thus, no determination has been made about a possible residual, if any.

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  14. Part 2. Filing Requirements

  15. Who does the CRT consider to be a Victim or Target of Nazi Persecution?

    The Settlement Agreement defines a Victim or Target of Nazi Persecution as any person who was persecuted or targeted for persecution by the Nazi regime because he or she was or was believed to be Jewish, Romani, Jehovah .s Witness, homosexual, or physically or mentally disabled or handicapped.

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  16. What if I have questions about my claim?

    If you have questions with regard to your claim, to obtain help you can do any of the following:

    Send your inquiry by regular mail to:
    Claims Resolution Tribunal, P.O. Box 9564, 8036 Zurich, Switzerland.

    Telephone the CRT by using either of the following toll-free numbers:
    1 866 461 2142 (from the United States);
    or +800 0123 0456 (from outside of the United States).

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  18. Will I need to attend a hearing in person?

    No, the proceedings are conducted in writing. If the CRT needs further information, you will be contacted either by telephone or in writing.

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  19. What types of documents are important to submit in support of my claim?

    The CRT understands that due to the circumstances surrounding the Second World War many documents are no longer available. However, if available, you should submit copies of any documents that would help the CRT to determine whether your relative was the Account Owner and/or your entitlement to the claimed account, for example, passport or other identifying documents; birth certificates; death certificates; marriage certificates; correspondence such as postcards, letters, or business correspondence containing your relative .s signature; wills; testamentary or probate documents; and certificates of inheritance. Specifically, you may submit any documents that can demonstrate a link between you (the Claimant) and the name of the Account Owner. If you claim an account owned by a company or legal entity included on the 2005 List, please submit documents supporting your claim that your relative owned the company and/or is entitled to its account. Please do not send originals.

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  20. How will I know whether the CRT has received my claim?

    The CRT will acknowledge receipt of your claim. Because the CRT receives thousands of claims, please be aware that there may be a period of time before you are contacted about your claim.

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  21. Will the contents of my claim be kept confidential?

    In general, the CRT keeps all claims it receives and decisions it renders confidential. However, according to the CRT .s Rules, claims of separate parties to the same account or related accounts may be joined in one proceeding, and claim forms and supporting documents may be exchanged between the parties at the discretion of the CRT.

    Thus, if other people have claimed the same account you are claiming, your claim form and any supporting information you have submitted may be disclosed to these other claimants, if the CRT determines this to be necessary. At the same time, you will be provided with the submissions made by the other claimants to the account.

    Finally, decisions by the CRT are published on its website. However, at the end of your claim form you are given the opportunity to request that any of your identifying information be removed prior to publication.

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  22. Part 3. Resolution of Claims

  23. Who will decide my claim?

    All Deposited Assets claims are reviewed by a highly qualified team of international lawyers, based in Zurich and New York , who possess wide-ranging language capabilities. They are assisted by paralegals, researchers, and an administrative staff. All decisions made by the CRT are reviewed by the Court, which makes the ultimate determination on all claims.

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  24. On which issues will the CRT focus?

    The CRT will focus on whether you have made a plausible claim showing (1) that the Account Owner was persecuted or targeted for persecution by the Nazi regime because he or she was or was believed to be Jewish, Romani, Jehovah .s Witness, homosexual, or physically or mentally disabled or handicapped; (2) that your relative and the Account Owner are the same person; (3) that neither the Account Owner nor his or her heirs previously received the proceeds of the account; and (4) that you are entitled to receive the proceeds of the Account Owner .s account. The Rules Governing the Claims Resolution Process, as amended (the .Rules .), set forth the rules of distribution followed by the CRT.

    The mere fact that you or your relative and the Account Owner have the same or a similar last name is not enough to support a claim to an account.

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  25. What if I believe I am entitled to an account, but the Account Owner was not a Victim or Target of Nazi Persecution?

