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Insurance Panel Under Fire

An international commission created to resolve Holocaust insurance disputes has reportedly spent more than $30 million on salaries, hotel bills and newspaper ads while distributing only $3 million claimants.

The Los Angeles Times obtained internal documents from the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims showing that the group knows it’s under fire for its spending.

Commission vice chairman Geoffrey E. Fitchew wrote in an internal memo back in January that, "ICHEIC is at risk of facing increasing criticism, focusing on the low proportion of our claimants who have received offers..."

Documents show that the commission, founded in 1998, has held at least 18 meetings with up to 100 participants in London, Jerusalem, Rome, Washington and New York.

Lawrence S. Eagleburger, ICHEIC president, acknowledged the criticism.

"I will be the first to admit that given the amount we have spent so far, the result in claims paid out is by no means as high as it should be," Eagleburger told the paper.

The former Secretary of State is paid $350,000 a year as commission president.

The commission is a private organization created by European and U.S. insurance regulators and Jewish organizations to pay valid claims lodged by Holocaust survivors or their heirs. The commission is not regulated by any governmental agency and makes independent spending decisions.

In a related move, the House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to amend the State Department budget to have it review the commission’s claims and payments.

"ICHEIC is not doing the job Congress expected it to do and I intend to ensure that is has fair procedures and is accountable to Holocaust survivors," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

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