CHRONOLOGY: In re Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation

April 23, 1996: A hearing is held before the United States Senate Banking Committee, chaired by Senator Alphonse D’Amato, on Holocaust victim deposits in Swiss banks.
May 2, 1996: The Swiss Bankers Association (“SBA”), World Jewish Restitution Organization, and World Jewish Congress enter into a Memorandum of Understanding establishing the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons (“ICEP”). ICEP is charged with responsibility for conducting an investigative audit to determine whether there continue to exist assets of victims of Nazi persecution, which had been deposited in Swiss banks before or during the Holocaust.
October 3, 1996: Weisshaus v. Union Bank of Switzerland, No. 96 CV 4849 (EDNY), is filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
October 21, 1996: Friedman v. Union Bank of Switzerland, No.96 CV 5161 (EDNY), is filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
December 11, 1996: A hearing is held before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Financial Services, chaired by Rep. James Leach, on the Disposition of Assets Deposited in Swiss Banks by Missing Nazi Victims: Paul Volcker, and Dr. George Krayer, Chairman of the SBA, testify. Krayer emphasizes that “First, the SBA, its members and the Swiss bank supervisors are committed to providing their full support and cooperation to the [ICEP] audit and abiding by its results …. Second, the auditors will have full access to all relevant information. Third, because of this access, the audit findings will represent the best attainable results and therefore must be accepted as conclusive by all responsible parties. Fourth, as Chairman Volcker explained, the process should be completed within the next 2 years.”
December 13, 1996: The Swiss Parliament establishes the Bergier Commission to “examine the period prior to, during, and immediately after WWII.” The Commission consists of ten members: distinguished scholars from Switzerland, the United States, England, and Poland.
January 22, 1997: The Swiss Federal Banking Commission (“SFBC”) declares the ICEP audits “official special audits” under the Swiss Banking Act of 1934 and the Swiss Banking Ordinance of 1972.
January 29, 1997: World Council of Orthodox Communities v. Union Bank of Switzerland, No.97 CV 0461 (EDNY), is filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
February 26, 1997: The SBA announces the formation of the Swiss Fund for Needy Victims of the Holocaust/Shoa (the “Swiss Humanitarian Fund”), a fund distinct from that ultimately created by the settlement of the class action lawsuits. The Swiss Humanitarian Fund is established to support persons in need who were persecuted for reasons of their race, religion, or political views or for other reasons, or otherwise were victims of the Holocaust, as well as to support their descendants in need. The Swiss Humanitarian Fund ultimately distributed S. Fr. 295 million to approximately 312,000 Nazi victims worldwide. A copy of the Swiss Humanitarian Fund’s final report can be accessed here.
March 7, 1997: Hon. Edward R. Korman, Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, consolidates the Weisshaus, Friedman, and World Council lawsuits for pre-trial purposes under the caption In re Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation.
May, 1997: The first “Eizenstat Report,” entitled “U.S. and Allied Efforts to Recover and Restore Gold and Other Assets Stolen or Hidden by Germany During World War II--Preliminary Study” is released; it provides a detailed analysis of Switzerland’s relationship with Nazi Germany and its handling of looted gold and other assets.
May 15, 1997: The Swiss banks respond to plaintiffs’ complaints by filing several motions to dismiss or, in the alternative, to stay the lawsuits in the Eastern District of New York.
June 3, 1997: ICEP announces a claims adjudication procedure working under liberal rules of evidence to fairly and objectively determine legitimate owners or heirs of bank accounts.
June 16, 1997: A Memorandum of Law/Declaration summarizing plaintiffs’ legal theories in the class action lawsuits is submitted by professor Burt Neuborne to Judge Korman.
June 25, 1997: A hearing is held before the United States House of Representatives, Committee on Banking and Financial Services, on the “Eizenstat Report and Related Issues Concerning United States and Allied Efforts to Restore Gold and Other Assets Looted By Nazis During World War II.” Paul Volcker testifies that the SFBC has agreed to a framework for facilitating the reconciliation of claims against dormant accounts; that the names and addresses, when available, of all dormant accounts originating before 1945 in Swiss banks will be published; and that in the interest of assuring full disclosure, the account names will be revealed whether or not there is any presumption that the accounts are in fact related to Holocaust victims or other persecuted persons.
June 25, 1997: Kurt Hauri, Chairman of the SBA, and Paul Volcker, Chairman of ICEP, announce an agreement among the SBA, SFBC, and ICEP to establish a Claims Resolution Process (“CRP”) for dormant accounts in Swiss Banks dating from prior to the end of WWII. The CRP has several major elements, including: an “SFBC circular letter to Swiss banks requiring them to report the accounts of residents and non-residents of Switzerland that have been dormant since 1945”; “[p]ublication of the names and other information on these accounts”; and an “independent and objective international claims resolution panel” to decide claims “operating under liberal rules of evidence.” The publication of lists of dormant accounts is set for July 23, 1997 and October 20, 1997.
July 23, 1997: SFBC publishes a first list of 1883 dormant accounts, valued at SFr. 66,169,152.
July 30, 1997: Amended complaints are filed in the Weisshaus, Friedman, and World Council lawsuits in an effort to group all plaintiffs seeking relief under the same jurisdictional theory in a single complaint.
August 1, 1997: Judge Korman hears oral argument on the Swiss Bank defendants’ motions to dismiss or stay and reserves decision; settlement negotiations commence.
October 20, 1997: The SFBC publishes a second list of 3,687 dormant accounts, valued at SFr. 6,179,180, for a total of 5,570 dormant Swiss accounts published to date.
June 28, 1998: Swiss Banking Corporation (“SBC”) and Union Bank of Switzerland (“UBS”), two of the three bank defendants in the class action lawsuits, merge.
July 1998: The Bergier Commission releases a “Gold Report,” a preliminary assessment of wartime gold transactions between Switzerland and Germany. The Commission reports that the Swiss National Bank (“SNB”) knew that much of the gold it received from Germany was looted from occupied countries, and that the SNB did not act in good faith in engaging in gold transactions with the Nazis.
August 12, 1998: An informal agreement in principle to settle the “Swiss Banks” class action lawsuits for U.S. $1.25 billion is reached in Judge Korman’s chambers; attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants UBS and Credit Suisse begin negotiating the terms of settlement.
