Dormant Bank Accounts of Victims of the Holocaust, Switzerland
Financial Institution – The Volcker Commission
A Search for the Assests for the Victims of the Holocaust
Mr. Paul Volcker, Chairman of the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons issued a press release on November 19, 1996 announcing “…its Mandate and Instructions for the investigative audits of dormant accounts, financial instruments, and other assets deposited in Swiss banks by the victims of Nazi persecution”. Price Waterhouse was one of the three firms chosen and I was one of the three US partners selected to address the Mandate. I was also able to again work with a good friend, Hans Marschdorf, a partner in the PW office in Zurich.
The Mandate continues by instructing the firms to find any previously unreported dormant accounts, financial instruments, and other assets that were deposited in Swiss banks before, during or immediately after the Second World War. This search for dormant accounts also included an examination of whether or not accounts that would otherwise have been dormant have been extinguished by actions that, whether or not inadvertent or deliberate, were illegal or in breach of fiduciary duties.
In a statement before the Banking and Financial services of the US House of Representatives on June 25, 1997 Mr. Volcker further stated, “Our investigation will have the full force of officially sanctioned audits and will be able to penetrate Swiss banking secrecy. As a result, there will be no legitimate place for the audited banks to hide from our investigation.”
Previously, on January 2, 1996, the Swiss Bankers Association had announced the interim results of a survey that identified a total of 775 dormant accounts. Later, the New York Times would report on December 7, 1999 that the “three- year audit of the Swiss banks found records of 54,000 accounts that were probably linked to victims of Nazi persecution”.
For the forensic accountant, the human element is at least as important as the accounting for numbers. In this case of such historical tragedy, the human element could never (and we hope) ever be as significant. For me, a unique time forever remembered, particularly brought home when you interview former management now in their eighties to experience their emotional recollection of the Holocaust.