Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Attesting to History

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Attesting to History

Article excerpt

Three of the largest accounting firms in the world have just taken on an international auditing engagement that is as old as it is unusual.

In January 1996, a survey conducted by the Swiss Bankers Association turned up at least 775 dormant accounts, containing Sfr. 38.7 million (approximately $30 million), that may have been opened by Nazi victims seeking to place their assets in a safe place. In May 1996, the World Jewish Restitution Organization, the World Jewish Congress and the Swiss Bankers Association signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate the extent of such accounts, which may have been unclaimed for over 50 years simply because there were no survivors to claim them. (A previous investigation, in 1962, turned up Sfr 9.5 million.)

The memo led to the creation of the seven-member Independent Committee of Eminent Persons, chaired by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve Bank, and including three members appointed by Jewish organizations and three appointed by the Swiss bank group. In November, the committee chose Arthur Andersen, KPMG Peat Marwick and Price Waterhouse to audit the Swiss banks. The committee itself is the client, although funding is provided by the banking association. …

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