December 15, 1998: The Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee unanimously endorses Judge Korman’s proposal to appoint Judah Gribetz as Special Master to develop a Proposed Plan of Allocation and Distribution of Settlement Proceeds.
January 26, 1999: Following over five months of negotiation by the parties, the “Swiss Banks” Settlement Agreement is signed. The Settlement Agreement creates five settlement classes: Deposited Assets (bank accounts and other assets deposited in Swiss financial institutions), Slave Labor Class I (individuals who may have performed slave labor for German and other companies which transacted their profits through Swiss entities), Slave Labor Class II (individuals who may have performed slave labor for Swiss entities), Refugees (individuals denied entry into or expelled from Switzerland, or admitted into Switzerland but abused or mistreated), and Looted Assets (individuals whose assets were looted and transacted through Switzerland or Swiss entities during the Nazi era). The Settlement Agreement also creates five categories of individuals eligible under four of the five settlement classes, designated “Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution”: persons who were persecuted or targeted for persecution because they were or were believed to be Jewish, Romani (Gypsy), Jehovah’s Witness, disabled, or homosexual, and their heirs. Slave Labor Class II is not limited to the five “Victim or Target” groups. Under the Settlement Agreement, a Special Master is to be appointed to recommend the allocation and distribution of the Settlement Fund among the different classes and victim groups. The Settlement Agreement includes as “releasees” the defendant banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, as well as virtually all other Swiss governmental and business entities, including the Swiss Federation.
February, 1999: Judge Korman appoints members of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee to serve as settlement counsel. Professor Burt Neuborne is named Lead Settlement Counsel.
March 30, 1999: “Organizational endorsements” required by the defendant banks as a condition to the Settlement Agreement are signed by seventeen major worldwide Jewish organizations.
March 30, 1999: Judge Korman preliminarily approves the Settlement Agreement and provisionally certifies the five Settlement Classes, pending notice and a formal hearing on the fairness of the settlement.
March 31, 1999: Judge Korman issues an order appointing Judah Gribetz as Special Master, setting forth terms of appointment including responsibilities, deadlines and compensation.
May 10, 1999: In accordance with class action settlement procedures required under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Judge Korman appoints Notice Administrators, approves plaintiffs’ notice plan, schedules exclusion request (“opt-out”) and objection deadlines of October 22, 1999, and schedules a final “fairness hearing” on the Settlement Agreement on November 29, 1999.
June 4, 1999: To enable the Special Master to take into account any comments raised at the fairness hearing scheduled for November 29, 1999, Judge Korman directs the Special Master to publish his draft proposed plan for comment on December 28, 1999 and to file his final proposed with the Court on April 28, 2000.
June 11, 1999: Worldwide notice of the proposed settlement commences, including notice documents provided in 27 languages; ultimately approximately 600,000 Initial Questionnaires are submitted in response to notice; the Internet site www.swissbankclaims.com is established.
October 22, 1999: Last day for “Swiss Banks” settlement class members to file exclusion requests (“opt-outs”).
November 29, 1999: A fairness hearing on the Settlement Agreement is held in New York.
December 6, 1999: The Independent Committee of Eminent Persons (ICEP, or the Volcker Committee), issues its final report (the “Volcker Report”), containing the results of its three-year investigation into Holocaust-era Swiss bank accounts. The Volcker Report explains that records exist for 4.1 million of 6.8 million such accounts, and these 4.1 million accounts should be consolidated into a “Total Accounts Database” (TAD) for use in the claims process; approximately 54,000 of these 4.1 million accounts “probably” or “possibly” belonged to Holocaust victims and comprise the “Account History Database” (AHD); of these 54,000 accounts, 25,000 should be published; the total current value of the AHD accounts is approximately $643 million to $1.36 billion, including interest.
December 6, 1999: The SFBC announces it is “solely responsible for decisions on publishing further lists of accounts”; it “will analyze the ICEP recommendations on archiving data, further publication of unclaimed assets, and handling of claims”; and it will reach a decision on these recommendations in the first quarter of 2000.
December 10, 1999: The Bergier Commission releases a report that addresses Switzerland’s refugee policy in the period before, during, and after WWII. The Commission condemns Swiss decisions to encourage the marking of passports of Jewish persons with a “J” stamp in 1938 and seal its borders to “racially” persecuted refugees in 1942.
December 14, 1999: A fairness hearing on the Settlement Agreement is held in Israel, with telephonic connection to the Court in New York.
December 14, 1999: German government and industry, together with Holocaust survivor representatives and plaintiffs’ class action attorneys, announce an agreement in principle on a $5 billion program to compensate former slave and forced laborers for German enterprises, those injured due to medical experimentation, and certain property losses.
December 23, 1999: Judge Korman modifies his June 4, 1999 Order to Special Master Gribetz by directing that the proposed plan be filed by March 15, 2000, and that a hearing on the proposed plan be held on June 15, 2000, to enable the Special Master to take into account recently released information: the Volcker Report of December 6, 1999, the Bergier Commission Report on Refugees of December 10, 1999, information contained in over 500,000 Initial Questionnaires then received by the Notice Administrators, and the terms of the December 14, 1999 agreement announced by the Federal Republic of Germany to create a U.S.$5 billion fund to compensate former slave and forced laborers.
February 9, 2000: ICEP Chairman Paul Volcker testifies at a hearing before the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services, reiterating the publication and data access recommendations of the Volcker Report.
March 14, 2000: Judge Korman modifies his December 23, 1999 Order to Special Master Gribetz, noting that the proposed plan had been scheduled for filing on March 15, 2000, which had assumed that the filing would follow the Court’s issuance of an order approving the Settlement Agreement as fair. However, Judge Korman observes that the Court remains unable to approve the agreement until Swiss authorities agree to implement the central recommendations of the Volcker Report. Accordingly, the proposed plan is to be filed by no later than thirty days following the Court’s approval of the Settlement Agreement, if approval is given.
