Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement | Opinion

Jay Daniels: Cobell settlement was flawed from beginning

Jay Daniels discusses problems with the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement:
This whole closing out of the Individual Indian Monies account case and subject litigation costs is a troublesome issue. The settlement fund has been sitting in an account somewhere drawing interest. Meanwhile, almost a year ago IIM account owners in the Trust Administration Class found out what they are going to receive as settlement from the case for an anticipated August or September 2013 final payment. It is now March 2014 and who knows if payment is complete. They would have to adjust the individual payments based upon accrued interest minus the Trustee’s fee for administrating the fund account. Who knows?

The Bureau of Indian Affairs appears to have planned for using $285 million for administrative costs. BIA Land Buy Back offices have been created in various locations throughout the country. Also, in court filings the Cobell lead counsel has been fighting to keep the Native American Rights Fund, whose lawyers had once participated in the lawsuit, from collecting a share of the attorney fees.

And finally, no disrespect to tribes, the Cobell Settlement was meant to compensate individual Indian IIM account owners for the government’s inability to properly audit and account for every penny due IIM account owners. Tribes received a Tribal Trust Fund Settlement previously. But someone in their finite wisdom decided they should use $1.9 billion from the Cobell Class Action member’s award to fund the tribes to acquire individual interest using class action member’s award.

What? Sure, individual Indians can get some of the funds back through participation in Land Buy Back program provided they convey their interest in trust land to the tribe. The agreement doesn’t make sense. I don’t blame the tribes for taking the money and consolidating highly fractionated trust land interest. Never refuse funds for a program like this. But it will come at the individual Indian trust landowner’s expense.

Get the Story:
Jay Daniels: Cobell Settlement: Who Are the Real Winners? (Indian Country Today 4/17)

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