Boca Raton, FL
The lawyer is quoted as saying "it would have been a crime not to have slept with the woman." He says he later had sex with her when no payment was made and she accompanied him on several trips and visited him again in Austria.
Knowingly having paid-for sex with a woman under 18 carries a sentence of up to three years in Austria.
Table of Contents:
- Lawyer in Holocaust Case Faces Litany of Complaints (09/08/2000)
- Prominent Holocaust Claims Lawyer Accused of Neglecting Clients (09/08/2000)
- Lawsuit Filed Over Artwork Looted By Nazis (04/01/2000)
- Cable car fire acquittals contested (09/26/2005)
- Allegations Against Survivors' Lawyer (01/07/2005)
- The Independent: Holocaust lawyer in Austrian sex scandal (09/17/2005)
- Holocaust Lawyer Fights Accusation He Hired Underage Austrian Hooker (10/07/2005)
- Controversial disbarred attorney suing for return of art work stolen in Holocaust
By BARRY MEIER
New York Times - September 8, 2000Ed Fagan Less than four years ago, a little-known personal-injury lawyer named Edward D. Fagan stood next to an Auschwitz survivor at a news conference in New York and announced an audacious lawsuit, accusing Swiss banks of stealing money 50 years ago from those who died in the Holocaust.
Today, Mr. Fagan has a new and glamorous career and is likely soon to earn millions of dollars in legal fees. He has since filed lawsuits against banks, insurers and other companies in Austria, Germany and elsewhere, charging that they too profited from Nazi ties or exploited victims. Settlements of actions against Swiss banks and German industry worth over $6.2 billion were recently approved.
Dozens of lawyers got involved in the Holocaust claims. But the 47-year-old Mr. Fagan cast himself a part as a media-savvy street fighter who became the public point man in the cases. This July, he hopscotched in a few days from Berlin to Vienna to Warsaw on behalf of tens of thousands of people whom he and lawyers associated with him represent.
They have also opened a second front, charging Japanese companies in lawsuits with using thousands of Asians and others as forced labor during World War II.
"It's like a posse," the tall, curly-haired and engaging Mr. Fagan said. "There are all these bad guys all over the world, and we have to track them down."
His mission, he said, is to reach back into history and force a reckoning with those who profited from evil. But an investigation by The New York Times and the ABC News program "20/20" has found that Mr. Fagan is facing his own reckoning.
As he recast himself as a "human rights" lawyer, Mr. Fagan left neglected personal-injury clients in his wake, abandoning their claims or not returning their phone calls for years, according to court papers and interviews. One former client recently won a malpractice judgment against Mr. Fagan and ethics officials in New Jersey filed a misconduct complaint against him last month on behalf of another client.
Mr. Fagan, so at ease with using the emotional force of the Holocaust as a weapon, also ignored for months scores of calls and letters from aging Nazi-era survivors anxious about whether their claims had been received, said a paralegal who worked last year for him and his partner at the time. That paralegal, Jane Warshaw, was so distressed by what she saw that she wrote in January to the judge handling the Swiss banks case to complain.
"I never expected to witness what I have seen at this office," she wrote. "What is happening to these poor, old, injured and neglected people is heartbreaking."
For his part, Mr. Fagan conceded he may have failed some clients by taking on too much work. But he insisted that he did his best to represent his personal-injury clients and that he labored ceaselessly in the Holocaust cases without financial guarantees, winning results few would have imagined.
"It was remarkable to be a lawyer and to be able to use your profession to do good," he said. "To change history. To stand up for people's human rights is incredible, and that's what we did."
Mr. Fagan's conduct does not appear to have jeopardized the financial claims of his Holocaust clients. In any settlement, they would be eligible for the same compensation as clients of more attentive lawyers. But several survivors he represented say that his failure to return calls for months, even years, took a wrenching emotional toll. Legal-ethics experts say lawyers are obligated to answer client queries within a reasonable period, even in a huge class-action suit.
Mr. Fagan is a frenetic man who appears inseparable from his cell phone. He had hoped to be a rabbi, failed at business and ran a struggling legal practice before he stumbled into the Holocaust litigation and a potential gold mine in legal fees. In the Swiss banks suit alone, he seeks $4 million, the most for any lawyer in the case.
There is little question that Mr. Fagan played a leading role in promoting the Holocaust claims, cases whose moral charge made them a public cause. He specialized in shaming companies and governments, orchestrating demonstrations and prayer vigils. Some Holocaust survivors and advocates view him as their champion.
"He is a master in public relations," said Hannah Lessing, an official of a state-financed group in Austria for Holocaust victims. "Behind all the facade of yelling and screaming, there is a man who cares for survivors."
But he also made it his business, while other lawyers were painstakingly developing legal claims, to be first at the courthouse, gaining leverage with a hasty filing. A news conference with an aged survivor would follow, drawing in a flood of clients.
Mr. Fagan represents far more Holocaust claimants than most other lawyers, giving him a powerful role in negotiations. The actual number of clients is apparently a matter of some confusion. In one interview, Mr. Fagan put the figure at 82,000, but his own lawyer cited a different one -- 52,000 -- in a March response to a client complaint.
