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:
, 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.
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.
: 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
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.
: 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
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.
: 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
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
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
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,
, 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
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,
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
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
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
October 2, 2003
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
. 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
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
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
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
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.