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Report: Lawyer Faces Complaints

September 8, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ A lawyer leading lawsuits charging Swiss and German companies with making money off of Holocaust victims faces complaints for allegedly ignoring clients, according to news reports.

Edward D. Fagan, who was a little-known personal-injury lawyer before he announced a 1996 lawsuit involving Swiss banks’ treatment of Holocaust victims, has a formal misconduct complaint pending against him in New Jersey, The New York Times reported Friday. He also was ordered to pay $167,000 in an unrelated malpractice case, the newspaper said.

Both cases involve older cases, but he is also accused of mishandling queries from clients in Holocaust-related cases, the newspaper said. By Fagan’s lawyer’s count, he is representing 52,000 such clients, far more than most other lawyers, the newspaper said.

The story resulted from a joint investigation by the Times and ABC News’ ″20-20.″

``I was in over my head a lot of the time,″ Fagan, 47, acknowledged to the newspaper. ``But now I’m digging out, for me and for them.″

Some clients and lawyers praise Fagan’s work.

But Jane Warshaw, who got a paralegal job with Fagan’s New York firm late last year, said she found more than 100 unanswered telephone messages from Holocaust survivors and personal-injury clients, in addition to stacks of unopened letters scattered around or stuffed in a drawer.

Warshaw said she was troubled enough to send a recording of the calls to the Brooklyn federal judge who is overseeing the Swiss banks case. She also provided copies to the Times and ABC. A court official would not confirm or deny an inquiry until a judge issued a ruling.

In interviews, Fagan described Warshaw as a ``disgruntled former employee,″ though he conceded that some of her concerns were legitimate.

In January, a former personal injury client, Offer Salmoni, won a $167,000 malpractice judgment. He had charged that Fagan repeatedly failed to make court appearances related to his case, which involved a court fight over an eviction, and as a result the case was thrown out.

Last month, the newspaper said, New Jersey ethics officials filed a misconduct complaint before a grievance committee against Fagan on behalf of another former client, Diane Gibbons, who said her personal injury case was thrown out because he had failed to file papers.

Fagan is likely to earn millions of dollars in legal fees in recently approved settlements against Swiss banks and German industry worth over $6.2 billion. He also is pursuing action against Japanese authorities for their actions during World War II. He told the newspaper he has spent much of his time in recent years traveling and that only a few clients had complained.

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