Other lawyers in the Holocaust cases say Mr. Fagan's ambitions vastly outstripped his resources to deal with the huge numbers of clients he took on and added that he was often absent for the legal fight. Burt Neuborne, who had worked with Mr. Fagan before breaking with him, said Mr. Fagan's filing in the Swiss banks case was so inadequate that a judge asked him to rewrite it.
"This was an ordinary man who got swept up in issues that were bigger than he was," said Mr. Neuborne, a law professor at New York University. "He didn't understand and eventually didn't really know how to behave and just got swept away in the current of his own ego and his own ambition."
'Here Are Defendants'
Mr. Fagan has said that two pieces of information led him to the Swiss banks case. The first was a 1996 article in The New York Times about Nazi gold and Swiss banks. The other came from a longtime client, Gizella Weisshaus, an Auschwitz survivor who told him of her family's Swiss account.
He recalled: "I thought, 'Oh, my goodness, I'm a lawyer, here are defendants. I don't know who the plaintiffs are, I don't know who the plaintiffs are going to be, but someone is going to pay.' "
The Swiss banks case would also apparently be the way to satisfy his gnawing hunger for acclaim.
Born in Harlingen, Tex., Mr. Fagan grew up in San Antonio with two brothers and a sister, all from his mother's first marriage. Mr. Fagan's father abandoned the family, said Wayne Fagan, the lawyer's oldest brother. His other brother, Avraham, embraced Orthodox Judaism and Mr. Fagan followed him to Israel.
"I wanted to be a rabbi," he said.
His religious ardor waned, and Mr. Fagan returned to this country and enrolled in Cardozo Law School in New York, a part of Yeshiva University, graduating in 1980.
He spent several years with a large law firm that represented corporate defendants. But in the late 1980's, Mr. Fagan, searching for something with more panache, tried to start an exploration club for the wealthy. Travelers would sail by yacht to exotic locales, accompanied by ocean scientists and environmentalists. In 1991 he set up the Odyssoe Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the business, to support environmental research. But the whole venture fizzled.
In 1994, soon after returning to law, he rented the entire 21st floor of the former Standard Oil building in lower Manhattan, complete with the original, opulent board room. He tried to support his tiny firm, Fagan & Associates, by subletting space to other lawyers and advertising for personal- injury clients in the yellow pages.
He was eager, however, for the spotlight, trying to interest a tabloid in one case. In 1994, he asserted in a fax to the Star magazine that the actor Sylvester Stallone had tried to defraud a client of his who owned three paintings by Mr. Stallone.
"There has never been been an article of this nature with a celebrity (of this stature) involving fraud and his artwork," Mr. Fagan wrote, according to papers in a libel suit that Mr. Stallone filed against him in 1994.
The magazine never published the article, and Mr. Stallone withdrew his libel action.
In another case, Mr. Fagan got on television representing a 6-year-old Queens girl who had been stabbed with a hypodermic needle by a homeless man on the subway.
But at the same time, his finances and his business ties were unraveling, public records show. He began to owe large amounts of federal income taxes, a debt he said he has mostly paid off. In 1996, the yellow pages unit of the former Nynex Corporation filed a $228,000 lawsuit against Odyssoe in a New Jersey court for unpaid services like advertisements for his legal practice.
Mr. Fagan said he ordered the advertisements through the nonprofit organization, rather than his law firm, because it was also the billing address of some phone lines at his firm. He said he believed the matter was resolved, but a spokeswoman for Verizon, the successor to Nynex, said the bill was still outstanding.
Faced with an eviction proceeding for unpaid rent, he was forced in 1997 to leave his lavish offices and rent space from a law firm in the World Trade Center.
The acrimony of his professional life spilled over into his closest relations. In the mid 1990's, Mr. Fagan severed ties with his three siblings, said his brother Wayne, a lawyer in San Antonio.
Wayne Fagan said: "Eddie was a warm, jovial person who was like a pied piper. But something happened and Eddie just changed."
The Cases Left BehindWith Mr. Fagan's claim against the Swiss banks on behalf of Mrs. Weisshaus and others in late 1996, he embraced a new mission. But the claims of some of his personal-injury clients were apparently abandoned or forgotten.
One was Hector Ortiz. In 1992, Mr. Ortiz, a 49-year-old truck driver, smashed into the back of a slow-moving crane, shattering bones and sustaining head injuries.
In 1994, Mr. Fagan filed a $35 million lawsuit on his behalf in federal court in Brooklyn and brought a similar action in State Supreme Court there. He aggressively pursued the federal claim until late 1996, court papers and interviews indicate.
In 1998, however, Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. of Federal District Court dismissed Mr. Ortiz's federal lawsuit. In doing so, he also noted that Mr. Fagan had "failed to prosecute" it for three years and had ignored court orders. Mr. Ortiz's claim in Brooklyn state court has lain dormant for three years.
