Baku, Azerbaijan, Sept. 16
By Alan Hope -Trend:
Unlike the “American Hustle” movie characters brought to life by Christian Bale and Amy Adams, a pair of real-life Glendale-based Armenian attorneys, hired to administer the settlement fund of their compatriots, whose mischiefs are being investigated by the State Bar of California, have brought the question of the motive to the claims of the alleged Armenian “Genocide” to agenda, yet again.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark”
The story had begun in 1987, when a “prominent” Glendale based attorney Vartkes Boghos Yeghiayan supposedly came across a passage from a now-obscure 1918 memoirs of Henry Morgenthau, the US ambassador to the Ottoman Turkey in 1913-1916. "All at once, I came across this paragraph, where the Interior minister of Turkey asked Morgenthau for the list of Armenians who had purchased life insurance policies from the American companies. I jumped out of my bed. There was such a list!” recalls Yeghiayan.
Thus began Yeghiayan's “noble crusade” to avenge the victims of an alleged Armenian “Genocide” – the so-called first genocide of the 20th century. So he rushed to find the beneficiaries of policies that had been issued by the New York Life Insurance Co. (NYL) between 1895 and 1915, later on widening the scope of his investigation by extending the timeframe to the 1875-1923 period and including the French insurer AXA SA.
After the “painstaking” research, 3,000 claims were combined into two class-action lawsuits against the abovementioned companies in 1999. Notwithstanding the arguments that the lawsuits over the said insurance policies should had been filed in France or England, the two-year-long court battle, first-chaired by the celebrity lawyer Mark J. Geragos of Geragos & Geragos APC and Brian Kabateck of Kabateck Brown Kellner LLP, had resulted in the Dec 2001 ruling by the US District Judge Christina Snyder, permitting the class-action lawsuits to go forward in California.
Nonetheless, additional three years of court arguments had resulted in out-of-court case settlements with NYL and AXA, in 2004 and 2005 respectively. As a result, the insurance companies, basing their decision to settle purely on the cost to benefit analysis, had, without public acknowledgement of any wrongdoing on their behalf, established two funds totaling $37.5M, of which $3M were allocated specifically to Unclaimed Benefits Fund. On top of that, Vartkes Yeghiayan and his wife Rita Mahdessian of the Yeghiayan & Associates Law Firm were assigned to administrate the funds and to reimburse the plaintiffs.
“A Class Action”
Not many aware of the fact that in a high-risk class action suit, like the one mentioned above, when the costs of the legal fees are not fronted and the settlement is reached after the lawsuit had been filed, the lawyer would usually charge 40% contingency fee. Moreover, attorneys usually cover lawsuit related costs and expenses (filing fees, postage, research, expert testimony, travel, etc.) and then deduct them from the plaintiff’s share of the settlement.
If the settlement isn’t reached in a short time frame the lawyer’s final percentage with all fees, costs, and expenses may end up totaling between 45 and 60% of the settlement. In the view of the above, it’s quite easy to estimate that in the mentioned case settlement the plaintiffs, in the most optimistic scenario, would receive 50% of the total sum, which would accumulate to $17.25M in total or $5,750 per plaintiff on the average.
Thus, the plaintiffs were gradually receiving their settlement checks, while the attorneys had split the other half of the pie between them. As such, Geragos and Kabateck got the bigger part of the contingency fee as prime litigators, while Yeghiayan & Associates the lesser half. Nonetheless, Yeghiayan and his wife on top of the received fee were in charge of allocating the Unclaimed Benefits Fund’s capital of $3M. And that’s where the bone of contention had laid.
“The Devil’s Advocate”
In March of 2011, Geragos and Kabateck had filed a lawsuit seeking damages for intentional fraud, fraudulent concealment, unfair business practices, and breaches of contract and fiduciary duty against their co-counsels, accusing them of skimming $1M from the Unclaimed Benefits Fund, which was supposed to go to the Armenian charities. Geragos and Kabateck’s investigation had shown that The Center for Armenian Remembrance and Conservatoire de la Memoire Armenienne, established by Yeghiayan, had each received $290K and $375K respectively.
