Settlement Agreement Reached in Cobell v. Salazar

Taken from: http://www.cobellsettlement.com/

A proposed Settlement has been reached with American Indian Plaintiffs in a long-running class action lawsuit against the federal government for mismanagement of individual Indian trust accounts and trust assets. The Settlement is with the Secretary of the Interior, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior-Indian Affairs, and the Secretary of the Treasury. The individual Indian trust accounts relate to land, oil, natural gas, mineral, timber, grazing, water and other resources and rights on or under individual Indian lands.

The class action lawsuit claims that the federal government failed to fulfill its financial responsibility for the individual Indian trust resulting in the loss, misdirection, and unaccountability of several billion dollars of monies held in trust or which should have been held in trust by the United States for Indian beneficiaries in Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts.

Under the terms of the Settlement in Cobell v. Salazar, the federal government will create a $1.412 billion Accounting/Trust Administration Fund and a $2 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund. The Settlement also creates a federal Indian Education Scholarship fund of up to $60 million to improve access to higher education for Indian youth. The Settlement also includes a commitment by the federal government to appoint a commission that will oversee and monitor specific improvements in the Department’s accounting for and management of individual Indian trust assets, going forward.

The Agreement creates two groups of Indians eligible to receive Settlement money – the Historical Accounting Class and the Trust Administration Class. Details of who is eligible follow.

What will IIM Account Holders and other Class Members get?

Most individual Indian beneficiaries are included in both Classes and will receive no less than $1,500 under the terms of the Settlement. There will be a number of distributions:

Each member of the Historical Accounting Class will initially be paid $1,000 after Final Approval of the Settlement. Members of the Trust Administration Class will be paid a “pro rata” share of the $1,412 billion Fund starting with a baseline of $500. This means that each Class Member will get at least $500 and then a percentage of the remaining Fund based on the number of individuals sharing in the Fund. Certain costs, reserves and attorneys fees will be paid out of this Fund before distribution of the pro rata share.

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