Mr. Fagan said that he had told Mr. Ortiz about a year ago that his federal claim was dead but that he had not yet informed him that the state case also appeared at an end.
Mr. Ortiz, who has not worked since the accident, disputed that account, saying in a phone interview that he had not seen or spoken with Mr. Fagan for more than two and a half years. "I was waiting in vain," he said. "I didn't know something like this could happen. Right now I'm confused. I don't know what to do."
Another client, Tom s Giron, was struck and severely injured in 1992 by a car reported stolen. Mr. Fagan said that he had made a claim for Mr. Giron to a New York state fund that compensates victims of uninsured motorists but that it had been denied.
Jeffrey Rubinton, the fund's president, though, said in an interview that its records showed that such an action had not been pursued and that the statute of limitations on making one had long expired.
In January, a former client, Offer Salmoni, won a $167,000 malpractice judgment against Mr. Fagan, which the lawyer did not contest. Mr. Fagan had filed a lawsuit on Mr. Salmoni's behalf in 1993 to contest an eviction. Mr. Salmoni charged in a 1998 lawsuit that Mr. Fagan had allowed that claim to be thrown out by repeatedly failing to make court appearances and had let the statute of limitations expire without refiling. Mr. Fagan, who is licensed to practice in New York and New Jersey, said he planned to settle with Mr. Salmoni.
Last month, New Jersey ethics officials, after a preliminary inquiry, filed a misconduct complaint before a grievance committee against Mr. Fagan on behalf of another former client, Diane Gibbons. Ms. Gibbons had complained to the ethics board that Mr. Fagan's failure to file required papers in her personal-injury action led to its dismissal. Mr. Fagan said he could not comment on the matter because it was pending.
Stephen Gillers, a legal-ethics expert at New York University who is not involved in the Holocaust litigation, said lawyers faced sanctions if they ignored existing claims when the prospects of bigger awards beckoned. "Your loyalty to your original client is undiluted," Mr. Gillers said.
Some personal-injury clients, whose names were provided to The Times by Mr. Fagan, said that he fought difficult cases for them, and that they would use him again. But Mr. Fagan acknowledged that he failed to withdraw -- as lawyers are required to -- from suits that he did not pursue.
"I was in over my head a lot of the time," he said. "But now I'm digging out, for me and for them."
Unanswered Calls, New Inquiries
By late 1999, with the Holocaust cases on the way to settlement, Mr. Fagan had established his place on the world stage. When Jane Warshaw, a paralegal, was sent by a temporary-help agency to work that fall for him and his then-partner at the World Trade Center, she was thrilled.
"I thought they were doing God's work," Ms. Warshaw said.
Ms. Warshaw, 57, said that Mr. Fagan's partner at the time, Carey R. D'Avino, asked her to check the office's telephone answering system. On it, she found more than 100 unanswered messages from Holocaust survivors as well as personal-injury clients, including Mr. Ortiz. It sounded like many had been desperately calling for a year or more.
Stacks of unopened letters from Holocaust survivors or their heirs were scattered around or stuffed in a drawer, she said. "They must have gotten their hopes up and then, there again, they were told that they just didn't matter," she said.
Ms. Warshaw said she suggested to Mr. D'Avino that she prepare a newsletter to keep clients updated, an accepted practice in class-action suits. The lawyer said he told her that their clients were already getting periodic newsletters. He described her as "well-meaning" but "out of the loop."
In January, troubled by what she viewed as client neglect, Ms. Warshaw sent a recording of those calls to Judge Edward R. Korman of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, who is overseeing the Swiss banks case. She also provided materials to The Times and ABC News.
The picture emerging from the documents and tapes is chaotic. New York disciplinary officials were investigating complaints by three of Mr. Fagan's clients. Calls from Holocaust claimants were bounced from one answering machine to another.
One caller, Bella Ross, said her parents, concentration camp survivors, were ecstatic when Mr. Fagan took their case in 1998. "They thought, you know, they had this savior," Ms. Ross said in an interview. "I mean, this is the man. You saw him on TV. You heard about him on the radio. You see him in print. He is everywhere. It was like finally they were blessed."
By last year, however, the family was so concerned about Mr. Fagan's lack of response to dozens of messages and faxes that she filed a complaint with New York disciplinary officials. "To date," Ms. Ross wrote in December, "Mr. Fagan has done nothing to update my parents on the status of their case and is literally unreachable."
Hal R. Lieberman, a lawyer representing Mr. Fagan in the matter, told investigators in a March letter responding to Ms. Ross's complaint that Mr. Fagan could not possibly deal with each of his tens of thousands of clients. Both Mr. D'Avino and Mr. Fagan said in interviews that they had met their ethical obligations to their clients; to date, there have been no findings against them.
Other Holocaust lawyers, though, were devoting more extensive resources to client communication. While some used paralegals to handle calls, Mr. Neubourne, the New York University professor, said he set aside four hours a week to deal directly with survivors, including many of Mr. Fagan's clients who called him out of frustration."These are people who lived with these memories for so long," Mr. Neubourne said. "The memories were then opened up, somebody told them something was going to happen. And then they just got cut off."