March 30, 2000: The SFBC announces that it has “authorized” the Swiss banks to publish 26,000 accounts described in the Volcker Report as “probably” belonging to Holocaust victims, and to create a centralized database of 46,000 accounts that the Volcker Report described as “probably or possibly related to Holocaust victims.” The SFBC declines to adopt the recommendation to create a centralized database of all 4.1 million Holocaust-era Swiss bank accounts, stating that the database is “neither necessary nor meaningful” because “ICEP itself had, after a very thorough investigation, no reason to believe that these accounts were in any way related to victims of the Holocaust.” After a scrubbing process, 21,000 accounts were published on February 5, 2001, and the CRT was given access to 15,000 more accounts, for a total of 36,000 accounts that made up the Accounts History Database.
April 12, 2000: Paul Volcker advises SFBC Chairman Hauri by letter that “the exclusion of millions of small savings accounts and Swiss address accounts from the ICEP analysis in the interest of speedy and manageable results does not, and cannot, mean that none of those accounts were Holocaust related.”
July 17, 2000: Germany enacts legislation establishing the German Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future,” intended primarily to pay former slave and forced laborers as well as certain personal injury and property claims.
July 26, 2000: In a detailed opinion, Judge Korman grants final approval to the Settlement Agreement (as corrected August 2, 2000), In Re Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation, 105 F.Supp.2d 139 (E.D.N.Y. 2000). Noting that the Volcker Report has indicated that present-day values of Holocaust victim accounts remaining in Swiss Banks could exceed the U.S.$1.25 billion settlement, Judge Korman nevertheless approves the Settlement Agreement as fair under the circumstances, taking into account the “legal and practical impediments to the successful litigation of this case by the vast majority of individuals to whom money is justly due” because of the “successful campaign that the Swiss banks waged to prevent disclosure before records were destroyed,” as described in the Volcker Report. Defendant banks are ordered to advise the Court within seven days whether they will execute certain amendments to the Settlement Agreement relating to implementation of the Volcker Report recommendations concerning publication of account names and access to bank records, as well as other amendments related to looted art and insurance. If the banks do not execute the Settlement Agreement amendments, the Court will approve the original Settlement Agreement. In either case, the Court states that it will hold defendant banks and other releasees to a good faith duty to cooperate in implementing the Settlement Agreement. Among other things, Swiss entities seeking releases under “Slave Labor Class II” are required to identify themselves to the Special Master.
August 2, 2000: The parties execute “Amendment No. 2 to the Settlement Agreement” and the “Memorandum to the File,” providing for the defendant banks’ compliance with the Volcker Report’s recommendations, and establishing procedures concerning looted art and insurance claims.
August 9, 2000: Judge Korman enters an order granting final approval to the Settlement Agreement, as amended by Amendment No. 2 to the Settlement Agreement and by the Memorandum to the File.
August 11, 2000: Judge Korman directs the Special Master to file his proposed plan on or before September 11, 2000.
September 7, 2000: Thomas Weiss, by attorney Samuel Dubbin, files in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit a Notice of Appeal from the District Court’s August 9, 2000 Final Order and Judgment approving the Settlement Agreement, as amended. Under the Settlement Agreement, no distributions from the Settlement Fund can be made until the “Settlement Date”; i.e., until all appeals from the Final Order and Judgment have been resolved.
September 11, 2000: The Special Master files the Proposed Plan of Allocation and Distribution of Settlement Proceeds, a two-volume document approximately 900 pages in length, including annexes and appendices; summaries are mailed to all 580,000 persons who returned Initial Questionnaires.
  • The proposed plan recommends that up to $800 million of the $1.25 billion Settlement Fund should be allocated to the Deposited Assets Class in recognition of the estimates of the number and value of identifiable Holocaust victim accounts provided in the Volcker Report, the priority placed upon the bank accounts under the Settlement Agreement, and the legal and historical strength of the bank account claims; the Deposited Assets claims process is to be administered by the already-existing Claims Resolution Tribunal (“CRT”) in Zurich, Switzerland.
  • The remaining $425 million is to be distributed among approximately 200,000 surviving former slave laborers in payments of $1,000 each, subsequently increased to $1,450, and among surviving refugees ($2,500 each, subsequently increased to $3,625, for those who were denied entry into or expelled from Switzerland, and $500, subsequently increased to $725, for those admitted but mistreated in Switzerland), with $100 million, subsequently increased to $205 million, designated as a cy pres remedy for humanitarian assistance programs for the benefit of the neediest survivors as members of the Looted Assets Class. An additional $10 million is recommended for the Victim List Fund on behalf of all class members to memorialize all victims of Nazi persecution, those who survived and those who perished.
  • Along with the CRT, the distribution process is to be administered for the Court by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc. (“Claims Conference”), the International Organization for Migration (“IOM”) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (“JDC”).
November 20, 2000: Judge Korman holds a hearing in New York on the proposed plan of allocation and distribution of settlement proceeds.
November 22, 2000: Judge Korman adopts in its entirety the proposed plan of allocation (Distribution Plan). See In re Holocaust Victim Assets Lit., 2000 WL 33241660 (E.D.N.Y. November 22, 2000).
December 8, 2000: Judge Korman issues the first of hundreds of orders implementing the terms of the Distribution Plan, by appointing Paul Volcker and Michael Bradfield (counsel to the Volcker Committee) to serve as CRT Special Masters; extending the term of Judah Gribetz’s appointment to oversee implementation of the distribution process; and establishing deadlines in connection with the various claims processes provided under the Plan.
December 21, 2000: Six Notices of Appeal from the Distribution Plan are filed with the Second Circuit.
January 19, 2001: Special Masters Volcker and Bradfield hold a hearing regarding the proposed CRT Rules, which establish certain access obligations on the part of the Swiss banks.
February 5, 2001: A list of 21,000 Holocaust-era Swiss bank accounts is published; the Court approves the CRT Rules. The deadline for filing claims to Deposited Assets is August 11, 2001. The deadline subsequently is extended to August 31, 2001 and, for claims which would not be prejudicial to timely filed claims, extended again to December 31, 2003 and then to December 31, 2004.
April 4, 2001: Judge Korman issues an order setting forth the Slave Labor Class II List, consisting of companies that timely self-identified to the Special Master and provided information concerning their use of slave labor.
