|For Immediate Release
June 24, 1998
|INDEPENDENT COMMITTEE OF EMINENT PERSONS
| The Independent Committee of Eminent Persons, chaired by Paul A. Volcker, held its ninth meeting in New York on June 24, 1998. At this meeting, the Committee focused on the Second Phase of the investigation of Swiss banks for the dormant accounts of victims of Nazi persecution and others and reviewed the progress of the Claims Settlement Tribunal established to adjudicate claims to these dormant accounts. The Committee also received a draft report of the panel on interest and fees chaired by Henry Kaufman, with the final report to be submitted to the Board of Trustees of the Claims Resolution Tribunal.
The Committee considered progress reports from the four international audit firms now implementing the Second Phase Mandate. The four firms--Arthur Andersen, Coopers and Lybrand, KPMG, and Price Waterhouse who are deploying over 375 auditors in their investigative efforts--are now working at 27 Swiss banks. These include the three major banks, Credit Swiss, Swiss Bank Corp., and Union Bank of Switzerland, as well as 24 private and cantonal banks. (Banks are chosen for the investigation based on size, type of bank, and location.)
The First Phase of the Committee's work program involved historical research and pilot and document retention investigations of ten Swiss banks. The Audit Firms reported that they are now well along in implementing the Committee's Second Phase Mandate. The emphasis of the Second Phase investigation is on identifying the accounts of Holocaust and other victims of Nazi persecution by taking advantage of the extensive record of accounts in Swiss banks that were opened in the period from 1933 through 1945 that is still available after more than fifty years. This record, although by no means complete, will make an important contribution to the process of identifying dormant accounts.
The basic approach is to prepare internal bank databases of relevant accounts and to compare those account databases with databases of victims of Nazi persecution that have been developed or will be developed. As known from the start of the investigation, identification of refugee accounts that may have been closed, and therefore are not among present dormant accounts, present a particular investigative challenge. Although the Committee recognizes that the remaining work will continue to require substantial investigative resources, it reaffirmed its target of completing the major elements of its investigation by the end of 1998. The Committee also contemplated making an estimate of the value of refugee accounts not specifically identified.
The Committee also reviewed the progress of the Claims Resolution Tribunal, chaired by Prof. Hans Michael Riemer of Switzerland, who together with 15 other highly qualified Arbitrators, are adjudicating the claims to the 5,570 accounts published by Swiss banks in July and October 1997, as well as the additional dormant accounts to be published in the future as a result of the ICEP investigation. The aim of the Tribunal to resolve cases in the shortest possible time is facilitated by the use of relaxed standards of proof, but it reaches decisions only after a careful assessment of all available facts. With the experience in processing cases gained since the beginning of the year, the Tribunal is substantially accelerating the pace of case processing.
The processing begins with an initial screening procedure in which banks, subject to Tribunal review, 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. Disclosure to the claimant of the name of the bank and the amount in the account has been authorized by the banks and the Tribunal in more than 2,360 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. The four countries from which the largest number of claims have been submitted are the United States (1,918), Israel (1,138), Germany (1,095) and France (1,011).
In concluding this meeting, members of the Committee reiterated the importance they attach to completing its historic effort in an orderly and effective way. They recognize that what is at stake is justice for individual victims of Nazi persecution and a fair accounting of financial issues presented for Swiss banks. Moreover, the Committee's work is an important ingredient in reaching a moral accounting for present and future generations of the events surrounding World War II.
The Committee agreed to meet again in September 1998.
|The Independent Committee of Eminent Persons
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