AXA Inter-Attorney Squabble II

Garen Yegparian

On Mon., Nov. 21, a hearing took place in Federal Judge Christina A.
Snyder’s court in downtown Los Angeles. It was the second in as many
weeks, and part of the lawsuit that has pitted against one another
attorneys Mark Geragos/Brian Kabateck vs. Vartkes Yeghiayan, who once
jointly fought the French insurance company AXA to secure payment
to the heirs of genocide victims who had bought life insurance
policies from that company. Much of what was addressed at the two
hearings was redundant because at the Nov. 14 hearing, Yeghiayan’s
attorney, Roman Silberfeld, was unable to attend and was replaced by
another, Gabrielson. The judge was unwilling to finalize anything in
Silberfeld’s absence.

Before proceeding, a “refresher” regarding some numbers is necessary
to follow what transpired during these two hearings. Approximately
13,000 claims were filed. Of these, about 1,000 were paid (the
amounts paid varied dramatically, from the low hundreds of dollars
to the hundreds of thousands). A sample (104) of the paid claims was
examined by both sides. It turns out 10 were duplicates or could not
be found, leaving 94. Among these some discrepancies have been found,
which constitute the current heart of the controversy.

Leading up to the later session a filing was made by the Yeghiayan
side. It described the status of the negotiations between the two
sides and laid out allegations against the other side, Geragos and
Kabateck. During the course of the hearing, the judge expressed
displeasure with the filing, seemingly agreeing with Kabateck in his
contention that it was an end run around the court’s instructions
that Yeghiayan refrain from issuing press releases.

Once again, the name of Parsegh Kartalian came up. He was the
administrator who ran the distribution of the millions of dollars
that AXA was required to pay to the rightful recipients of the
insurance policies’ payouts. One meeting has been held with him,
and the Yeghiayan side expressed dissatisfaction with that session.

Geragos (who was also absent from the Nov. 14 hearing) emphatically
requested, repeatedly, that Snyder order that he and Silberfeld
be locked in a room to hash out the problems and come up with a
resolution. The judge did so, expressing concern that otherwise much
of the funds due to the claimants might be expended on audits of the
files. But this is what Yeghiayan’s side is requesting to make sure
everything has been properly processed. Geragos and Kabateck countered
that to review all 1,000 files would be prohibitively expensive,
while agreeing that a 0.1 percent correction is owed to those who
received payments. This followed on the heels of both sides agreeing
at the Nov. 14 hearing that the preceding six weeks (since the last
hearing) had been an exercise in futility.

Silberfeld agreed that most of the outstanding issues could be
resolved between Geragos and himself. But, he argued that no amount
of negotiation could settle the issue of whether the discrepancies
discovered in the sample of files examined also affect the other
900 paid claims. He even suggested that some threshold could be
established, giving the example of $25,000 as a means of limiting
the scope of the work. Then, any claims with payouts higher than that
figure could be audited.

The question of whether the 12,000 rejected claims were properly
processed has not been addressed.

At both hearings, Kabateck asserted that the issues raised by Yeghiayan
were intended to distract attention from the latter’s misdeeds,
as alleged by the former. The judge indicated some suspicion of
the same. Along the same lines, Kabateck also complained that he
perceived an ever-expanding list of issues to be addressed being
raised by Yeghiayan.

Judge Snyder expressed her sense that at some point, an independent
accountant would have to look at some of the files. She said she
wants to limit the scope of that work in the interest of saving the
compensation fund’s monies. She did say, however, that it might
become necessary for those who mishandled the process to pay for
such auditing.

The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5.

In the interest of full disclosure, my family is an AXA claimant. The
claim was denied. No explanation was given.

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