April 13, 2001: Judge Korman issues an order approving the Slave Labor Class I, Slave Labor Class II, and Refugee Class claims procedures proposed by the Claims Conference, IOM and JDC, and approving the humanitarian assistance proposals on behalf of the Looted Assets Class filed by these administrative agencies.
May 16, 2001: Lead Settlement Counsel notifies the Court that the “Settlement Date” has been reached due to the withdrawal of the one appeal against the approval of the settlement, thus enabling distributions to class members to begin; on May 30, 2001, the Second Circuit formally grants the appellant’s motion to withdraw.
June 28, 2001: Judge Korman authorizes the first distributions to class members ($35 million to members of Slave Labor Class I; over $8.5 million to programs serving the neediest Jewish Nazi victims as members of the Looted Assets Class).
June 28, 2001: Judge Korman issues an order adopting the Claims Process Guidelines for Insurance Claims, an insurance compensation program established by counsel for plaintiffs and counsel for defendants under the auspices of the CRT. Eligible insurance claims are to be reviewed by the participating Swiss insurers, and payments are to be made from the Settlement Fund and from the participating insurers (50% each), up to a cap of $25 million on the insurers’ total payments.
July 26, 2001: The Second Circuit rejects the one remaining appeal from the Court’s order adopting the Distribution Plan (the four remaining appeals had been previously withdrawn). The Second Circuit affirms that it was appropriate to appoint the Claims Conference to assist in the distribution process because of its experience with similar programs and its contemporaneous designation to assist with the German Foundation slave labor program. The Second Circuit further affirms the validity of allocating up to $800 million to the Deposited Assets Class because the “existence and estimated value of the claimed deposit accounts was established by extensive forensic accounting” and “these claims are based on well-established legal principles, have the ability of being proved with concrete documentation, and are readily valuated in terms of time and inflation”; “[b]y contrast, the claims of the other four classes are based on novel and untested legal theories of liability, would have been very difficult to prove at trial, and will be very difficult to accurately valuate.” In re Holocaust Victim Assets Lit., 2001 WL 868507 (2d Cir. July 26, 2001), reissued as a published opinion on July 1, 2005, 413 F.3d 183 (2d Cir. 2005).
July 30, 2001: Judge Korman orders that Initial Questionnaires related to Deposited Assets may be treated as Deposited Assets claims, to help minimize claimant confusion.
August 15, 2001: Upon request of the CRT Special Masters, Judge Korman issues an order postponing the Deposited Assets claims deadline from August 11, 2001 to August 31, 2001. To maintain conformity in the claims procedures under the Swiss and German slave labor compensation programs, and to minimize survivor confusion concerning conflicting claims deadlines, the Court extends the application deadlines for Slave Labor Class I, Slave Labor Class II and the Refugee Class until December 31, 2001, the same date established under the German legislation. Moreover, as a result of the Settlement Date having been reached, settlement payments deposited by the settling defendants into the Escrow Fund now are to be transferred to two accounts constituting the Settlement Fund.
September 24, 2001: Judge Korman approves the IOM’s Pilot Project Proposal for humanitarian assistance to Roma, Jehovah’s Witness, homosexual and disabled survivors, and orders the transfer of $1 million in implementation of these initial projects.
November 6, 2001: Judge Korman approves the first set of recommendations for payment of Deposited Assets Class claims.
December 11, 2001: The Claims Conference files with the Court its report on the first group of refugee claims to be paid, to a total of 95 refugees.
February 15, 2002: The Second Circuit affirms the District Court’s April 4, 2001 order on Slave Labor Class II issues, rejecting as untimely defendants’ objections to the self-identification requirement. The Court remands for further proceedings the issue of whether slave labor-using companies acquired by Swiss companies after the Holocaust were entitled to releases under the terms of the Settlement and the Court’s orders. In re Holocaust Victim Assets Lit., 282 F.3d 103 (2d Cir. 2002). The dispute subsequently is resolved by stipulation and order setting forth the releasees.
March 22, 2002: The Bergier Commission releases its final report, including detailed studies condemning aspects of the behavior of the Swiss banks during the Holocaust period, and also expanding upon its interim report on Refugees.
May 31, 2002: The Court authorizes an increase in Deposited Assets Class awards to provide for payment of “presumptive” (average) values for accounts for which existing bank records show values of lower than presumptive values, in recognition of the banking fees and other charges imposed by Swiss banks upon the accounts.
August 20, 2002: The Swiss Deposited Assets Program (SDAP) administered on the Court’s behalf by the Claims Conference, established to assist the CRT with certain administrative and other functions, commences operations in New York.
September 18, 2002: Greta Beer, one of the most prominent class members, who among other things testified before Congress to call attention to the problem of Holocaust-era deposits never returned to their owners, receives an “incentive award” from the Court in recognition of her efforts on behalf of the class. Other class members receive similar awards by order of December 4, 2002.
September 25, 2002: The Court adopts the Special Master’s recommendation to increase by 45% the payments to members of Slave Labor Class I, the Refugee Class, and to programs serving the Looted Assets Class, because of unexpected additional income generated by a tax exemption on the Fund as well as interest income.
October 3, 2002: Judge Korman issues an order appointing Shari C. Reig as Deputy Special Master. Ms. Reig drafted the Distribution Plan with Special Master Gribetz and has overseen its implementation thereafter.
February 26, 2003: The Court orders all Deposited Assets Class awards to be paid in full, based upon experience gained during the claims process (previously, awards for accounts of unknown value had received an initial payment of 35%, later raised to 65%; claimants aged 75 and over had been paid in full).
April 25, 2003: The Court adopts “Appendix C” to the CRT Rules, authorizing the CRT to presume in the absence of evidence to the contrary that accounts belonging to German owners closed on or after January 30, 1933 were closed improperly, based on the application of the “adverse inference” available under United States legal principles concerning destruction of evidence (“spoliation”).
August 11, 2003: Pursuant to court order following litigation concerning the accrual of interest on the Escrow Fund, the defendant banks transfer an additional payment of $5.2 million to the Settlement Fund.
