Financial Firm Announces $135M 9/11 Settlement

NEW YORK (AP) -

Financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost two-thirds of its employees in the Sept. 11 attacks, revealed a $135 million settlement with American Airlines and insurance carriers on Tuesday to a judge who said it will end the final airplane-focused case resulting from claims of wrongful death and personal injuries.

The agreement averts a trial scheduled for next month, which means there will be no airing of such questions as how terrorists got through security before hijacking planes on Sept. 11, the best way to stop terrorists, whether there was really wrongdoing and negligence and how best to preserve liberties amid such threats, U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said.

“All this will remain a mystery,” he said.

Calling the settlement a significant conclusion after 12 years of litigation that resulted in scores of settlements and no trial involving airlines, the judge said, “Hopefully what was achieved was a measure of justice, a measure of reparation and closure.”

He added, “But the lives that were lost were irreparable, and being irreparable, there now are no words to describe that loss.”

The deal was announced by Cantor Fitzgerald attorney John Stoviak, who said money from various insurers is in escrow and ready to be paid out pending formal approval by the court at or after a Jan. 13 hearing.

Afterward, Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard W. Lutnick said in a statement that the case for insurance companies “was just another case, just another settlement, but not for us.”

Lutnick, whose brother Gary Lutnick was killed in the attacks, added: “We could never, and will never, consider it ordinary. For us, there is no way to describe this compromise with inapt words like ordinary, fair or reasonable. All we can say is that the legal formality of this matter is over.”

Cantor Fitzgerald lost 658 of 1,000 people in its New York workforce when the 101st through 105th floors of its One World Trade Center headquarters were destroyed when a hijacked airplane struck the tower.

A spokesman for American Airlines, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, and is part of American Airlines Group Inc., said in a statement the airline had “vigorously defended itself in litigation brought against it by property owners and their insurers who allege that American should have done what the government could not do: prevent the terrorist attacks.”

The judge praised lawyers on both sides, saying he once thought a deal was impossible. He noted that some litigation from Sept. 11, 2001, remains, including claims involving the trade center, developer Larry Silverstein, first responders and others.