Armenian genocide fund audit denied

A U.S. district judge on Monday denied a motion to conduct an audit of a multimillion-dollar compensation fund for descendents of Armenian Genocide victims, instead ordering the account administrator to explain payout discrepancies.

Glendale-based attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan had sought the independent audit after discovering that a fund established by insurance carrier Axa S.A. contained nearly $2.5 million more than originally thought.

But U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder said the audit would cost too much time and money and was unnecessary if Glendale resident Parsegh Kartalian, the fund’s administrator, could provide adequate information.

Kartalian has just a few weeks to sit down voluntarily with attorneys Brian Kabateck, Mark Geragos and Roman Silberfeld, who represent Yeghiayan.

If Kartalian does not meet with them voluntarily, Silberfeld said he will return to Snyder and ask her to order him to testify in court.

Silberfeld said the check amounts “vary wildly” from $159 to more than $200,000. Records also show descendants received multiple checks, but some of them were never cashed.

“Why were people getting multiple checks when, theoretically, one check would do?” Silberfeld said. “There is only one person apparently on the planet who can tell us why that is, and that’s Mr. Kartalian.”

He also stressed that it is the responsibility of attorneys to figure out what happened. It is not the responsibility of the France-based settlement board, which simply decided who was eligible for claim payouts.

The board has been pushing for the independent audit.

“The settlement board isn’t running this show. The court is running this show,” Snyder said in court. “I think Mr. Kartalian owes an explanation not to the settlement board, but to this court.”

When reached by phone on Tuesday, Kartalian said he had not been contacted about a meeting.

Several years ago, New York Life Insurance Co. and Axa agreed to establish separate funds for a total of $37.5 million to pay claims that they failed to compensate descendents of Armenian Genocide victims who bought policies between 1875 and 1923.

Geragos, Kabateck and Yeghiayan were co-counsels on the class action lawsuit.

About 100 people still need to be compensated through the fund, said Kabateck, adding that it was he and Geragos who discovered the additional $2.5 million and found the claimants who still needed to be paid.

Kabateck said the process should be fairly easy to pay the 100 people, based on a formula that was drawn up for distribution of funds when the settlement agreement was created.

A status hearing on the case is scheduled for Sept. 26.


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