Some clients said Mr. Fagan returned phone calls promptly and others involved in Holocaust-related issues said they also had had far happier experiences with him. They described him as a passionate advocate who took up a fight that traditional Jewish groups had allowed to languish.
"Ed was the only true source of light," said Dr. Thomas Weiss, an ophthalmologist in Miami Beach active in Nazi-era claims against insurers. "He saw himself as picked by Providence to lead this charge."
For his part, Mr. Fagan described Ms. Warshaw as a "disgruntled former employee," though he conceded that some of her concerns ere legitimate.
He said he spent much of his time in recent years traveling and that only a few clients had complained. "The truth of the matter is that some people are going to be unhappy," he said.
Ms. Warshaw's complaint was referred to court officials, and Mr. D'Avino said that an investigator contacted him. Mr. Fagan said an assistant was hired in June to answer calls, resolving the matter.
A court official said the existence of an inquiry would not be confirmed or denied until a judge issued a ruling.
Haggling at the Top
In July, Mr. Fagan arrived in Berlin as part of a victory lap in two of the most significant cases. To settle slave-labor claims against German industry, the government and companies there had approved a $5 billion fund to compensate Nazi-era survivors. Not long after, Judge Korman in Brooklyn approved the $1.25 billion settlement of the Swiss banks case.
Mr. Fagan savored the moment, joining government officials, industry leaders and the heads of Jewish groups at the signing of the German agreement. "I know for a fact that the majority of these cases wouldn't have happened without me," he said. "That's not bravado, it's just a fact."
During the signing, though, Mr. Fagan dickered by cell phone with Stuart E. Eizenstat, the United States deputy treasury secretary, about lawyers' fees and other issues.
Under the German plan, two arbitrators are to decide how to award legal fees. Mr. Fagan argued with Mr. Eizenstat, who led negotiations in the case for the American government, that he understood that the arbitrators had up to $75 million to award, not the $62.5 million to which some other plaintiffs' lawyers had agreed.
After the call, Mr. Fagan telephoned a partner and said, "I got the legal fees up." But his excitement was premature; documents show that the lower figure was used.
Mr. Eizenstat said Mr. Fagan, after failing to get higher fees, then asked for a letter testifying about his efforts in the German case because he feared that lawyers critical of his conduct would seek to reduce his payout. Mr. Eizenstat said he agreed to write such a letter because he felt Mr. Fagan had played a constructive role.
Mr. Fagan's fears are well-founded. He is seeking $4 million in the Swiss banks case, twice as much as any other lawyer. In class actions, a judge or court-appointed expert determines fees, and lawyers argue that they deserve sizeable fees because they took great risks and helped resolve the case.
But Mr. Neuborne and others said they would argue for a far lower sum for Mr. Fagan in the Swiss banks case, contending that his contribution was minimal.
"His only gift was for publicity," said Martin Mendelsohn, a lawyer in Washington who worked on the Holocaust claims. "But this was a lawsuit. It was not theater."
New Clients to Pursue
Late last year, Mr. Fagan and lawyers associated with him set their sights on Japan. They fanned out to Australia, Hong Kong, South Korea, New Zealand and the Philippines in a bid to sign up thousands of people who claimed they had been used as forced laborers, including former American and Allied prisoners of war.
Gil Hair, director of a group in Miami that represents American civilians interned by the Japanese, said that Mr. Fagan called him in December and characterized himself as the "hero of the Holocaust" cases before he began his sales pitch. Mr. Hair, who already had a lawyer, declined.
In December, Mr. Fagan flew to Tokyo to make client contacts at a conference held by groups representing victims of Japanese wartime aggression, said several people who attended the meeting.
Public demonstrations soon followed. This summer, hundreds of old men and women passed into a park in Seoul, South Korea, under a banner that, roughly translated, read, "For the first time in 55 years we have brought action by human rights lawyers from the United States against the Japanese."
At the rally's end, a Korean folk band playing drums and cymbals led the crowd down a Seoul street as a man chanted through a loudspeaker "The Japanese government should repent and compensate for their atrocities of World War II. Repent. Repent. Repent."
Holocaust typhus corpsesMr. Fagan said he planned to move forward, addressing more World War II wrongs and other human rights causes. But some, like Ms. Warshaw, can only see the trail of broken promises and failed hopes he has already left behind.
"I don't see how you can ignore someone, especially when you've said, 'I'm here to help you, I'm going to help you,' " she said.
Prominent Holocaust Claims Lawyer Accused of Neglecting Clients
By Brian Ross
ABC News - September 8, 2000
'We Worked Around Him'
But other lawyers in the case say that is simply untrue. "We essentially worked around him," says New York University law professor Burt Neuborne. "I mean, he was, he was there, but, but he played, if I tell you zero, I mean zero role in developing the legal theory, in presenting the legal theory, and in participating as a lawyer," says Neuborne. Neuborne, a leading human rights lawyer who was originally brought into the case by Fagan, says it's time to set the record straight. "This is the first time, I am speaking publicly about this. But now that the cases are over, I think it is appropriate to, to tell the truth about him. One hundred percent of his activity in this case, including the press activity, it was designed to get his name there so other people would sign up with him, so he could get more and more and more and more people in the fold and then show up in court and say 'I am to the top lawyer cause I have got the most clients,'" says Neuborne. "He, he certainly doesn't know my ability as far as what I can do as a lawyer," counters Fagan.
