Human Rights Violations as Mass Torts: Compensation as a Proxy for Justice in the United States Civil Litigation System
On July 26, 2000, final approval was granted to a landmark $1.25 billion settlement of the claims of an international class of Holocaust victims against Swiss Banks that engaged in massive looting and misappropriation of assets entrusted to them by hundreds of thousands of Jews and other groups imprisoned, murdered, and dislocated by the Nazi regime. The Swiss Banks complaints linked the actions of Swiss financial institutions to the Nazi regime and its program of genocide.
The Swiss Banks litigation was brought and settled under federal class action rules in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The class action was brought on behalf of five plaintiff classes, whose members resided in over fifty countries and spoke over thirty languages. Most of the court-appointed class counsel either served without fee in the five-year prosecution and settlement of the litigation or donated their court-awarded fees to international human rights endeavors.
On December 5, 2000, a second court, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, approved an international diplomatic/legal agreement creating a foundation titled "Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future," (the "Foundation"), funded with DM $10 Billion (approximately $5 billion U.S.D.). The funding for the Foundation was contributed in equal shares by the German government and German industry, to compensate those who worked as slave or forced laborers for the Nazi regime in German factories, were subjected to medical experimentation, were held in Kinderheims (children's homes) or whose property or assets were misappropriated. Again, this litigation was brought, and its claims were settled, on behalf of an international class of Holocaust victims, survivors, and their families. A small set-aside fund paid notices, administrative costs, and all attorneys' fees.
Elizabeth J. Cabraser,
Human Rights Violations as Mass Torts: Compensation as a Proxy for Justice in the United States Civil Litigation System,
57 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol57/iss6/5