Axa Insurance Settlement

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Halt search for descendants

U.S. District Court rules that accounting firm can halt unsuccessful efforts to contact 16 descendants of Armenian Genocide victims

http://www.arminfo.am/index.cfm?objectid=6C7B5AD0-4442-11E2-B634F6327207157C Wednesday, December 12, 12:57

A U.S. District Court judge ruled this week that an accounting firm can halt what so far have been unsuccessful efforts to contact 16 descendants of Armenian Genocide victims who are due payouts from an insurance fund, Glendale News-Press reports.

Judge Christina Snyder said the numerous attempts by Holthouse, Carlin, and Van Trigt to reach out to the final batch of 159 claimants had been sufficient.

There is less than $500,000 left in the settlement account, according to the latest status report filed in court.

Snyder also ruled that the attorneys working on the case - Mark Geragos, Brian Kabateck and Roman Silberfeld - can spend up to $15,000 to continue trying to contact the non-responsive

To that end, Snyder ruled that all settlement money set aside by French insurer Axa S.A. shall remain in the compensation fund.

Snyder also ruled that the money due to four claimants who have since died should be paid to their descendants so long as they can prove they are heirs.

Snyder also ordered banks that handled past settlement transactions to hand over various forms and documents to see if any fraudulent transactions have occurred.

The request comes in the wake of questionable financial activities involving Los Angeles attorney Berj Boyajian, who endorsed 17 checks totaling more than $312,000 that were made payable to compensation claimants.

He then deposited them into an account called Boyajian and Associates at Union Bank.

The original lawsuit stems from allegations made by Glendale-based attorneyVartkes Yeghiayan that there were accounting discrepancies in the fund set up by Axa S.A.

He had initially requested an audit of all 3,000 claims.


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French Insurer to Enable Heirs of Genocide Victims to Search for Names on its Website

By Harry Tamrazian in Prague

Descendants of victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide will be able to use a searchable website soon to check whether any of them are eligible to make a claim to a French insurer, a Los Angeles-based lawyer told RFE/RL on Wednesday.

A class action lawsuit against French insurer Axa for $17 million was settled earlier this month in a California court accusing the company of failing to pay death benefits for the insurance policies purchased by Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire prior to the genocide in which up to 1.5 million people were killed.

`We are working with Axa to have a searchable website so people can go and look for names. We want to make it as easy as possible,' Brian Kabateck, one of the three lawyers of Armenian descent investigating the case, told RFE/RL.

He hopes that the list will be available to the public within the next six months and anyone who thinks his grandparents or parents might have purchased the policy will be able to check it on the website.

Kabatech explained that under the terms of the deal Axa will donate at least $3 million to various French-based Armenian charities and another $11 million towards a fund designed to pay out policyholders. And $3 million will be allocated for the cost of administering the settlement, including international advertising.

`This shows that 90 years later we still can make a difference. It shows that all the lawyers involved in the case want to continue looking for documentation of insurance, of made deposits, of stolen property. We will pursue anything that we can pursue,' he said.

The Axa settlement follows a similar agreement with New York Life Insurance Company in early 2004 under which it agreed to pay $20 million.

According to Kabatech, Axa was more cooperative in reaching the settlement than New York Life.

Now, Kabatech says, they are also investigating a case against Deutsche Bank which received deposits of money and property from Armenians that after the genocide never would turned over to.

As to how substantial this claim is, the lawyer said: `We are still investigating it. But it doesn't matter how substantial it was, because even if they did it to one person, that's too many.'


Turkish Union Boycotts French Insurer AXA over Armenian Genocide Settlement

(AFP)--A powerful Turkish civil servants' trade union has decided to boycott French insurer AXA after the company agreed to compensate heirs of victims of the Armenian genocide, the head of the union said Monday.

"We must put an end to business relations with AXA. It is not possible for us to do business with a company that tramples the rights of our country," said Ahmet Aksu, the head of the Memur-Sen union. He said that Memur-Sen had appealed to its 200,000 members not to take out policies from AXA.

The insurers unleashed a wave of anger in Turkey after they agreed on October 13 to settle a class action lawsuit by descendants of the victims of Genocide that was conducted under Ottoman rule. The case was settled for $17 million in the United States.

The deal, which was harshly criticized by the Turkish media, also dealt a blow to OYAK, an industrial venture representing the army pension fund and AXA's partner in Turkey since 1999. OYAK announced after the deal that it was reviewing the situation in the light of the "sensitivities of the Turkish people."

Aksu argued that OYAK should dissociate itself from the French company. "Their union hurts us deeply. Think about it: one of Turkey's most trustworthy institutions (the armed forces) is working with a company like AXA," he said. Aksu said his trade union appealed to its members to demonstrate next week in front of AXA-OYAK offices.

Memur-Sen also wants AXA to issue a public apology and to indemnify Turks killed by Armenians during the last years of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Namik Tan said AXA's position has nothing to do with the government's views of the Armenian genocide.