October 2, 2003: Special Master Gribetz and Deputy Special Master Reig file an “Interim Report on Distribution and Recommendation for Allocation of Excess and Possible Unclaimed Residual Funds,” recommending that $60 million in excess interest funds be allocated to the neediest Nazi victims (the Looted Assets Class) in accordance with the mechanisms established under the Distribution Plan. The recommendations further suggest that in the event that unclaimed residual funds, if any, remain from the up to $800 million allocated to the Deposited Assets Class, such funds also be earmarked solely for humanitarian aid programs serving the neediest survivors. It is recommended that the Court solicit proposals from interested individuals and organizations as to how best to identify and serve these survivors.
November 17, 2003: Judge Korman issues an order adopting the recommendation of the Interim Report to allocate an additional $60 million to the Looted Assets Class in accordance with the provisions of the Distribution Plan; and further orders that interested parties file their proposals, by a date certain, concerning the distribution of possible residual funds if any.
February 19, 2004: The Court issues its opinion rejecting the defendant banks’ objections to the Interim Report. The decision describes extensively the banks’ obstructive activities, including document destruction, some of which continued to date. See In re Holocaust Victim Assets Lit., 302 F.Supp.2d 59, amended and superseded on June 1, 2004, 319 F. Supp.2d 301 (E.D.N.Y. 2004).
March 9, 2004: The Court issues its decision rejecting objections to the Looted Assets Class allocation that had been filed by certain United States survivors on behalf of the “Holocaust Survivors Foundation-USA” (HSF). The Court observed that the allocation already had been upheld by the Court of Appeals, and that the available demographic, economic and historical evidence continues to show that the most desperately needy Holocaust survivors reside in the former Soviet Union. See In re Holocaust Victim Assets Lit., 302 F.Supp.2d 89 (E.D.N.Y. 2004). The HSF appeals the decision.
March 31, 2004: The Court rejects a request for attorney’s fees filed by counsel to HSF, in which counsel had sought fees based upon activities relating to insurance matters. See In re Holocaust Victim Assets Lit., 311 F. Supp.2d 363 (E.D.N.Y. 2004). The decision is appealed.
April 2, 2004: The Court rejects objections by two organizations representing homosexual and disabled class members, respectively, which had sought funding for programs of remembrance and research; See In re Holocaust Victim Assets Lit., 311 F. Supp.2d 407 (E.D.N.Y. 2004). The organizations (Pink Triangle and Disability Rights Advocates) appeal the decision.
April 13, 2004: Upon notification by CRT Special Master Paul Volcker of his commitment to lead the investigation of the United Nations’ oil-for-food program, Judge Korman appoints Helen B. Junz, an economist and member of the Bergier Commission, and a contributor to the Volcker Report of December 1999, to serve as CRT Special Master. Judge Korman requests that CRT Special Master Bradfield assume primary responsibility for CRT appeals.
April 16, 2004: Special Master Gribetz and Deputy Special Master Reig file “Recommendations for Allocation of Possible Unclaimed Residual Funds”, analyzing more than 100 proposals filed in response to the Court’s November 17, 2003 request, as well as numerous demographic studies and other materials. The Proposal observes that the Court had determined in its March 9, 2004 opinion that due to “ongoing concerns” regarding access to bank account information, the “time is simply not ripe for [an] ‘immediate distribution’ of residual funds to members of the Looted Assets Class,” nor was it yet appropriate to determine a mechanism for distribution of residual funds, if any. The Proposal further observes that if residual funds do remain, the Court should distribute any such funds in the following order of priority: first, food and winter relief should be provided to the neediest survivors, most of whom reside in the former Soviet Union; second, home health care, medicines and medical equipment should be provided to those whose needs for such services are unmet by governmental or other assistance programs; third, case management, mental health care and services for support groups should be made available.
April 27, 2004: Lead Settlement Counsel moves before the District Court for improved access to the 4.1 million account “Total Accounts Database”; the inclusion of additional names to the 36,000-account “Account History Database” available to the CRT for claims processing; publication of some 3,000 additional names, including names previously published in Switzerland pursuant to bank surveys of possible Holocaust victim accounts in the 1950s and 1960s; and the expansion of access to bank files for claims processing activities by the SDAP office of the CRT in New York.
April 29, 2004: The Court holds a hearing on the Recommendations for Allocation of Possible Unclaimed Residual Funds.
May 20, 2004: Judge Korman, elaborating on his April 2, 2004 opinion, states that residual funds, if any, will be directed to needy survivors and not to proposed programs for research, education and advocacy.
June 10, 2004: The parties agree to the terms of “Memorandum to the Files No. 2,” permitting the New York SDAP facility to be linked to the Zurich-based CRT by computer; providing for the publication of approximately 3,000 additional bank accounts; and providing for improved access to the Total Accounts Database. The Swiss Federal Banking Commission approves the agreement on July 26, 2004.
June 17, 2004: Judge Korman issues an opinion addressing Professor Thane Rosenbaum’s testimony at the April 29, 2004 hearing.
June 22, 2004: Upon finalization of open issues arising from continuing litigation concerning the scope of releases and class membership under Slave Labor Class II, the Court approves a 45% increase in payments to members of Slave Labor Class II.
July 30, 2004: The first funds are issued in support of the Victim List Project; the Court approves a grant to Yad Vashem - The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, for the creation of a database of lists of victim names.
October 12, 2004: The Court adopts the presumption that those who reported their Swiss accounts in the 1938 Nazi census had an incentive to underreport the actual values of these accounts; accordingly, for all accounts reported in these census forms with values below the presumptive values currently in use by the CRT, awards are authorized to be made at the higher presumptive values. On January 7, 2005, the same presumption favoring claimants also is adopted for accounts reported by the banks at values lower than the CRT’s presumptive values.
November 16, 2004: The Court authorizes the first grant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for its work in support of the creation of the database of lists of victim names under the Victim List Project.
December 30, 2004: The Court approves the CRT’s request to treat as timely any claims on behalf of “victims or targets of Nazi persecution” that were filed with entities authorized to treat these claims prior to the Settlement Agreement: ICEP, Ernst & Young, and CRT-I (the CRT’s predecessor).
January 7, 2005: The Court adopts Special Master Junz’ recommendation to increase the sums awarded to many claimants by authorizing the CRT to calculate payments to claimants based upon presumptive values, where the account values reported in the bank records are lower than the presumptive values used by the CRT, because of the body of evidence that the amounts in the bank records cannot in all cases be relied upon.