Large Number of Clients
"What did he attack, the number of clients? There wouldn't be cases. The cases wouldn't have been as powerful if we didn't have 82,000 clients," says Fagan. Fagan now says he's improved communications with his clients and provided us with a list of clients, rabbis and family friends who vouched for him. "Because he's a good Jew and he's a compassionate person," says Alice Fisher of New York City. Fisher is one of Fagan's most prominent clients, often appearing in public with him. She says she trusts Fagan and he always returns her phone calls. " I think he is a very good, a very effective lawyer. I don't know why you have to ask this," says Fisher. "If he does not have a staff and so many clients he cannot call back everybody."
For many, the final outrage from Fagan came this summer, in Berlin, when he held up the final formal signing of the German slave labor settlement, in part because of a dispute over how many millions would be given to the lawyers. With several hundred people and top German and American officials waiting in the next room, Fagan, still wearing a 20/20 microphone, could be heard haggling over the fees, and then boasting of his success to first one lawyer. "I got the legal fees up," he said. And then to another lawyer, he said, "We did great, we did great we just got another, we just got some more money." "It didn't surprise me at the last minute that the only lawyer, the only lawyer that thought he could hold this deal up would be Ed Fagan. Because that's the barometer of how much you care about yourself, and how much you care about those victims," says Neuborne. "How could somebody with such high ideals step on them and step on the people involved. Just to champion himself, for a paycheck? There are lots of other ways to make money, not to take advantage of people who suffered," says Bella Ross.Ed Fagan recruited as clients some 82,000 Holocaust victims or family members, to help them press compensation claims for Jewish money hidden by Swiss banks and slave labor work for German companies. (ABCNEWS.com)
Sept. 8 -- A lawyer who prominently recruited thousands of Holocaust survivors or their families in compensation claims against German companies and Swiss banks now is being accused of neglecting some of his clients, ABCNEWS' 20/20 reports tonight. His name is Ed Fagan, and in the past few years, he has traveled the world recruiting as clients some 82,000 Holocaust survivors who were horribly abused, forced into slave labor or who lost their family property and bank accounts. Dozens of lawyers are involved but Fagan has made himself the public face of the so-called Holocaust lawsuits brought against Swiss banks and German companies. He's been widely quoted in hundreds of articles and featured on television around the world. Yet even as Fagan was signing the final documents in Berlin in a settlement that would give $5 billion to slave labor victims, a joint investigation by 20/20 and The New York Times found serious questions being raised about this so-called savior, now accused of ignoring and neglecting some of the very clients he had promised to help.
Answering Machine Messages
Out of the public eye, says Jane Warshaw, who worked for Fagan and a former partner as a paralegal for several months last year, the lawyers paid little attention to their clients' pleas. A tape of telephone messages left on the answering machine at Fagan's law office was provided to 20/20 and the New York Times. "And if they wrote in, it didn't help," she says. "There was unopened mail sitting on top of the desk on the chairs, everywhere." She says she felt compelled to blow the whistle on Fagan and his partner in this letter to the federal judge overseeing the Swiss bank case. Fagan, who admits he hired almost no office help, says he was too busy traveling and working on the cases to answer all the questions from his thousands of clients. But legal experts say that is no excuse.
"It does not pass legal ethics for the lawyer to ignore questions simply because there are so many clients," says New York University law professor Stephen Gillers. 20/20 played some of the tape for Gillers, a leading authority on legal ethics, who says Fagan should have made sure someone responded to his clients. Gillers says Fagan had a special responsibility given what the Holocaust clients had been through. "Elderly people who have been through hell and back, that population has to be recognized as deserving special care and solicitude," he said. "A lawyer who receives that call has to stop and say to himself, my God, I'm doing something wrong here if I have even one of those calls. Let alone three or four or five," said Gillers. But it turns out that even after Fagan learned of the messages recorded by his former paralegal he had never bothered to listen to all of them until 20/20 played him the tape. "That's the first I heard that tape," said Fagan. "Four years of our lives we spent on these cases, is it perfect? No. Should we give the people phone calls? Yes," he said.