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AXA Inter-Attorney Squabble

By: Garen Yegparian
Dec 15 2011

On Mon., Dec. 5, another hearing took place in Federal Judge Christina A. Snyder’s court in downtown Los Angeles. It was two weeks since the last one in the ongoing lawsuit that has pitted against one another attorneys—Mark Geragos/Brian Kabateck vs. Vartkes Yeghiayan—who once jointly fought the French insurance company AXA to secure payment to the heirs of Armenian Genocide victims who had bought life insurance policies from that company. This time, the sides were more amicable, and the hearing very brief; only Roman Silberfeld, Yeghiayan’s attorney, and Marc Geragos, for the opposing side, spoke.

Once again, the name of Parsegh Kartalian name came up. He was the administrator who ran the distribution of the millions of dollars that AXA was required to pay to the rightful recipients of the insurance policies’ payouts. This time, he was the focus of what both Geragos and Silberfeld had agreed upon in their meeting, which was ordered by the judge at the previous hearing. They were going to ask Kartalian for a report covering the claims paid, charitable contributions made, and the office operation. It is hoped this report will clarify the situation for all concerned. If the court is not satisfied with the result, then a further hearing will be held.

The sides have agreed that all 13,000 claim files will be moved to a neutral site with access for all. Whether the public is included, or if it is just the parties to the current lawsuit, was not specified. They have also agreed to hire an accounting firm to conduct an audit for all of them for a fixed fee. They have agreed to a firm, but it has not yet been hired.

The sides also proposed reexamining the claims that had been paid to correct for the 0.1 percent that had been discovered. But, only claims where the payment was $10,000 or greater will be covered by this arrangement. This is because smaller amounts would result in corrections of less than $10, creating a state of diminishing returns. The judge approved this, but added that the smaller claimants should be informed of this situation, and only if they request the correction (e.g., with the claimant paying the postage, would they receive the funds).

The next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 30.

In the interest of full disclosure, my family is an AXA claimant. The claim was denied. No explanation was given.


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Questions roil Armenian Genocide compensation fund

Glendale News Press, CA Nov 3 2012


Questions roil Armenian Genocide compensation fund

Man says $574,000 was deposited in account opened in his name.

By Mark Kellam, mark.kellam@latimes.com

November 3, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. More than $1.6 million has been paid out from a compensation fund for descents of Armenian Genocide victims, according to a status report filed in a lengthy lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

However, four of the 32 claimants who haven't been paid have died and attorneys are seeking direction from U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder about whether their families - who have verified their lineage to the descendants - should be paid the funds instead.

Snyder is also being asked to order banks that handled past transactions from the Axa S.A. insurance settlement fund to check various forms to see if any fraudulent transactions have occurred. The request follows some questionable financial activities regarding compensation funds in the past.

The lawsuit stems from allegations made by Glendale-based attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan that there were accounting discrepancies in the fund set up by the French insurer. He has requested an audit of all 3,000 claims.

The accounting firm of Holthouse, Carlin and Van Tright has been handling the payment of about $2.1 million to 159 claimants. About 75% of the funding has been paid out so far, according to the status report.

However, 28 of the 32 remaining claimants have not responded to multiple attempts by the accounting firm to contact them.

In a past status report, concerns were raised about 17 checks totaling more than $312,000 that were made payable to compensation claimants, but appear to have been endorsed by Los Angeles attorney Berj Boyajian and deposited into an account called Boyajian and Associates at Union Bank.

Boyajian wrote checks totaling $118,127 to various individuals from insurance settlement funds that he had deposited into his Union Bank account, but Boyajian allegedly kept the remaining $194,166 until last June, according to the status report filed in federal district court.

On June 28, shortly after the previous status report was filed outlining the suspicious check endorsements by Boyajian, a check for $194,166 was written from an account for Boyajian's legal counsel and deposited into the Axa settlement account, the report states.

Boyajian doesn't deny the transactions and his attorney submitted documentation under oath affirming them.

The report also states that Boyajian, citing his Fifth Amendment rights, refused to answer significant questions during a deposition in the case.

However, Glendale resident Parsegh Kartalian, the compensation fund's administrator, testified in a deposition that he did not know how Boyajian got ahold of the claimant's checks, that Boyajian had no role in the administration of the claims and that he had nothing to do with deciding which claims would be approved or denied, according to the status report.

Insurance fund `claimant' Zaven Haleblian testified during a deposition that nine settlement checks made payable to him totaled $574,425 - which is the same amount that was in an account in his name at First California Bank, an account he knew nothing about until last April that allegedly was opened by Boyajian, according to the status report filed with the court.

Haleblian said he never submitted a claim for settlement funds and had no relatives involved in the Armenian Genocide.

He said he did grant Boyajian power of attorney to manage his account at Pacific Western Bank because he lives in Syria most of the year. However, Boyajian's power-of-attorney responsibilities did not include opening bank accounts, according to the status report.

After Haleblian's deposition, Boyajian returned all of the money from the First California account into the Axa settlement fund, the report states.

http://www.glendalenewspress.com/news/tn-gnp-1104-questions-roil-compensation-fund,0,727120.story


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