Additional $75K of the Fund’s capital were funneled to Yeghiayan’s private account with the Vatican Bank. The two-year-long legal battle’s settlement, Anchorhich stipulated an agreement to have a third-party arbitrator review all the costs and charitable awards the attorneys claimed from the original settlement and handling the payment of about $2.1 million to 159 claimants, was reached in July of 2013.
All the bygones seemed bygone, when on Aug 18, 2016 the State Bar of California had launched an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds by the attorneys of the Glendale based Yeghiayan & Associates Law Firm Rita Mahdessian, 58, and her husband Vartkes Boghos Yeghiayan, 81, yet again. The State Bar had established that Rita Mahdessian had once again misappropriated Fund’s $30K using it for her daughter’s tuition fee payment to Loyola Law School.
Furthermore, the Bar had found Rita Mahdessian “culpable,” or guilty, in an embezzlement scheme, established that she had misled a judge and committed a moral turpitude. As such, The Bar had ordered that Mahdessian be placed on involuntary inactive status and filed a grievance for her final disbarment decision with the California Supreme Court. At the same time, the Bar has alleged Vartkes Yeghiayan’s misappropriation of $385K of the Fund’s capital, but the case against him stands in abatement because of respondent’s illness.
“Erin Brokovich,” move over!
According to the Bar’s data base, Rita Mahdessian, prior to being ordered inactive on Sep 1, 2017, had been disciplined with the suspension in 1996, 2005 and 2011. On top of that, she had been suspended after the conviction in 1994. In 2005 Mahdessian stipulated to six counts of misconduct, including the aid in the unauthorized practice of law and failure to perform legal services competently.
Her 1994 conviction is even more invidious, as she was involved in the fraudulent citizenship amnesty applications filing scheme, had turned the state’s evidence on her later on convicted cohorts, and due to cooperation with the investigation was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of fraudulent identification document possession (a misdemeanor) in the federal court.
Mahdessian’s husband is definitely the other pea in the pod, as he also been suspended for one year, and placed on one year of probation in 1996, as he had failed to reimburse his client's insurer for nearly $4,000 in medical bills for more than five years. Yeghiayan also was privately reproved in 1994 for a matter involving his trust account and was curtailing travel and involvement in community organizations while spending more time in his office.
“Lies, Damned Lies, and Genocide”
The above shown, unlike the other movie titles used, is the title of the article co-authored by Rita Mahdessian, in which the authors have tried to justify the claim of an alleged Armenian “Genocide,” basing it on the “amusing… [but] bureaucratic mishaps that have been known to happen from time to time,” supposedly registered in a letter sent by the Turkish ambassador to US Nuzhet Kandemir to Prof Robert Lifton of NYC.
Using the mistake of the Turkish diplomat, who according to the article authors had sent his memorandum together with the draft latter, supposedly containing the admittance of quilt, these “justice crusaders” had tried to analyze the premise that a “deliberate denial [of genocide] is a form of aggression that ought to be regarded as contribution to genocidal violence in its own right” through a prism of “unjustly victimized people,” while completely avoiding the fact that the Turkish government had disclosed and offered all-in access to the Ottoman archives, for the further historic study of the said events, to all of the world scholars.
It’s simply empirical to note the degree of hypocrisy attended to in the mentioned article by Mahdessian. She had dared to quote the real-life Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt, taking a passage from the latest book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.”
The quote used in the article states that “everybody could see that this man [Eichman] was not a ‘monster,’ but it was difficult indeed not to suspect that he was a clown. And since this suspicion would have been fatal to the entire enterprise [his trial], and was also rather hard to sustain in view of the sufferings he and his like had caused to millions of people, his worst clowneries were hardly noticed and almost never reported.” Examining the deeds of Mahdessian and her husband one, including her own compatriots, can clearly see the monster and the clown.
“Greed is Good?!”
All-in-all, it’s fair to assume in certainty that this two birds of a feather will not be practicing law for a long while and they will be definitely shunned by the members of their own community. Nonetheless, although it would be absolutely incorrect to judge the whole nation by the actions of its two representatives, the question of the motive to the claim and the surrounding propaganda of the alleged Armenian “Genocide” has risen in the new retrospect. As such, quoting the great Gordon Gekko the motive this time was pure GREED!