A Missed Deadline
Fagan's behavior may not affect the claims of most of his clients, but it was a serious problem for one family. With their daughter Bella, Sam and Lola Rothkopf went to Fagan because they believed their family had lost thousands in a Swiss bank account when the family fled the Nazis. Fagan seemed perfect. "There was no other name that was associated with this issue that regularly was there other than Ed Fagan," said Bella Ross. But the Rothkopfs say once they signed up with Fagan and made the decision to relive so many painful memories, turning over family records to try to prove their connection to the missing bank account, they never heard from him or saw their records again. They've now learned Fagan missed the deadline for submitting documents to support the claim, never filed the documents to back up their claim, which the Swiss Bank Commission has denied, awarding the disputed account to someone else. "And he knew what we went through and everything and he has, this what he did is terrible. A terrible thing," said Lola Rothkopf. Earlier this year, the Rothkopfs took their complaint about Fagan's failure to return their calls to the New York State Bar Association, which declined to take any action against him. Ed Fagan responds, "Are there people out there that say . . . that the manner in which the cases were handled from an administrative standpoint were not good? Were inappropriate? Yes." But, he adds, "I handled my obligations."
But the Rothkopfs are not alone in feeling abandoned by Fagan. ABCNEWS found a number of Holocaust survivors and family members who signed up with Fagan and now claim he virtually ignored them when they simply tried to find out the status of their claims or if their claims were even part of the lawsuit. "And I was persistent. I called, I sent faxes, e-mail, everything," says Dr. Reuven Ofir. "I still don't know, is he legitimate? Is he going to do anything? Or is he not going to do anything," asks Minnie Kramer. Professor Gillers says, based on what 20/20 told him it had found, it's a serious problem. "This is a law office out of control, in my view. This is client abuse, in my view, and it should not be allowed to continue," he says.
Abandoned, Neglected Clients
Associated Press - September 26, 2005
Austrian prosecutors opened their appeal against the acquittals of eight people they insist were responsible for the deaths of 155 skiers and snowboarders in a November 2000 alpine cable car fire.
The judges hearing the case in Linz, about 120 miles west of Vienna, have the option to confirm the acquittals, change the verdicts or restart the entire trial.
The eight defendants are among 16 people who were acquitted in February 2004 on charges of criminal negligence in the fire, Austria's deadliest peacetime disaster.
They include two employees of Gletscherbahnen Kaprun, which operated the cable car; two employees of the company that manufactured the car; two technicians and two government officials.
The victims were headed for a day of fun on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier near the alpine resort of Kaprun on November 11, 2000, when a defective space heater sparked a fire that swept through the crowded car as it passed through a tunnel.
Only 12 people managed to escape.
Most victims were from Austria and Germany. Eight were Americans, and the others were from Japan, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Britain.
In July, US attorney Ed Fagan filed civil lawsuits in New York seeking damages from Gletscherbahnen Kaprun and several US and international companies.
Fagan filed the suits even though an appeals court earlier this year rejected efforts to lump cases together in a class-action lawsuit.
In Austria, at least 100 separate lawsuits have been filed by relatives seeking compensation.
N.J. ethics office claiming Fagan misappropriated more than $400,000 from accounts.
Stewart Ain - Staff Writer
Jewish Week - January 7, 2005
Edward Fagan, the first lawyer to sue Swiss banks for hoarding the money of Holocaust victims and who championed survivors' rights in insurance and art cases, has been charged by the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics with looting more than $400,000 from the trust accounts of two survivors he represented.
Disciplinary action ranges from an admonition to disbarment.
"The knowing misappropriation [of funds] is a disbarable offense," said John McGill III, the deputy ethics counsel who is overseeing the case.
McGill said state rules allow his office to refer cases to law enforcement "if a crime has been committed," and that it would not be necessary to wait until the complaint process is completed. It usually takes about a year. McGill said no referral has been made "at this point."
Fagan said he had not seen the complaint. "As soon as I see the information I will retain counsel and respond," he said.
When he was interviewed by McGill's office last year, Fagan was working from an office in Short Hills, N.J. A secretary at that office said Tuesday that Fagan has not worked there for six months.
McGill's office sent a certified letter to the Short Hills office, but it was returned unopened this week. McGill said the post office provided an address for Fagan in Morris Plains, N.J., and that he has sent another certified letter, as well as a regular letter, to the attorney there. McGill said he will give Fagan until Feb. 4 to respond.
If Fagan has not responded by that date, McGill said he would send another letter giving Fagan five days to either respond or be found in default.
If Fagan contests the charges, a three-member panel of the Ethics Committee will hold a hearing. Its recommendation would be offered to the nine-member Disciplinary Review Board, whose decision would then be submitted to the New Jersey Supreme Court for final action.
The allegations against Fagan include that he deliberately misled the New York State attorney disciplinary committee when it questioned him about charges brought by a former client and survivor, Gizella Weisshaus. She claimed that Fagan had stolen funds from an escrow account established in the name of her deceased cousin, Jack Oestreicher.
Weisshaus said she entrusted the funds to Fagan because the attorney told her that he could get a higher interest rate on the $82,583 in the account.
The New Jersey complaint alleges that Fagan withdrew money from that account for matters "unrelated to the Oestreicher client matter. At the time [Fagan] invaded the Oestreicher estate funds ... he knew he lacked the authority to do so."
When New York authorities questioned Fagan in June 1998 about the Oestreicher account, the complaints said Fagan produced a bank statement from another account "as proof that the integrity of the estate funds had been maintained."