    The CRT .s jurisdiction is limited to the review of claims to accounts that were owned by Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution. Hence, the CRT does not have the authority to treat claims to accounts that did not belong to a Victim or Target of Nazi Persecution. The Contact Office of the Swiss Bankers Association is handling claims to accounts that were owned by persons who were not victims. Its address is:

    Contact Office of Swiss Bank Accounts Dormant Since World War II
    P.O. Box 2761
    4002 Basel
    Switzerland

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  26. Are there rules governing the CRT?

    The CRT is governed by the Rules Governing the Claims Resolution Process, as amended (the .Rules .), which were adopted by the Special Masters and approved by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. These Rules provide a framework for the functions and duties of the CRT, and establish the standards by which it must decide claims.

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  27. What is the standard of proof my claim must meet?

    The CRT applies a relaxed standard of proof which takes into account the special circumstances of your case resulting from the destruction of the Second World War, the Holocaust, and the length of time that has passed since the opening of the account. A relaxed standard of proof means that for a claim to succeed you must show that it is plausible that you are entitled to all or part of the assets in the claimed account, given the special circumstances involved.

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  28. How does the CRT determine who is entitled to the proceeds of a claimed account?

    As noted above, the CRT is governed by its Rules, which set forth the bases for entitlement to a claimed account, and which include rules of distribution that govern the distribution of the account proceeds among members of the Account Owner .s family. (A copy of the section of the Rules dealing with the distribution of account proceeds is contained in Appendix B, attached to this Information Booklet.)

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  29. How does the CRT determine whether my relative and the Account Owner are the same person?

    All admissible claims are matched against the names of account owners of approximately 36,000 accounts that were identified by ICEP as probably or possibly belonging to Victims or Targets of Nazi persecution. These matches are then reviewed to determine whether the person identified in the claim form as the claimant .s relative is the person identified in the banks . records as the Account Owner. Reviewers consider such factors as the Account Owner .s city and country of residence, profession, marital status, and family member names. Claimants who have not plausibly identified their relative as the Account Owner will be notified and will have the opportunity to appeal the CRT .s decision by presenting new evidence regarding their relative.

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  30. If my claim is successful, will I get the full amount in the a ccount, as well as interest?

    Under the Global Settlement, up to a total of $800 million has been allocated for awards to members of the Deposited Assets Class. The amount of the award is based upon the historic value of the account, adjusted for fees and interest. If the historic value of an account is unknown, the CRT relies on the results of the ICEP investigation as to the average value of the same or similar type of account during the time period from 1933 to 1945. As of August 25, 2003 , all account values are multiplied by a standard factor of 12.5 to adjust them to current values. All CRT awards are paid in full.

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  31. If the CRT approves my claim, can I collect the money from the bank?

    No. The Global Settlement releases the banks from claims of Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution and their heirs. Therefore, the CRT will not issue decisions enforceable against the banks, but will issue awards to be certified for payment from the Settlement Fund.

    Once an award is determined and certified to the Court by the CRT, it will be paid by the Special Masters to the claimant upon the approval of the award by the Court. Payments of Court-approved awards will be made by the Special Masters from an awards payment account funded from the Settlement Fund. Prior to payment, claimants are required to sign an acknowledgment form which releases claims to the awarded accounts and which obligates them to share the award amount with any other heirs of the Account Owner who may be entitled to the proceeds of the account pursuant to Article 23 of the Rules.

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  32. Do I have the right to appeal the CRT .s decision about my claim?

    The CRT .s Rules provide for a right of appeal to the CRT .s decisions. If a claim is deemed inadmissible, the claimant will be notified. A claimant whose claim has been ruled inadmissible has the right to appeal this decision by writing to the CRT within 60 days. Claimants who have not plausibly identified their relative as the Account Owner will be notified. Denials will be issued if the evidence before the CRT indicates that the Account Owner or his or her heirs previously received the proceeds of the claimed account. Such claimants will have the opportunity to appeal the CRT .s decision by presenting new evidence regarding their relative and/or the claimed a ccount.

    For relevant documents concerning the Holocaust Victim Asset Litigation, see www.swissbankclaims.com.

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  33.