January 13, 2005: The 2005 List of approximately 3,000 additional Swiss bank Holocaust-era accounts is published, including accounts that were located by Swiss banks during surveys of possible victim accounts in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as accounts that belonged to certain Eastern European Nazi victims that were turned over to the communist governments of the victims’ respective countries. The deadline for filing claims is July 13, 2005.
April 13, 2005: The Court approves the “OZAG” CRT award in the amount of almost $22 million, the largest award to date. The award is based upon the claims of the Bloch-Bauer family, heirs to the owners of the OZAG sugar refinery in Austria, to Swiss assets turned over by Swiss banks to Nazi authorities in violation of contractual obligations .
May 31, 2005: The Court approves payment of $257,079 for 14 Awards to 23 claimants to unpaid Holocaust-era Swiss insurance claims.
September 9, 2005: The Court of Appeals affirms Judge Korman’s decisions of March and April, 2004 relating to the cy pres remedy targeting the neediest Nazi victims; the determination not to fund memorialization and educational projects in view of pressing survivor needs; and the decision not to award attorney’s fees to counsel for HSF:
  • As to the decision upholding the cy pres remedy, the Court of Appeals holds that “in the circumstances of this case, the equitable principles of the cy pres doctrine permit the geographic variation that the District Court has adopted. As that Court pointed out, survivors residing in the FSU had been cut off by the Soviet regime from the ten prior major efforts at Holocaust reparations, and of the $53 billion that has been provided to Holocaust victims through these prior efforts, $14.8 billion or 28% has gone to survivors in the United States and only $444 million or 0.8% has gone to survivors in the FSU (citation omitted). This extraordinary circumstance understandably prompted the District Court to consider the variation in current financial need in making the geographic allocation.” In re Holocaust Victim Assets Lit., 424 F.3d 132, 147 (2d Cir. 2005) (italics in original.) The Court of Appeals further observes that “[w]e find no legal or equitable support for [appellants’] view that “Jewish Holocaust survivors who reside in the United States today are legally entitled to a particular share of the settlement fund based on their total number (rather than the number of needy survivors among them).” Id., 424 F.3d at 148. The Court adds that “from the perspective of the worldwide population of needy Holocaust survivors -- the population for the benefit of which the funds allocated to the Looted Assets Class are being distributed -- there is nothing equitable about an allocation methodology [such as that proposed by appellants] that provides the ‘relatively few needy survivors’ in the United States ‘with a disproportionate benefit solely because of the overall size of the survivor community in the United States.’” Id., 424 F.3d at 148-9. Finally, the Court notes that contrary to appellants’ reference to a “flawed judicial process,” “the careful consideration that the District Court, the Special Master and Lead Settlement Counsel have accorded to every step in the allocation and distribution of this historic settlement has been exemplary.” Id., 424 F.3d at 149 n. 15.
  • As to the appeal advanced by certain homosexual victim advocates, the Court of Appeals holds that there is “no support for the proposition [set forth by appellants] that a group entitlement to a particular share of the settlement fund had ever been contemplated, much less established.” In re Holocaust Victim Assets Lit., 424 F.3d 158, 168 (2d Cir. 2005). The Court of Appeals observes that “[a]lthough the District Court concluded that payments to needy Holocaust survivors take priority over the scholarly, educational and outreach programs proposed by [appellants], it never underplayed the suffering caused by Nazi persecutions against homosexuals.” Id., 424 F.3d at 169. The Court concludes by noting that “[f]or over six years, Judge Korman and Special Master Gribetz have pursued the monumental challenge of allocating limited funds among the victims of a limitless atrocity. Although appellants agree that the District Court’s task is ‘unenviable’ [citation omitted], they nonetheless contend that the Court erroneously rejected [appellant’s] request .... We now hold that the District Court acted within its discretion by rejecting [appellant’s] proposal and concluding that the neediest among the identifiable survivors -- be they Jewish, homosexual, Jehovah’s Witnesses, disabled or Romani -- must first be brought some comfort in the final years of their lives.” Id.
  • As to the appeal advanced by certain disabled victim advocates, the Court of Appeals holds that its disposition of the claims asserted by the homosexual victim advocates “forecloses the bulk of the claims raised by appellants here.” In re Holocaust Victim Assets Lit., 424 F.3d 169, 172 (2d Cir. 2005).
  • As to the appeal concerning the denial of attorney’s fees, the Court of Appeals holds that the District Court had “acted well within its discretion” and that there was no support for appellant’s “contention that his participation substantially contributed to the insurance-related amendments to the settlement agreement.” The Court of Appeals further observes that since “Chief Judge Korman presided over both the settlement and the fee application ... his assessments of [appellant’s] contributions should therefore be accorded deference.” In re Holocaust Victim Assets Lit., 424 F.3d 150, 157 (2d Cir. 2005).
February 17, 2006: Judge Korman adopts the proposal submitted by Special Master Gribetz and Deputy Special Master Reig recommending that Deposited Assets Class payments be made to claimants who have demonstrated plausible but undocumented claims to Holocaust-era Swiss bank accounts, in recognition that it is unfair to penalize claimants for lack of documentation when it was the banks’ obligation to preserve such records. Each award is in the amount of $5,000. Approximately 13,000 Plausible Undocumented Awards are estimated to be paid by the end of the program, for a total of $65 million.
March 21, 2006: CRT Special Master Helen Junz submits a proposal to the Court recommending an upward adjustment of the presumptive values set forth under current CRT Rules. The recommendation is based upon extensive study of the presumptive values now in use as determined by the ICEP auditors, as compared with the average values of known-value accounts awarded to date, and with average values of known-value accounts in the Account History Database (the approximately 40,000 accounts to which the CRT has access: 36,000 from 2001; 3,000 from 2005; and other accounts located through research in 1938 census files and other sources). CRT Special Master Junz advises that adoption of the recommendation would result in additional payments to the Deposited Assets Class, both retroactive and future, in the amount of approximately $179 million to $285 million, and that the total amount of Deposited Assets Class claims entitled to payment, including Plausible Undocumented Claims, could be $803 million.