In fact, the complaint alleges, Fagan showed state investigators a bank statement from another trust account he controlled. That account was in the name of Estelle Sapir, a survivor whose complaints against Swiss banks led them to settle with her for $500,000.
"By providing a copy of his Summit trust account bank statement ... [Fagan] attempted to deceive the New York disciplinary authorities into believing that he had maintained the integrity of the Oestreicher estate funds, knowing that the only funds in that account at the time were those for the Sapir matter," according to the complaint.
It is alleged that Fagan then used Sapir's money "without authority" to pay a court judgment against the Oestreicher estate.
"From May 18, 1998, the date the Sapir settlement funds were deposited into [Fagan's] Summit trust account, to April 15, 1999, the date of Sapir's death, [Fagan] made 37 disbursements totaling $302,750 by checks payable to cash and wire transfers to his Summit business account from Sapir's funds," the complaint said. "[Fagan] made the disbursements ... knowing that he lacked the authority to do so."
The complaint alleges that other than $1,500 Fagan gave Sapir in June 1998 and $7,300 he allocated to cover Sapir's funeral expenses, Sapir systematically looted her account. In the five months after her death, it is alleged that Fagan withdrew $124,750 from Sapir's account that was paid either in cash or to his own business account."
It is further alleged that in August 1999, in order to cover the disbursement of $190,000 to Sapir's relatives when he only had $3,330.94 in the Sapir account, Fagan borrowed $225,000 from a former client and friend.
A spokeswoman for the Sapir family said she hopes Fagan "comes forward and does the right thing for everyone if there is money owed to any of the family. This issue brought up such emotional distress, and this is only adding to it."
Weisshaus said Fagan never "had the right to switch my money." She said she initially believed in him, even working in his office for eight months without pay because "I thought he was working for us."
McGill said any action taken against Fagan would be forwarded to New York State authorities, whose First Department Departmental Disciplinary Committee would then be expected to submit the decision to the Appellate Division for its consideration.
by Barbara Jungwirth in Vienna
Independent, (London, England) - September 17, 2005
A high-profile US lawyer who forced European governments and companies to pay compensation to slave labourers from the Second World War, says he is being deliberately smeared by an investigation into whether he had sex with under-age prostitutes in Austria.
Ed Fagan, who has brought class-action suits over the treatment of Holocaust- era slave labourers and over a train fire in the Austrian ski-resort of Kaprun, is among several men who have been connected with an exclusive call-girl ring involving underage girls from eastern Europe.
Mr Fagan told the Austrian weekly NEWS he had paid for sex with a woman from Lithuania, but says she assured him she would be 22 this year. He says he met the woman, Inga, through a man who has since been sentenced over the escort service affair. Mt Fagan says when he 'noticed that the guy was running a call-girl ring, I didn't really care. I was more interested in getting to know this Inga'.
The lawyer is quoted by the magazine as saying it would have been a crime not to have slept with the woman. He says he later had sex with her when no payment was made and she accompanied him on several trips and visited him again in Austria.
'We went sightseeing in Vienna, wandered through the gardens of Schnbrunn palace, in Salzburg we stayed in the incredibly beautiful Hotel Kobenzl with views over the city.' The lawyer says Inga and her younger sister, who also worked as a call girl for the agency, are now living in London 'in safety'.
Investigations of clients of the agency have just been started, after Austrian prosecutors admitted it had been a mistake not to follow this line of inquiry. Knowingly having paid-for sex with a woman under 18 carries a sentence of up to three years in Austria. The state prosecutor, Werner Pleischl, says telephone transcripts involving a 'handful' of the escort service's clients are being checked, to determine whether they expressly requested and met underage girls. The prosecutor says authorities will now 'quickly make up for' any previous oversights.
Mr Fagan's lengthy class-action compensation cases for Holocaust victims and their descendants have long been a thorn in the side of European governments, banks and companies. He has also represented the descendants of slaves against three US companies, led a suit against the South African government for apartheid victims and taken on a case against Thai and US authorities for victims of the Boxing Day tsunami.
The lawyer told NEWS there was 'no doubt' the Austrian authorities were trying to get back at him, 'to divert attention from the real scandals going on'. He said he would continue to fight his cases.
Speculation over the escort service's client list increased when the left-wing weekly Falter reported that the agency had received telephone inquiries from someone within the Austrian parliament. Gerhard Roder, a spokesman for the governing People's Party, said he made the calls purely for 'research purposes'. Mr Roder is known for his campaigns against child abuse.
Mr Fagan said he would welcome the opportunity to go to Austria over the call-girl case to prove he had done nothing wrong.
By NATHANIEL POPPER
Forward (NY) - October 7, 2005
A prominent Holocaust restitution lawyer, Ed Fagan, is planning a trip to Austria to defend himself against published accusations that he hired an underage prostitute.
Several Austrian publications have reported that the state prosecutor in Vienna is looking into contacts that Fagan and other individuals allegedly had with a prostitution ring that involved underage girls from Eastern Europe.
