Claims Conf. committee report calls for restructuring, but half its members disown it

NEW YORK (JTA) — Two of the four members of the Claims Conference committee appointed to review the organization’s handling of a botched 2001 fraud probe are disavowing the committee’s final report calling for a restructuring of the Claims Conference.

The report was tasked with reviewing the Claims Conference’s mishandling in 2001 of an anonymous letter identifying several fraudulent restitution claims the organization had processed. Top Claims Conference officials got involved in looking into the allegations, including the current chairman of the organization, Julius Berman, but their probes failed to detect that a broad fraud scheme was underway that would reach $57 million before it was stopped in 2009.

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“Best practice and competence, were missing in respect of this matter,” the report said of the 2001 episode. “Importantly, its conclusions regarding the shortcomings identified in respect of those events, indicate the real need for improvements in the Claims Conference’s administration, management and governance, generally.”

But two of the four committee members tasked with preparing the report immediately disavowed it and resigned in protest, saying the report was seriously flawed and they could not stand by it.

“I believe that the report is inappropriately perforative, contains material factual errors, and does not take into account the substantial management improvements made subsequent to 2001,” committee member Abraham Biderman, who is chairman of the Claims Conference’s personnel and management committee, wrote in a letter on Sunday to Berman. “In addition the affected parties were not given appropriate due process to react and respond to the factual statements contained therein. Please make sure that my name is not included among the committee members whenthe report is shared with the Board or released publicly.”

Committee member Roman Kent, who is the Claims Conference’s chairman, also resigned, insisting that his name be excluded from the report.

The two remaining committee members — Reuven Merhav, chairman of the executive committee of the Claims Conference, and Robert Goot, chairman of the governance committee — stood by the report. The Forward posted the report online on Monday.

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