I.C.E.P.

INDEPENDENT COMMITTEE OF EMINENT PERSONS

PRESS RELEASE

January 31, 1997


The Independent Committee of Eminent Persons, chaired by Mr. Paul A. Volcker, held its fourth meeting in Zürich, Switzerland on January 30-31, 1997.   It reviewed progress in the Investigative Audit to determine whether there are any unreported dormant accounts and other assets and financial instruments of the victims of Nazi persecution that were deposited in Swiss banks before, during or immediately after the Second World War.   In this connection, the Committee met with Chairman Hauri and Director Zuberbühler of the Swiss Federal Banking Commission (SFBC) and also with Professor Bergier, Chairman of the newly appointed Swiss Historical Commission.

The Committee dealt with a series of key issues:
  • the urgent matter of preserving relevant documents for the Investigative Audit and other related investigations
  • review of preparatory work by the Committee selected Auditors
  • support by the Swiss Federal Banking Commission for the Investigative Audit, and
  • cooperation with Swiss Historical Commission.
On the issue of document preservation, the Committee received a briefing from Union Bank of Switzerland ("UBS") concerning the recent destruction of certain of the historical records held by the Bank.   To assure the Committee's ability to effectively carry out the Investigative Audit, it agreed to make priority special audits of the document retention practices of a sample of Swiss banks.   The Committee also welcomed the statement by the representatives of the SFBC about the importance of compliance by all parties with the requirement for preservation of relevant documents contained in the Decree of December 13, 1996 and the SFBC's intention to keep compliance by banks under review.

The Committee noted the report of the Auditors that they are well advanced in their preparations for the Investigative Audits.   They reported on their preliminary review of the 1962 Decree requiring notification and the turning over to the Swiss Government of the dormant accounts of the victims of Nazi persecution.   This report indicated that only 26 banks had made notifications and suggested that for a number of reasons fewer assets were declared than a more thorough search might have revealed.

In their meeting with Messrs. Hauri and Zuberbühler, the Committee welcomed the important decision of the SFBC to establish the Committee's Investigative Audit as a special Audit under Swiss banking law.   In providing explicit legal authority for the Committee's Auditors to carry out the Committee's Audit mandate, any question about the capacity of the Committee to implement its planned auditing activity should be ended.

At the meeting with Professor Bergier it was noted that while the Committee's focus is on dormant accounts, and that of the Historical Commission includes looted assets, there are important areas of mutual interest with respect to these matters.   The Committee and Professor Bergier agreed on the need for close cooperation and coordination on these matters of common concern as envisaged in the Memorandum of Understanding of May 2, 1996, that established the Committee.

Finally, Chairman Volcker reported on the application of the Investigative Audit to the relevant branches of Swiss banks in New York, and the intent of the New York State Banking Department to cooperate with this effort.

The Members of the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons are:

Paul A. Volcker (Chairman), Dr. Ruben Beraja, Mr. Avraham Burg, Mr. Ronald S. Lauder, Prof. Dr. Klaus Jacobi, Prof. Dr. Curt Gasteyger, Dr. Peider Mengiardi and the alternate members are Mr. Zvi Barak, Mr. Israel Singer, Prof. René Rhinow and Mr. Hans J. Bär.



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