In an interview with the Forward, Fagan said he does have an ongoing relationship with a woman named Inga who was discussed in the Austrian press reports as a 17-year-old Lithuanian prostitute at the time of the original meeting. Fagan is quoted in the Austrian publication News as saying that the woman had told him she was at least 22 years old. Acccording to Austrian law, it is illegal for an adult to knowingly hire a prostitute under the age of 18.
Fagan declined to discuss the specifics of his relationship with Inga, but said the news reports in Austria were all done "carelessly." Fagan said he has never been contacted by the Austrian authorities, but he recently contacted them and is planning a trip to Austria to give a statement under oath. Fagan also said he is planning to bring legal suit against the Austrian publications.
"The issue from top to bottom in Austria is either a manipulation of evidence, a lie or fraud," Fagan said.
Fagan said he believes the leaks in the call-girl case are a form of payback, for his role in filing a lawsuit against the Austrian government in an American court, accusing it of complicity in a ski resort fire in 2000 that killed 155.
"The timing of the leaking of the police files, which were doctored or inaccurate, comes at a time right when we have sued the Republic over a bunch of issues," Fagan said. "There is nothing coincidental about the timing."
Fagan rose to fame in the mid-1990s, when he was the first lawyer to bring suit against the Swiss banks on behalf of Holocaust victims and their heirs, who were attempting to claim accounts that had been dormant since World War II. Fagan was famous for holding high-profile press conferences during which he made the case against European companies and governments.
The Swiss banks eventually agreed to a $1.25 billion settlement, but Fagan never realized the lawyer's fees that he had anticipated. He has nonetheless continued his legal battles against European governments, including Austria. He has frequently traveled to Austria to deal with these cases.
The leaks regarding the prostitution investigation were first reported at the end of August by the Austrian magazine Falter. Fagan was the only person named specifically in the news reports that followed. The case in question stems back to November 2004, when two men were convicted in Austrian court for running escort services involving underage Eastern European women. The Austrian state prosecutor only recently began investigating the customers of these call girl rings, to determine whether any customer had knowingly sought out underage prostitutes, according to news reports.
The Vienna state prosecutor did not return calls seeking comment.
Fagan told the Forward that he knew one of the men, named Peter, who was convicted last year. Fagan said he met Peter while investigating paintings taken from Jewish families during the Holocaust. Fagan said he found out that Peter ran an escort service, when Peter was helping Fagan track down some of the stolen paintings.
Fagan declined to say if it was Peter who had introduced him to Inga. About Inga, Fagan said, she "continues to be a friend of mine — at one moment she was more than a friend."
In early September, Fagan gave an interview to the Austrian magazine, News, in which he is reported to have said: "It would have been an offense to not sleep with her. Later we slept with each other without any payment."
Fagan said that he was interviewed in English, and would not comment on the German translation that appeared in the Austrian magazine.
The accusations in Austria are not the only pending problem for Fagan. In the United States, Fagan is the subject of an ethics investigation that could lead to his disbarment. The New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics has accused him of "knowing misappropriation" of client money. The special ethics master overseeing the case, Arthur Minuskin, recently denied Fagan's request that the case be dismissed because of his medical incapacity. Hearings are scheduled for mid-November.
Controversial disbarred attorney suing for return of art work stolen in Holocaust
By Peter Franceschina and Alexia Campbell
Sun Sentinel - May 13, 2012
With his lawsuits, he was the first to file claims against Swiss banks for withholding accounts that once belonged Holocaust victims — resulting in a $1.25 billion settlement.
Fagan said he purchased a "small" interest in the 43 known Popper artworks and a "larger" interest in the remaining 84 missing pieces.
Those interests, Fagan said, give him the right to pursue the artwork in federal court in the United States. He is not licensed to practice law in Florida, but, he said, he is not acting as a lawyer. He signed the 51-page suit as a representative of Victims of Holocaust Art Theft.
"The Czech Republic and its museums are knowingly withholding and profiting from thousands of pieces of artwork, plus other objets d'art — such as Judaica and ceramics, glass, furniture, clocks, carpets — that were stolen from Holocaust victims and continue to be withheld from them," Fagan said.
Through his earlier lawsuits, Fagan said, he helped collect $8 billion on behalf of Holocaust victims, but in the process he became mired in controversy.
Burt Neuborne, a New York University law professor who was the lead claims counsel in the Swiss banks case, said Fagan "was effective in getting public attention. I don't think he was very effective as a lawyer. I will say this – he had a genius for publicity."
As Fagan took on thousands of Holocaust clients, other personal-injury clients suffered. One such client, Allen Tavel, injured in a car crash, won a $3.2 million malpractice judgment against Fagan, after Fagan failed to respond to a motion that resulted in Tavel's injury suit being dismissed, according to Tavel's current attorney, Matthew Schwartz.
Fagan has not paid anything on the judgment, Schwartz said.
"He has not honored his obligations to Allen Tavel," Schwartz said. Fagan said he plans to have the case re-opened and fight the judgment.
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