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Swiss insurers to compensate Holocaust victims

Negotiations between the world's Jewish community and representatives of Swiss insurance companies are underway in New York to try to agree on an out-of-court compensation settlement for unpaid insurance policies before and during the Nazi era.·

A maximum sum of $50 million has for the first time been put on the table by the negotiators from the Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse, who are representing four Swiss insurance companies, including Swiss Re, Baloise, Swiss Life and Helvetia-Patria.·

The negotiations in New York are supposed to avert class action lawsuits being brought against the insurance companies by Holocaust survivors. If they manage to reach an agreement, the insurers would link up with the $1.25 billion global settlement already reached by the Swiss banks in 1998, in a bid to resolve dormant account claims against them.

It was therefore decided that the Swiss banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, negotiate on behalf of the insurance companies.

The settlement agreed on in 1998 still needs the seal of approval from the legal authorities.

So far the insurance companies involved in the talks are keeping their cards close to their chests. Markus Diethelm, a lawyer for the Swiss Re insurance company told Swissinfo, "as long as the settlement is not fully sealed, it would be premature to discuss its details."

The judge dealing with the case, Edward Korman, has been presented with the proposals from the Swiss companies and is now considering whether to approve them.

Diethelm said, "we and the other companies involved are keen to set up a claims settlement procedure to pay and process valid Holocaust insurance claims in a fair and rapid manner."

Sources within the Swiss insurance industry have confirmed that the figure of $50 million dollars has been discussed as a ceiling for the claims. However, the money would not be added as a lump sum payment to the $1.25 billion dollar bank settlement, but would be a figure earmarked for valid claims, examined on a case by case basis.

The reaction from the lawyers representing Jewish organisations is still being awaited.

Not included in the settlement are the three insurance companies Winterthur, Zurich and Basel Life which, due to their co-operation within the Eagleburger commission, are exempt from court action.

swissinfo with agencies

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