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Los Angeles litigator Mark Geragos and a former co-counsel have resolved a dispute over a botched claims process in a $17.5 million class action settlement they reached on behalf of millions of descendants of Armenian genocide victims. Geragos, of Geragos & Geragos, told a federal judge that he had reached an agreement “in principle” that would resolve an escalating dispute with fellow plaintiffs’ attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan. “I appreciate your efforts,” U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder in Los Angeles said during a Dec. 5 hearing. With potential agreement in place over the claims process, Geragos now can move forward with a separate lawsuit accusing Yeghiayan of stealing money from the settlement with AXA, the French insurance company. The AXA case, which settled in 2005, sought unpaid life insurance payouts to descendants of the genocide, a period between 1915 and 1923 during which 1.5 million Armenians were killed in what is now Turkey. The settlement allocated $3 million for organizations focused on Armenian causes; whatever remained unclaimed was to go to additional charitable institutions. Last year, as the claims process be winding down, Yeghiayan, of Yeghiayan Law Corp. in Glendale, Calif., raised concerns about how the settlement money had been dispersed — particularly after nearly $2.9 million was found remaining in bank accounts that Geragos and another attorney in the case, Brian Kabateck, managing partner of Kabateck Brown Kellner in Los Angeles, had sought to close. Snyder refused Yeghiayan’s multiple requests to appoint a special master but ordered Geragos and Kabateck to produce bank records. During a Nov. 21 hearing, Yeghiayan’s attorney, Roman Silberfeld, managing partner of the Los Angeles office of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, said there had been a 0.1 percent error in calculating the disbursement of claims and sought to review 900 claims files. Kabateck and Geragos had objected to the “monumental task,” which they said could end up costing class members a substantial amount to go through the files. Snyder, citing “enormous problems” and “very, very serious issues” in the case, ordered Geragos and Silberfeld to resolve their differences within two weeks. During the subsequent hearing, Silberfeld said the lawyers had agreed to hire an accounting firm to go through the claims files. He added that his client had agreed to limit the claims files to be reviewed to those involving $10,000 or more — a total of 178, including 48 that already have been identified. The lawyers agreed to notify class members about the error, which was based on a currency conversion, but not to provide any compensation for the mistake, given the administrative costs involved. Finally, both sides agreed to bringing in the AXA settlement fund administrator, Parsegh Kartalian, to describe under oath how the claims had been distributed. “Mr. Kartalian owes everyone here some explanation of what happened,” Snyder said. The next hearing in the case was scheduled for Jan. 30. In court documents, Kabateck and Geragos have faulted the settlement fund board and its administrator for the discrepancies in the claims distribution. In court, they insisted that the AXA dispute was a distraction from a lawsuit they filed on March 11 against Yeghiayan, alleging that he made up charities to siphon $1 million out of the settlement for his personal and law firm expenses. That lawsuit, also pending before Snyder, has been on hold pending resolution of the AXA matter. Snyder set a deadline of Feb. 14 for Yeghiayan to file an answer or other pleading in the case. Contact Amanda Bronstad at [email protected].

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