April 4, 2006: Pursuant to the terms of the Distribution Plan and the Court’s implementation orders, the IOM-supervised Humanitarian Assistance Program (HSP) concludes. The HSP program provided food, medicine, coal, and other services to approximately 73,000 of the neediest Roma, Jehovah’s Witness, homosexual and disabled victims in Central and Eastern Europe, most of whom had never previously received compensation.
June 19, 2006: The United States Supreme Court denies a petition and cross-petition for certiorari filed, respectively, by HSF and one of plaintiffs' counsel, Robert Swift. The petition for certiorari sought to appeal the September 9, 2005 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (see above) upholding Judge Korman’s determination to support humanitarian programs for the neediest members of the Looted Assets Class, most of whom live in the former Soviet Union. The Supreme Court decision denying certiorari as well as the related memoranda of law can be accessed here:

October 27, 2006: The Court completes the Settlement Fund insurance program and approves payment of $750,863 for 54 Awards to 64 claimants as well as 13 Award Denials and 391 “No Match” decisions involving 407 insurance policy claims.
November 29, 2006: The Court adopts Special Master Junz’s recommendation to amend the CRT Rules to formalize the CRT’s long-standing practice, as approved by the Court in its orders adopting CRT award and denial recommendations, to assume in the absence of evidence to the contrary that owners did not receive the proceeds of their Swiss bank accounts where those accounts were closed on or after the date that the Reich gained control over the account owner’s country of residence, whether by incorporation into the Reich, occupation or formal alliance. The amendment recognizes that the previous reference in the Rules to the imposition of “Swiss visa requirements” on January 29, 1939 is irrelevant to whether an account owner had access to his/her account, given that owners had other means of accessing their accounts from abroad despite the additional restrictions Switzerland imposed on emigrants in January, 1939.
April 23, 2007: Upon approval by the Court and the German Foundation, the IOM and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum execute a Cooperation Contract providing for the transfer of historically significant data made available to the IOM in connection with its administration of the Swiss Banks and German Foundation programs on behalf of Roma, Jehovah’s Witness, homosexual and disabled claimants.
May 14, 2007: Based upon additional data obtained as a result of the claims review process, CRT Special Master Junz files with the Court a supplemental report in connection with her March 22, 2006 report recommending adjustment of presumptive values. The supplemental report observes: “With the further experience gained over the year since I wrote, I have become yet more firmly convinced that the presumptive values established by the ICEP auditors, even taking into account some of the questions raised by outside observers, indeed, are not fully representative of the CRT data, and that, therefore, a considered revision is appropriate.”
July 15, 2007: As a result of the CRT’s refinement of its “review of the remaining positive matches” and its making of “substantive changes to the projections available at the time of” the earlier reports, CRT Special Master Junz submits an updated report on her recommendations for adjustment of presumptive values and “confirm[s] [her] recommendation that the current presumptive values be amended as proposed in May ....”
August 26, 2007: The Court approves a grant of $250,000 to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) under the Victim List Project. The grant makes possible the provision of copies of the largest set of documents in existence relating to the victims of the Nazis and their allies -- the approximately 50 million previously non-public documents held at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany -- to major Holocaust research and archival repositories in the eleven member countries of the International Commission of the ITS, in particular the USHMM and Yad Vashem.
February 6, 2008: The Court authorizes transfer to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum of the over 600,000 Initial Questionnaires submitted as part of the class action settlement notice process, constituting several million pages of documentation. After conditions of access are established by the Court, taking into consideration the security and confidentiality of the documents, the Initial Questionnaires eventually will be made available for scholarship and research. The conditions of storage, retention and use of the Initial Questionnaires and accompanying documents will be monitored by the Court and all identifying information will be redacted before disclosure of the Initial Questionnaires and/or accompanying documentation provided by claimants and other interested parties.
March 13, 2008: Pursuant to the terms of the Insurance Guidelines adopted on June 28, 2001 (see above), one of the two Participating Insurance Companies, Swiss Re, reimburses the Settlement Fund for one-half of the value of the Swiss Re insurance policies compensated to date under the CRT process for insurance claims.
June 30, 2008: The Court approves CRT Set 168, consisting of ten award amendments totaling $18,884,785.03. The amendments are derived from valuation information recently provided by defendant bank Credit Suisse following several years of effort by the CRT to obtain additional documentation concerning Holocaust-era Swiss bank accounts. As described in the Court’s order:
    “Late last year it became apparent that one of the two Settlement Defendants, Credit Suisse, would provide a significant amount of specific additional account information that had neither been recorded by the ICEP auditors nor had previously been disclosed in the course of so-called ‘voluntary assistance.’ Such voluntary assistance is an integral part of the banks’ pledge to cooperate with the implementation of the Settlement Agreement .... The CRT accordingly has sought voluntary assistance relating to hundreds of claimed accounts and has received regular input from one of the defendant banks [UBS] for several years. But until 2007 little had been achieved in several years of ongoing discussion between the CRT and Credit Suisse .... Finally, in November 2007, the CRT received additional documentation for a priority list of 29 yet to be awarded Custody accounts. This additional information proved to contain not only information about the identity of the account owner, but also detailed documentation on the portfolios held in these 29 accounts as well as their disposition history.... The CRT [then] pressed for the delivery of additional information for a list of 322 Custody accounts ..., which consisted largely of already awarded accounts, most of which, in the absence of any information on their content, had been awarded at presumptive value. Credit Suisse eventually provided documentation containing new information for 257 of the requested 322 Custody accounts, part of which was received in February 2008, while the bulk of it came in April. The CRT has since begun revisiting the previously awarded custody accounts for which new information is available. The CRT now recommends the adjustment of 10 awards previously approved by the Court prior to the receipt of this additional information. Additional amendments will be forthcoming as the CRT’s analysis of the records proceeds.”
December 19, 2008: On October 10, 2008, CRT Special Master Helen Junz filed her final report analyzing the presumptive values currently in use in the Deposited Assets Class claims process. Dr. Junz' October 10, 2008 report; her three earlier analyses (dated, respectively, March 21, 2006, May 14, 2007 and July 15, 2007); a December 1, 2008 letter to the Court from the auditor who led the investigation of Holocaust-era Swiss accounts on behalf of the Volcker Committee; and a description of these documents by Special Master Judah Gribetz and Deputy Special Master Shari C. Reig, is available here. See "CRT Special Master Junz' Proposal for Adjustment of Deposited Assets Class Presumptive Values in the Context of the Settlement Agreement and the Distribution Plan," December 19, 2008.
