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

 
 
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New Actions To Expedite Claims Processing

July 15, 2002

The Claims Resolution Tribunal announced a number of recent procedural and organizational changes. These changes are directed toward increasing the efficiency of the claims resolution process involving accounts of victims of Nazi persecution in Swiss banks while maintaining the integrity of that process.

The CRT is the mechanism authorized and directed by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Edward R. Korman to conduct the claims resolution process. The changes now introduced have been influenced in part by the Final Report of the Bergier Commission providing new information on the practices and procedures of Swiss Banks in dealing with victim accounts. That information suggests that transfers of Nazi victim accounts to Nazi authorities may have been significantly larger than earlier identified, and that at least at one point after World War II the banks adopted a common approach that was aimed at actively misinforming or misleading Nazi victims or their heirs who made inquiries to Swiss banks about their accounts.

The Report of the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons in late 1999 led by Paul A. Volcker identified 36,000 accounts in Swiss banks as "probably or possibly" belonging to Holocaust victims that had not been paid to them or their heirs. Unfortunately, for many of these accounts the critical transaction records that would provide the information on the persons or persons to whom they were paid are missing or have been destroyed.

The Tribunal has to resolve more than 32,000 claims submitted to it by victims or their heirs. More claims will be resolved based on claims resulting from answers to the Initial Questionaires submitted to the Court by class members in 1999.

In contrast, the earlier "CRT I" process resolved claims to only 5,540 dormant accounts published by the Swiss banks. These accounts, unlike the accounts identified by ICEP, had not been screened for Holocaust victims. That resolution process took almost five years to complete, emphasizing the need for a more streamlined approach.

The ICEP found records to some 4.1 million accounts of the of the 6.9 million accounts that the ICEP audits estimated were open in the Swiss banks in the relevant 1939-45 years, some of which may also be related to Holocaust victims. Claimants have been promised a search of those records for accounts that matched their name or the name of a relative who they believe had an account in a Swiss bank, provided they could present plausible evidence to support a claim.

In the light of those circumstances and experience in recent months, it was concluded that a review of procedures and personnel would be required to complete the resolution process in a timely way. The changes to the Rules that have been adopted, or are under consideration, simplify and expedite the procedures for deciding claims. They also provide the basis for making and valuing awards to Nazi victim claimants where the bank records are incomplete, missing or destroyed that reflect practices and procedures of the period prior to, during, and after, World War II.

Moreover, CRT staff attorneys will now be responsible for drafting decisions to be forwarded through the court-appointed Special Masters for Court approval. As a consequence, the participation of part-time high level Senior Claims Judges active in CRT will no longer be required. A number of new appointments of staff attorneys consistent with the change in procedures have been made and others have resigned.

The contribution of both Senior Claims Judges and the dedication of staff, both old and new, to completing the historic efforts is greatly appreciated.

 

 

 
  updated: 18 July 2005 10:34