Claims Conf. board agrees to outside input, renews embattled chairman’s term


NEW YORK (JTA) — Adopting the recommendations of a special committee appointed to look into how the Claims Conference missed an early sign of a massive fraud scheme, the organization’s board of directors voted to form a new commission to review management of the Claims Conference.

The so-called Special Planning Commission will be comprised of board members, outsiders and survivors and is charged with assessing whether the current management of the Claims Conference will be able to implement the still-to-be-determined strategic plan for the future.

Although the move does give outsiders a chance to review the administration, management and governance structure of the Claims Conference, and offer their voice in formulating a plan for the future, it’s not clear whether the commission will have any power other than to make  recommendations. According to the resolution establishing the commission, which the board endorsed unanimously on Wednesday, the commission will report to the board every three months and aim to present its final report at next year’s annual board meeting.

The Claims Conference leadership will “convene a Special Planning Commission comprising directors of the Claims Conference, qualified persons from outside the organization and Holocaust survivors to develop a strategic plan to fulfill the mission of the Claims Conference during the remaining existence of the organization, which plan shall include a thorough analysis of the current management of the Claims Conference to assure its ability to implement the strategic plan to be adopted,” the resolution reads. “Said analysis shall include a review of the administration, management and governance structure of the Claims Conference including its by-laws, and a review of the implementation of the Deloitte report and consideration of the Accenture report.”

The Deloitte and Accenture reports recommended changes to Claims Conference protocols following the 2009 discovery by Claims Conference chief executive Greg Schneider of a $57 million fraud scheme within the organization.

In a yea or nay vote on a new slate of board members and officers, the board also voted unanimously to give the organization’s embattled chairman, Julius Berman, another term in office.

Berman has come under fire from critics for his role overseeing a failed 2001 probe into fraud allegations at the conference. The probe, which was carried out by a paralegal at Berman’s law firm and presented to the then-chief executive of the Claims Conference, Gideon Taylor, included recommendations for further questioning of a Claims Conference employee that were never followed up.

That employee, Semen Domnitser, was found guilty two months ago of being the mastermind of the $57 million fraud scheme, which ran from 1993 through 2009.

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