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Governor Pataki Names Commission on Recovery of Holocaust Victims' Assets

May 8, 1997

Governor George E. Pataki today signed an Executive Order which, for the first time, will expand and formalize the efforts already underway in New York State Government to identify the unclaimed assets of Holocaust victims which may have been deposited in Swiss bank accounts.

The New York State Commission on the Recovery of Holocaust Victims' Assets, as it will be known, shall include the Superintendents from the New York State Banking Department and Insurance Departments and three members to be named by the Governor. The order was signed on May 8 and went into effect immediately.

"By signing this Executive Order, I am authorizing the Executive and Legislative branches of State Government to marshal their full resources toward achieving a measure of justice for the heirs of Holocaust victims," Governor Pataki said. "We must do everything in our power to investigate the financial transactions which took place during one of history's darkest eras."

The Commission, to be chaired by Acting Superintendent of Insurance Neil D. Levin, formerly Superintendent of Banks, will look into the assets deposited with Swiss financial institutions by victims of the Holocaust between 1933 and 1945. It is believed that some of these assets were transferred to the New York agencies of Swiss banks as well as New York-based financial institutions.

Superintendent Levin, while serving as Superintendent of Banks, traveled to Switzerland in February and March 1997 to meet with senior management of the three largest Swiss banks as well as top Swiss bank regulators. In a historic accord reached in late February, the Swiss Federal Banking Commission agreed to give New York State Banking Department personnel unprecedented access to Swiss-based records and information relating to Holocaust victims' assets. This marks the first time the Swiss veil of secrecy has been lifted in this matter.

"In my new role at the Insurance Department, I look forward to building on the significant progress we've made at the Banking Department," said Superintendent Levin. "New York State has an important role to play in uncovering dormant accounts and in creating a fair process for resolving claims."

The Commission's membership will include Superintendent Levin, his successor as Superintendent of Banks, State Senator Guy J. Velella (R-Bronx) and two additional members yet to be named.

In a significant related development, the New York State Banking Department reached an agreement with the Independent Commission of Eminent Persons, also known as the Volcker Commission. The Banking Department and the Volcker Commission, whose auditors will be reviewing documents and records in Switzerland, have formally agreed to cooperate and exchange information pertaining to the activities of Swiss financial institutions in New York prior to, and during, World War II.


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