Attorneys fighting over Genocide fund get extension

A federal judge on Monday gave attorneys fighting over accounting discrepancies at a multimillion-dollar compensation fund for the descendants of Armenian Genocide victims two weeks to hash out an agreement or face an extensive court-ordered audit.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder ordered attorneys Mark Geragos and Roman Silberfeld to come back on Dec. 5 with an update on how they want to address accounting discrepancies in a compensation fund set up several years ago by insurance company Axa S.A. to pay descendents of Armenian Genocide victims.

Geragos requested that he and Silberfeld, who is representing Glendale-based attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan, be “locked in a room” because he believes they can reach an agreement.

Attorneys on both sides and their staffs have been examining 94 claims that initially appeared to have problems out of about 1,000 claims filed with the fund’s administrators.

In a motion filed with the court on Friday, Silberfeld said every claim was underpaid because the multiplier used to determine payment amounts was off by 0.1%.

In some instances, separate but identical claims filed by siblings were denied, others were approved, according to Silberfeld’s motion.

Also, some claimants who received multiple checks only cashed those for smaller amounts, even though checks for larger amounts were supposedly issued at the same time.

Silberfeld argued that if there were discrepancies with some of the 94 claims studied, it’s reasonable to believe there are problems with the remaining 900 claims.

Silberfeld said that while some of the accounting issues brought up in his motion could be addressed in a private meeting, he didn’t think he could let the remaining 900 claims go unchecked.

“At least get some start on this,” Snyder said, adding that the massive amount of accounting work involved with an audit would seriously deplete the remaining $2.5 million in the fund.

She also brought up the option that the people who were in charge of administering the fund could be forced to help cover the costs.

Earlier this year, Geragos and attorney Brian Kabateck sued Yeghiayan, charging that he and his wife, attorney Rita Mahdessian, set up bogus charities and misused nearly $1 million during the last six years.

Kabateck told Synder on Monday that the motions regarding the Axa fund are Yeghiayan’s attempt to sideline that lawsuit.

Geragos, Kabateck and Yeghiayan were on the same legal team that in 2005 brought a lawsuit that resulted in Axa’s $17.5-million compensation fund, which was set up to pay claims that it failed to compensate descendants of Armenian Genocide victims who bought policies between 1875 and 1923.

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