Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement | National

Checks from final payment of Cobell settlement put in the mail

Indian beneficiaries in Oklahoma demanded the release of Cobell settlement funds at this protest last year. Photo from Katherine Ware-Perosi / Change.Org

It's official -- the checks for the final payment of the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement are going in the mail.

After a long wait, the Garden City Group -- the firm that was appointed by the court to administer the settlement -- started sending out the checks yesterday. Some $941.6 million will be reaching members of the Trust Administration Class in the next several days and weeks.

"Garden City is sending checks to Trust Administration Class members where we have a current address beginning today," Jennifer Keough, the firm's chief operating officer, said in a press release on Monday. "Checks may take five to seven days to reach class members once they have been mailed."

The baseline payment for the Trust Administration Class will be $869, according to a motion that was filed in federal court last week. But many beneficiaries will receive more, depending on the level of activity in his or her Individual Indian Money (IIM) account.

David Smith, an attorney for the Cobell legal team, said the payment comes after a lengthy effort to identify and locate qualified beneficiaries. He chastised the Interior Department for failing to keep adequate records despite its role as a trustee.

"There were insufficient or absolutely no addresses for over 315,000 class members, 22,000 individuals Interior listed as alive were deceased, over 1,200 Interior listed as deceased we found were still alive, and there were thousands of whom Interior had no record at all," Smith said in the press release.

"But it was important that Elouise Cobell's legacy be fulfilled and that class members receive the money to which they were entitled under the settlement," Smith added, referring to the late Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana who was the lead plaintiff in the case. "By working closely with tribes, associations, and individual Indians across the country we were able, in just over a year and a half, to fix trust records that had not been adequately addressed by the federal government for generations."

The first payment from the settlement went out on December 2012. Every eligible beneficiary received a $1,000 check as part of the Historical Accounting Class.

Related Stories:
Jay Daniels: Still waiting on that final Cobell settlement payment (9/15)
Sen. Tester applauds approval of final Cobell settlement payout (9/12)
Judge approves motion to distribute Cobell settlement payment (9/11)
Native Sun News: Final Cobell payment might 'almost' be ready (9/11)
Final payments from Cobell settlement closer to being distributed (09/04)
Tim Giago: Greedy lawyers and government ruin Cobell settlement (08/27)
Still no word on Cobell payments as end of August approaches (08/20)

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