Julius Berman, the embattled board chairman of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, was reelected to another term by trustees at an annual board meeting today.
Berman’s stewardship of the organization had come into question following a Forward report that he failed to take appropriate action on a 2001 letter warning of fraud in five cases at the Claims Conference.
A multi-year investigation into what turned out to be a $57 million fraud at the Claims Conference ended with 28 individuals pleading guilty and three, including a Claims Conference administrator, being convicted. The Forward revealed in May that Claims Conference officials, including Berman, did not take appropriate action when they were warned of the fraud nearly a decade before it was uncovered by Conference officials and reported to authorities.
Board members at the annual meeting were only allowed to vote yes or no to an entire approved slate of Claims Conference board leaders. There was no separate vote held on Berman’s chairmanship. Trustees were not permitted to abstain.
Forward Association President Samuel Norich, who represented the Jewish Labor Committee on the board, resigned.
Adopting the recommendations of an ombudsman’s report, the Claims Conference board also voted to form a new commission to review the organization’s management. 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.