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Federal Government and Native Americans Reach Agreement in Cobell Class Action

July 5, 2011
Colson Hicks Eidson

The 15-year dispute over the mismanagement of Native American trust funds finally ended with the $3.4 billion settlement of the Cobell class action lawsuit stemming from the allegations. United States District Judge Thomas Hogan approved the settlement late last month and Congress has set aside the funds to settle the lawsuit. Negotiations in the dispute date back to 1996.

Elouise Cobell filed the lawsuit on behalf of about 500,000 Native Americans alleging that the federal government failed to account for Individual Indian Money accounts, and that it mismanaged assets for royalties from gas, grazing and other leases. Under the terms of the settlement, each plaintiff will receive approximately $1800.00.

There will be $1.9 billion of the settlement, which will re-purchase Native American assets and secure land for tribal communities. The Department of Interior will consult with tribes about how to implement a plan to free-up trust lands. In addition, about $60 million of the funds will establish Native American college scholarships.

Republican legislators in Washington DC wanted to reduce attorney’s fees in the matter from $100 million to $50 million. Even though the class action suit settled, some lawmakers still wanted to make changes in the agreement. The Justice Department warned them it was not possible.

Colson Hicks Eidson – Florida class action lawyers