Sunday, January 15, 2006

Banks facing two lawsuits

Glendale News Press
Jan 14 2006

Class-action suit alleges banks withheld assets from Armenian Genocide victims.
By Tania Chatila, News-Press and Leader

LOS ANGELES -- More than 500 Armenians from across Los Angeles County held signs that read "Blood for $" and chanted "Shame on Deutsche Bank."

Demonstrators gathered at the downtown offices of Deutsche Bank A.G. Friday morning, hours after it and Dresdner Bank A.G. were slapped with a class-action lawsuit claiming they have withheld money and assets from the heirs of Armenian Genocide victims for 90 years.

"We brought this case specifically to address the wrongs committed by this bank and others who profit off the Armenian Genocide," said attorney Brian Kabateck, of Kabateck, Brown, Kellner, LLP at Friday's rally.

He and Mark Geragos, of Geragos & Geragos, APC; and Vartkes Yeghiayan, of Yeghiayan & Associates, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The suit claims that the two German banks have prevented the recovery of millions in money and assets deposited by Armenians prior to World War I and the Armenian Genocide.

The lawsuit also claims that the banks accepted "looted assets" taken by the Ottoman Turkey government during World War I and the Armenian Genocide.

"We are declining to comment on that lawsuit," Deutsche Bank spokeswoman Rohini Pragasam said.

The suit seeks restitution -- which Geragos estimates in the tens of millions -- for the heirs of genocide victims.

"For 90 years, this bank has sat on the blood money of the Armenian people who were driven into the desert and slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks," Geragos said.

"That blood money is what they pay for their sweets with, its for what they do their investments with."

Kabateck, Geragos and Yeghiayan -- all of Armenian descent -- settled two separate class-action lawsuits against New York Life and AXA in the past two years for more than $37 million.

The two companies agreed to payouts to descendants of life insurance policyholders killed in the genocide.

"This is an important issue," said protester Levon Marashlian, a professor of history at Glendale Community College and the college's Armenian Students Assn. faculty advisor.

"In addition to people being starved and massacred, their property was also stolen and insurance companies did not pay out life insurance policies."

Marashlian and several students in the college's Armenian Students Assn., were among many Glendale residents present Friday to show their support.

"It's about our race," said Tigran Pedirian, 17, of Glendale. "They think they can fool us."

The lawsuit has five representative defendants, but Kabateck believes there could be thousands of families that could be affected by the suit.

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