January 14, 2009: Judge Korman has signed an order relating to CRT Special Master Helen Junz's October 10, 2008 recommendation for adjustment of Deposited Assets Class presumptive values.
February 13, 2009: "Notice of Motion by the State of Israel for Access to Documents, Data and Information Examined or Utilized as part of the Junz Recommendation; and for an Interview with Special Master Junz".
February 13, 2009: The Holocaust Survivors Foundation-USA, Inc. has filed a "U.S. Survivors' Submission in Response to Court's January 14, 2009 Order."
April 9, 2009: CRT Special Master Helen Junz has filed a response to the objections to her recommendation concerning the presumptive values currently in use in the Deposited Assets Class claims process. Dr. Junz' response, dated March 31, 2009; an April 3, 2009 letter to the Court from CRT Special Master Michael Bradfield (former Volcker Committee counsel) in support of Dr. Junz' recommendations; an April 8, 2009 letter to the Court from CRT Secretaries General Mary Carter and Dov Rubinstein; and a supplemental contextual analysis of these documents by Special Master Judah Gribetz and Deputy Special Master Shari C. Reig, is available here. See "CRT Special Master Junz' Proposal for Adjustment of Deposited Assets Class Presumptive Values: Supplemental Contextual Analysis," April 9, 2009.
April 21, 2009: CRT Special Master Helen Junz files a letter to the Court recommending that the exchange rate be fixed at 1.21 Swiss Francs per 1.00 U.S. dollar for payment of presumptive value adjustments.
June 9, 2009: The State of Israel has filed a supplemental memorandum in connection with the recommendation for adjustment of Deposited Assets Class presumptive values.
September 2, 2009: In connection with the completion of the Slave Labor Class I and Refugee Class programs administered by the Claims Conference on behalf of the Court, Audit Wirtschafts-Treuhand AG ("AWT") submits compliance audit reports for the period June 2001-July 2009.
October 27, 2009: The United States files a statement of interest in connection with the Special Master's Proposal for Adjustment of Deposited Assets Class Presumptive Values.
January 30, 2010: The Court approves a grant of $493,561 to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) under the Victim List Project. The grant will enable the USHMM to conclude the effort to identify, catalogue, and digitize name-based information about victims of the Nazis and their allies who were Roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, or mentally or physically handicapped, as well as to continue the effort to identify and catalogue Jewish name list material within the Museum's archival holdings over the next two years.
February 16, 2010: The State of Israel renews its February 13, 2009 motion seeking access to data utilized as part of Special Master Helen Junz's recommendation for adjustment of Deposited Assets Class presumptive values.
March 4, 2010: In response to the State of Israel's request for access to the data utilized by Special Master Junz in analyzing account values in connection with her presumptive value adjustment recommendations, Lead Settlement Counsel Neuborne submits to the Court a letter in opposition.
April 9, 2010: The State of Israel responds to Professor Burt Neuborne's letter of March 4, 2010.
April 23, 2010: Professor Burt Neuborne files a declaration "urg[ing] the District Court to deny the pending discovery demand, and to enter an order at the Court's earliest convenience allocating undistributed funds, if any, at the close of all claims processes herein between the Deposited Assets and Looted Assets classes in accordance with the District Court's informed discretion."
June 16, 2010: Judge Korman has signed an order approving upward adjustment of presumptive values used in the claims resolution process for the Deposited Assets Class, and also authorizing additional payments for Deposited Assets Class plausible undocumented awards ("PUAs").
July 20, 2011: Judge Korman has signed an order amending Article 45 of the CRT Rules, setting forth general guidelines for the archiving of CRT files.
July 27, 2011: Judge Korman has signed an order amending Article 30 of the CRT Rules, clarifying the appeals process for the few CRT claims unresolved as of this date.
August 17, 2011: Judge Korman has signed an order requiring that class members who have been approved to receive bank account awards and who have not yet accepted their payments are to be notified that they have one final opportunity to accept their awards. If they do not accept their payments within 30 days of such notification (60 days for those outside the U.S.), the funds will revert to the Settlement Fund for distribution to other class members.
September 28, 2011: Judge Korman has signed an order adopting the joint recommendation of CRT Special Masters Michael Bradfield and Helen Junz to fix the exchange rate at 1.21 for any further Swiss franc-based Deposited Assets Class payments.
April 24, 2012: Judge Korman has signed an order establishing guidelines for access to the IOM Swiss banks Holocaust settlement claim files, the Initial Questionnaires filed with the Court, and CRT claims documentation that have been transferred to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as per court orders of May 24, 2007, February 6, 2008 and June 13, 2011. These guidelines take into consideration the security and confidentiality of claimants' documents while eventually making them available for research and scholarship of the Holocaust.
November 9, 2012: Judge Korman has signed an order directing the CRT to commence liquidation. The order marks the completion of the Deposited Assets Class claims program, entailing the analysis of over 104,000 claims to the accounts of over 415,000 individuals believed to have owned Holocaust-era Swiss bank accounts, and resulting in awards of over $726 million to account owners and their heirs. An additional $516 million has been authorized for distribution to members of the other four classes, so that over $1.24 billion to date has been distributed to Holocaust victims and heirs.
May 13, 2013: Judge Korman has signed an order allocating to needy Holocaust survivors $50 million in residual funds remaining from the sum originally allocated to the Deposited Assets Class. The order brings to $255 million the total amount allocated for the benefit of needy survivors. As with prior allocations, the funds will be distributed on the Court’s behalf through humanitarian assistance programs managed by the IOM, the JDC and the Claims Conference.
May 13, 2013: Judge Korman has signed an order authorizing payment of $4.5 million of residual funds to Yad Vashem and the USHMM under the Victim List Project towards continued archival research and data collection. This amount represented a 45% increase of the original $10 million allocation under the Distribution Plan, similar to the additional 45% increases previously approved for members of Slave Labor Classes I and II, the Refugee Class, the Looted Assets Class and the Deposited Assets Class.