Posted Thursday, May 17, 2001

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Boston, Thursday, May 17, 2001

Report: Holocaust panel spends $30 million to award $3 million

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- An international commission created to resolve Holocaust-era insurance disputes has reportedly spent more than $30 million on salaries, hotel bills and newspaper ads while distributing only $3 million to claimants.

Internal documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times show that the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims realizes it is coming under fire.

"ICHEIC is at risk of facing increasing criticism, focusing on the low proportion of our claimants who have received offers ..." commission vice chairman Geoffrey E. Fitchew wrote in an internal memorandum in January.

Commission President Lawrence S. Eagleburger acknowledged those concerns in an interview with the newspaper.

"I will be the first to admit that given the amount we have spent so far, the result in claims paid out is by no means as high as it should be," said Eagleburger, a former U.S. secretary of state who draws a $350,000 annual salary as commission president.

The documents show that since 1998 the commission has held at least 18 meetings with up to 100 participants at hotels in London, Jerusalem, Rome, Washington and New York.

The commission is a private organization created in 1998 by U.S. and European insurance regulators, Jewish organizations and European insurers flooded by a lawsuits for allegedly failing to pay valid claims lodged by Holocaust survivors or their heirs.

In a related development, the House of Representatives on Wednesday approved an amendment to the State Department budget providing the department will review the commission's claims.

"ICHEIC is not doing the job Congress expected it to do and I intend to ensure that is has fair procedures and is accountable to Holocaust survivors," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

The commission is not regulated by any governmental agency and makes independent spending decisions.

Nearly all the commission's funding is provided by its five European insurance company members.

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