NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Four large European insurance companies agreed Tuesday to establish a commission to resolve unpaid Nazi-era policies of Holocaust victims.
But the accord was immediately derided by plaintiffs' attorneys as a largely toothless document produced without any input from their clients, the Holocaust survivors.
The negotiations that yielded the agreement were independent of pending class-action lawsuits seeking restitution for the value of life-insurance policies sold before 1946 to victims of the Nazi regime.
The agreement was negotiated with the World Jewish Congress, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and European insurance companies.
It calls on the insurance companies to sign a "memorandum of understanding" establishing a 12-member panel charged with handling outstanding claims and rifling through archives to determine a company's liability.
The accord comes a week after Italian insurance giant Assicurazioni Generali agreed to pay $100 million in outstanding claims brought in the class-action lawsuit filed against 16 European insurers.
Sources close to the talks said this amount will be used as a yardstick in determining the restitution paid by the remaining companies.
Attorneys representing thousands of Holocaust survivors lambasted the agreement as a red-tape measure that failed to ensure prompt restitution.
One such attorney, Linda Gerstel, said the agreement would allow the companies to avoid making restitution, while creating a cumbersome system "loaded with red tape and bureaucracy."
Others contended survivors weren't adequately consulted during the negotiations.
But Elan Steinberg, the executive director of the World Jewish Congress, disputed these assertions, saying his organization had represented and consulted with a variety of Jewish organizations and the government of Israel.
The memorandum also calls on the insurance companies to set up a humanitarian fund to pay claims that can be resolved immediately and for humanitarian assistance.
The accord's signatories are Allianz of Germany, Axa of France, and Swiss insurers Winterthur and Baseler-Leben; earlier this month, the Zurich Insurance Co. was the first to sign the agreement.