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Argued: May 15, 2001

The present mandamus petitions center on multi-national efforts to provide restitution and compensation for victims of the Holocaust, resulting in agreements on July 17, 2000, to which the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Germany were parties (collectively the “Compact”), for, inter alia, the creation of the German Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility, and the Future” (the “German Foundation” or “Foundation”), an extra-judicial entity designed to provide expedited payments to approximately one million persons who have claims of personal injuries and property loss arising from the Holocaust. A total of 10 billion deutsche marks, the equivalent of roughly $4.5 billion, has been committed to the German Foundation by the German government and private German commercial entities for payments in recognition of such claims. Under the Compact, however, no distribution may take place until the attainment of “legal peace,” i.e., the final dismissal of pending Holocaust-related litigation against German companies in United States courts and a commitment by the United States to file in any pending or future Holocaust litigation against German companies in a United States court a “Statement of Interest” informing that court that the foreign policy interests of the United States call for the German Foundation to be recognized as the exclusive forum for the resolution of such claims.

The present litigation is a consolidation of putative, uncertified, class actions brought in 1998 and 1999 by Holocaust victims or their heirs asserting slave labor and property loss claims against certain German and Austrian banks. The claims against the Austrian banks were settled pursuant to a March 1999 agreement, which the district court approved in January 2000, see In re Austrian and German Holocaust Litigation, 80 F.Supp.2d 164, 180 (S.D.N.Y. 2000), aff’d sub nom. D’Amato v. Deutsche Bank, 236 F.3d 78, 87 (2d Cir. 2001). In October and November 2000, following the July 2000 signing of the Compact and the creation of the Foundation, all but one of the named plaintiffs moved in the district court for an order pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a) allowing them voluntarily to dismiss their claims against the German banks with prejudice, but without prejudice to the rights of any absent putative class members to assert their own claims in any forum. The United States, consistent with its commitment under the Compact, filed with the district court a Statement of Interest stating that the foreign policy interests of the United States call for the Foundation to be recognized as the exclusive forum for the resolution of such claims, and urging dismissal.

 
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