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#26 Jun-09-2008 09:51:am

bls926
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From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Court to hear Cobell lawsuit

By JODI RAVE of the Missoulian
June 9, 2008   

A federal judge on Monday will gavel to a start the trial that will potentially award billions of dollars to Native landowners whose income from natural resources has been mismanaged and misused by the U.S. government for more than a century.

“We're going in for the final leg leading to justice,” said Elouise Cobell, a landowner and lead plaintiff from Browning. “I'm very confident we will be victorious.”

U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson in Washington, D.C., will preside over Cobell vs. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, in a case pitting a half-million Native landowners against the Interior Department.

Indigenous people claim they are owed at least $58 billion in trust funds that never made it into their money accounts managed by the department since 1887.

Justice Department lawyers have argued the shortfall rests somewhere between $3 billion and $3.6 billion.

Robertson will move the case forward as he acknowledges that Interior and Justice department representatives oppose “any remedy in this case that has a dollar sign in front of it.” He has also noted that Cobell's lawyers have added “considerably more zeros after the dollar sign than the government thinks is possible, or frankly than I think is possible.”

In an April hearing, the judge said he aims to address four major concerns as the trial unfolds over the course of the next two to three weeks. First, he will consider whether individuals in the class action suit can request their own day in court. He will also decide how much money is awarded and how it will be distributed. Finally, he will determine the “time value,” or whether any interest should be applied to the award.

Cobell, a community developer from the Blackfeet Reservation, filed suit against the Interior Department on June 10, 1996. At stake are award claims stemming from money earned by landowners for grazing leases and sales of timber, oil and gas on 11 million acres of individually owned trust lands. The money was either not collected or deposited into Individual Indian Money, or IIM, accounts.

Court documents and transcripts from the 144-month-long case have confirmed a land management system rife with accounting inaccuracies and bureaucratic incompetence in both the Interior and Treasury departments.

Yet despite hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent to provide an accounting and fix the broken accounting system, the Interior Department's web of bureaus and agencies remain mired in disorder. Those departments that have IIM trust functions include the Bureau of Land Management, Office of Special Trustee, Office of Historical Trust Accounting, Minerals Management Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“The BIA is a bureaucratic mess that needs to be reorganized and reenergized,” said U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., in a June 3 letter to the Interior Department. “If that proves impossible, then maybe it ought to be replaced with an organization that will take effective action to help improve the lives of American Indians.”

Dorgan asked Kempthorne to provide relief to the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, where oil and gas development has been hindered by the bureau's lack of staff and expertise.

Fort Berthold is surrounded by 49 active drilling rigs, while only one BIA permit has been issued for a drilling rig on the reservation - and that took three years to complete.

The Interior Department's ineffective management “is harming local, tribal and state economies, as well as our national efforts to produce more domestic sources of energy,” wrote Dorgan.

As Judge Robertson sets out to determine how much money is owed to individual landowners, he will be making a decision based on tens of thousands of trust fund records that are missing, deleted or destroyed.

Some of the most lucrative accounts in the “common trust fund” have historically arisen from oil and gas production on tribal lands. Yet even today, Cobell lawyers argue, the Minerals Management Service relies upon incorrect data on oil and gas distributions for individual trust beneficiary accounts.

Money paid into the system is not tracked; instead, the department has relied upon the honesty of those leasing Indian land.

But only money that has any sort of accounting track record will be considered in Monday's trial.

“Now what benefit did the government, actual benefit, do you think the government retained from the use of monies that it in fact paid but just can't account for?” Robertson asked the plaintiffs' attorney during April's hearing.

Dennis Gingold replied: “If in fact it paid for it and can't account for it, your honor, I don't know how you can make the assumption they were paid.”

Reach reporter Jodi Rave at 800-366-7186 or jodi.rave@lee.net.

http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2008 … news03.txt

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#27 Jun-11-2008 12:26:pm

bls926
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From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Indian trust trial under way

By JODI RAVE of the Missoulian
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
   

Elouise Cobell filed a class-action lawsuit against the Interior Department 12 years ago on Tuesday, a date that also marks the second day of a long-awaited trial expected to award a historic cash settlement to Native landowners.

The Cobell vs. Dirk Kempthorne trial began its first day on Monday in a federal courtroom in Washington, D.C. U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson has said he will, at last, determine a monetary award to landowners. The judge expects to zero in on this primary question: How much?

Lawyers for the landowners are set to defend their request for $58 billion while government attorneys will argue quite differently.

“There is no legal or factual basis to pay the plaintiffs billions of dollars or even close to a billion dollars,” said Robert Kirschman, an attorney representing the government. He said the amount would be “in the millions not the billions.”

