|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 1998
INDEPENDENT CLAIMS RESOLUTION FOUNDATION
The Board of Trustees Reviews Progress in Adjudicating Claims
| The Board of Trustees of the Claims Resolution Foundation, chaired by Paul A. Volcker, met yesterday in New York to review the progress of the Claims Resolution Tribunal in adjudicating claims to dormant accounts in Swiss banks. The Foundation was established to provide a forum to adjudicate claims to dormant accounts of non-Swiss nationals and residents published by Swiss banks, or as a result of the investigations by the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons (ICEP). It operates under the supervision of the Swiss Federal Banking Commission and ICEP. The other two members of the Board of Trustees are René Rhinow (Professor of Law and Senator, Swiss Parliament) and Israel Singer (Secretary-General, World Jewish Congress).
The Board reviewed the substantial progress of the Tribunal in establishing an effective judicial forum for promptly resolving claims to dormant accounts. The Trustees noted that the Tribunal's distinguished arbitrators had met several times, and the procedures to decide the large volume cases have been established. The Tribunal is supported by a 23 person international secretariat. The Trustees concluded that the Tribunal is now in a position to meet the goal of completing the adjudication of submitted claims within the year period envisaged by the Foundation. Although the six months time period for filing claims against the dormant accounts published by Swiss banks in July and October 1997 expired at the end of March, the Trustees agreed to hold the door open for late filed claims for an additional three months.
Over 12,500 claims have been submitted. Of these claims, 4,800 are general claims to unidentified Swiss accounts. These claims are forwarded to ICEP auditors for use in their dormant account investigation. The remaining 7,700 claims are to the dormant accounts that have been published by Swiss banks in July and October 1997.
Processing has already begun on 5,000 of these claims to identified dormant accounts. This processing begins with an initial screening procedure in which banks make a preliminary recommendation on whether the claimant has presented enough information to justify release to the claimant of the name of the bank holding the dormant account and the amount of money in the account. Through the end of March, 2,700 claims have been screened by the banks, and disclosure to the claimant of the name of the bank and the amount in the account was approved in 1,156 cases. As soon as arbitration agreements are signed by the claimants, these cases will come before the Tribunal for either "fast track" or "ordinary procedure" decisions.
For initial screening cases still under review, the Tribunal has requested additional information from the relevant banks in 28 cases, and in 43 other cases a similar request was made of the claimant. When the bank initial screening recommendation is negative, the Tribunal makes an independent review and decision. It has so far reviewed 139 of these cases, and disclosure was approved in 25 of them. Claimants for whom initial recognition is not approved nevertheless still have the right to a hearing before a three arbitrator panel by simply resubmitting their claim within 30 days.
Of the cases cleared for arbitration, and in which an arbitration agreement has been signed, the Tribunal has decided 13 cases that have resulted in approval decisions involving the payment of awards in the amount of almost SFr. 2,000,000. These decisions, where they involve Holocaust victims, are subject to upward adjustment based on the recommendations of the Interest and Fees Panel chaired by Henry Kaufmann. With many cases now in the pipeline, the pace of decision making will accelerate.
In order to assist the Tribunal to hear the growing volume of cases, the Foundation today agreed to appoint ten additional arbitrators to add to the six appointed in September 1997. With these additions, five of the arbitrators will be from Switzerland, four from the United States, four from Israel, and one each from Canada, Cyprus, and the United Kingdom. The arbitrators are distinguished lawyers and bankers with finance, arbitration, and international experience. A list of the arbitrators is attached.
The Claims Resolution Process establishes a vehicle for the impartial adjudication of claims to ownership of those assets of victims of Nazi persecution and others identified by Swiss banks and by the investigation of ICEP. It provides claimants with an expedited procedure that is international in character, cost-free, and objective. The Tribunal hears claims under relaxed standards of proof recognizing the difficulty of presenting evidence in the tragic circumstances of the Holocaust and of World War II.
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|Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland
Hans Michael Riemer (Switzerland) is a Professor of Private Law at the University of Zurich and an ordinary judge of the Court of Cassation of the Canton of Zurich. Since 1991, he has served as a substitute judge of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.
Robert Briner (Switzerland) is President of the ICC Court of International Arbitration and a Partner in a Geneva law firm. Formerly, he was President of the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague.
L. Yves Fortier (Canada) is a Senior Partner of the law firm Ogilvy Renault in Montreal. Formerly, he served as Canada's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. From 1984 to 1989, he was a Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
David Friedmann (Israel) is a banker of long experience, formerly CEO of Bank Leumi and currently Chairman of the Board of Union Bank of Israel.
The Right Hon. Lord Higgins (United Kingdom) was a Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Treasury Committee of the House of Commons. As a current member of the House of Lords, he is a Conservative Party spokesman on social issues.
Roberts B. Owen (United States) is Senior Counsel (retired) of the law firm Covington & Burling in Washington. He is the presiding arbitrator (appointed by the International Court of Justice) for the Brcko Controversy in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Formerly, he was the Legal Adviser of the U.S. State Department.
NEWLY APPOINTED ARBITRATORS
Thomas Buergenthal (United States) is a Professor at the George Washington University Law School. He is the U.S. national member of the 18-member United Nations Human Rights Committee and served as a judge, Vice President and President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights from 1979 to 1991.
Hadassa Ben-Itto (Israel) retired from her service of 31 years as a judge in Israeli courts at all levels, including as Vice President of the Tel-Aviv District Court and as Acting Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel.
Howard Holtzmann (United States) is an international arbitrator of long experience and was the senior U.S. member of the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague from 1981 to 1994. He currently concentrates on international arbitration activities.
Andrew J. Jacovides (Cyprus) is an Ambassador/Special Advisor of the Cyprus Mission at the United Nations and a Member of the Advisory Group of the Commonwealth. He has been a member of the Foreign Service of Cyprus since 1960 and served as Ambassador to the United States and Germany.
Franz Kellerhals (Switzerland) is a Partner in the law firm Kellerhals & Partner in Berne and a Professor of Civil Procedure at Berne University. He has served as president, member and counsel in various international arbitrations.
Hans Nater (Switzerland) is a Partner in the law firm Stiffler & Nater. He specializes in arbitration and is on the Swiss list of ICC-Arbitrators.
William W. Park (United States) is a Professor of Law at Boston University and Counsel at the law firm Ropes & Gray in Boston. He is Vice President of the London Court of International Arbitration.
Doron Shorrer (Israel) is a former Commissioner of Insurance and Director General of the Ministry of Transport of Israel. He is now an independent economic and financial adviser.
Zvi Tal (Israel) is a distinguished legal scholar and a former Member of the Supreme Court of Israel.
Jean-Luc Thévenoz (Switzerland) is a Professor at the Law Faculty of the University of Geneva and Director of the Center for European Legal StudiesóBanking & Financial Law. He is a consultant and arbitrator in various international commercial ligations and is a member of the Swiss Arbitration Association.
|The Independent Committee of Eminent Persons
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