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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

J.P. Morgan, Chase Sued For Nazi Ties

NEW YORK -- Chase Manhattan Bank and J.P. Morgan and Co. readily joined the Nazis in the plunder of millions of dollars in Jewish assets during World War II, a new lawsuit alleges.

The class-action suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn against those banks and seven French banks accuses them of seizing accounts and safe deposit boxes from Jewish customers, then keeping the assets after the war. Chase Manhattan and J.P. Morgan became the first U.S. institutions to be named in the dozen lawsuits still pending on behalf of Holocaust victims who were exploited or who lost assets during the Nazi era.

Chase Manhattan "collaborated with the German authorities and displayed an excessive zeal in its enforcement of anti-Jewish laws,'' the suit alleged. A similar attitude by J.P. Morgan earned it the reputation of an "international Aryan organization,'' it adds.

The suit does not seek specific damages. But it accuses all the banks of being involved in "the systematic plunder'' of "countless millions of dollars.''

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Kenneth McCallion, said he hoped the banks would open their books, verify the loses and settle the claims out of court. Last week, Barclays agreed to settle its part of the same class-action suit by paying $3.6 million to Jews whose assets were frozen.

In a statement, Chase called the suit unnecessary. It said the bank is already working with Jewish leaders to investigate records and reimburse, with interest, any customers - or their heirs - who lost money. Fewer than 100 accounts are at issue, it added.

A J.P. Morgan statement said bank officials "understand the seriousness of this issue, and we'll certainly look into these allegations with care.'' The suit relies heavily on an April 1945 report from the U.S. Treasury Department about U.S. banking activities during the war.

According to the report, the "record of the [Chase] Paris branch is one of uncalled-for responsiveness to the desires of the Germans and an apparent desire to enhance its influence with them.''

Likewise, the report found that the manager of J.P. Morgan's Paris office worked closely with the Vichy-French government of the Germans. The suit says the manager openly bragged of "the anti-Jewish record and policies of J.P. Morgan.''

Similar claims against Swiss banks were settled last summer when the Swiss agreed to pay $1.25 billion in restitution.