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Superintendent McCaul Testifies before Court Appointed Special Masters on Proposed Claims Resolution Process for Holocaust Victims' Claims Against Swiss Banks
- McCaul Calls for Unfettered Searches of All 4.1 Million Wartime Swiss Accounts
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January 19, 2001

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK—Superintendent of Banks, Elizabeth McCaul testified today before Special Masters Paul A. Volcker and Michael Bradfield at a hearing on the rules and procedures to govern the resolution of claims by victims of Nazi persecution or their heirs to assets deposited in Swiss banks. The hearing took place this morning at the Federal courthouse in Brooklyn.

"The New York State Banking Department takes this matter very seriously because as a regulator we must ensure that banks operate under safe and sound procedures and that the public confidence in banking institutions is maintained," Superintendent McCaul said. "One of the fundamental responsibilities of a bank regulator is to ensure protection of customer assets, whether they were deposited one year ago or sixty years ago."

This matter is of great importance to Governor Pataki who first directed the Banking Department to investigate the pre-war and war-time activities of New York agencies of Swiss Banks. In 1997 Governor Pataki authorized the creation of the Holocaust Claims Processing Office, which serves as an advocate for Holocaust victims and their heirs who seek to cover assets wrongfully taken during World War II.

The purpose of the hearing is to establish a framework for the operation of the Claims Resolution Tribunal originally created in 1997 to resolve claims of dormant accounts of Nazi victims or their heirs that were published by the Swiss Bankers Association in that year. The plan for the claims program was authorized by Chief Judge Edward R. Korman in November, 2000, and Special Masters Volcker and Bradfield were appointed to propose rules for the Tribunal subject to Court approval. In November, 2000, Superintendent McCaul urged the court to consider recommendations by the New York State Banking Department. She testified again today to discuss the Department’s commitment to the resolution of claims.

Superintendent McCaul praised Special Master Paul Volcker and Special Master Mike Bradfield for their unwavering dedication to the just resolution of claims to Holocaust-era Swiss bank accounts. She testified to the fact that the New York State Banking Department strongly supports the proposed rules and urges the court to implement them expeditiously.

"I strongly support the Special Masters’ proposed rules of procedure because I firmly believe that they provide a critical step towards effective claims resolution," the Superintendent said.

Among the points stressed by the Superintendent today:

  • a search process which encompasses all 4.1 million accounts identified by ICEP;
  • individual adjudication of claims; and
  • the cooperation of banks.

Since the Holocaust Claims Processing Office opened in 1997, it has received a total of 4,615 claims from 33 countries and 44 states referencing nearly 7,000 individual bank account and insurance policy holders. In addition, the HCPO has received 66 looted art claims from 7 countries and 17 states referencing more than 16,000 lost, looted, and stolen items.

More specifically, almost half the total claims the HCPO has received relate to individuals who lived in pre-war Europe who are seeking to recover assets still believed to be held by banks in Switzerland. Of these Swiss bank accounts, the HCPO has received more than 2,200 claims from 30 different countries referencing over 3,200 individuals.

The New York State Banking Department is the regulator for all state-chartered banking institutions, including seven of the State’s ten largest banks, and virtually all of the United States offices of international banking institutions. The aggregate assets of the companies and institutions supervised by the Banking Department exceed $1.9 trillion.

 

 

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