Lawyers for the Indian plaintiffs began calling witnesses on Monday to prove why the trust fund account is worth billions of dollars. “We expect that this court will be satisfied that what we have done is reasonable and fair, and represents the money that is due our clients,” said Dennis Gingold, lawyer for the individual account holders.

The money in question belongs to Native landowners, natural resource income that has been collected and held by the U.S. Interior and Treasury departments, respectively. The departments and their bureaus have been designated by Congress to distribute money to indigenous people for income earned on grazing leases, mining proceeds and sales of timber, oil and gas.

Monday's trial began with Cobell lawyers who called one of its first witnesses to explain how the government used trust fund money to pay off the U.S. national debt - an issue that has been repeatedly raised throughout the lifetime of the case.

James Miller III, former director of the Office of Management and Budget under the Ronald Reagan administration, was named as witness to discuss the federal government's cash management practices and to explain how the government benefited from trust fund money.

“It went well today,” said Cobell, in a phone interview with the Missoulian. Miller “talked about how the government uses the excess money that is not distributed to pay off the national debt. He explained it very thoroughly.”

In January court filings, Judge Robertson estimated the government may have used between $3 billion to $3.6 billion of the trust fund. He later criticized the amount. Cobell lawyers since have used the number to estimate a value over the entire existence of the trust fund.

“So what's the debt-servicing idea here for years in which the United States was not borrowing money?” said Robertson. He described it as “a serious problem and one that I would think needs to be addressed in considerable detail.”

“I don't think we're finished with that question at all,” he said.

Since 1887, the bureaucratic-led trust fund maze has raised many questions among Indian landowners about how their money and land is managed. Cobell filed suit June 10, 1996, in order to seek an accounting of the Interior Department's handling of a “common trust fund” that co-mingled billions of dollars from 500,000 landowners since the creation of first Individual Indian Money, or IIM trust fund account.

The accounts were created as the result of Congress' 1887 General Allotment Act, known as the Dawes Act. The measure called for dividing large, land-based reservations into tiny plots which were then allotted to individual tribal members. Any remaining land was given to non-Indians for settlement.

The Interior Department was assigned to manage the land for Natives. The trust fund has been investigated throughout its history by government agencies. In 1994, Congress passed the Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act, an attempt to fix the broken system.

Robertson has said an accounting is nearly impossible - not because of tens of thousands of missing records - but because of the government's estimated $2 billion price tag to fix it and because Congress has been unwilling to pay for it.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Bryon Dorgan, D-N.D. - both then members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs - proposed legislation in 2005 to settle the case for $7 billion. The measure was rejected.

Despite the Interior Department's multimillion-dollar effort to bring order to the accounts, the 12-year-long case has shown the system remains mismanaged and in disarray.

“My conclusion that Interior is unable to perform an adequate accounting of the IIM trust does not mean that a just resolution of this dispute is hopeless,” said Robertson. “It does mean that a remedy must be found for the Department's unrepaired, and irreparable, breach of its fiduciary duty over the last century.

“And it does mean that the time has come to bring this suit to a close.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2008 … rave59.txt

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#28 Jun-11-2008 12:37:pm

bls926
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From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

What Is Owed to Native Americans?
Judge Hopes to Settle Question in Suit Over Oil, Gas Royalties
 

http://media3.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/photo/2008/06/10/PH2008061003046.jpg
In 1999, Ripley Berryhill, right, and his brother Chubby, both Muskogee Creek Indians, said the government mismanaged the oil royalties on their property.
(By William Claiborne -- The Washington Post)


By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 11, 2008; Page A17

A lawsuit over billions of dollars in royalties collected from oil and gas companies that leased Native American land has meandered through the court system for so long that a federal judge recently compared the case to Charles Dickens's "Bleak House," a tome about a long-running and convoluted legal dispute.

"The 'suit has, in course of time, become so complicated' that 'no two lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises,' " U.S. District Judge James Robertson wrote in a long January opinion, using Dickens's words to describe the 12-year odyssey of Cobell v. Kempthorne.

On Monday, Robertson began overseeing what is expected to be a two-week-long bench trial in a contentious saga that has seen numerous legal twists and political turns worthy of Dickens.

Robertson is hoping to answer the last key question in the legal battle: How much money, if any, is owed to hundreds of thousands of Native Americans who sued over alleged improper management of the gas and oil royalties by the Interior Department over the last 121 years? The plaintiffs are seeking at least $58 billion, according to court records.

Government lawyers argue in court filings that the Interior Department should not have to pay anything because evidence shows that Native Americans have received all of the money they were owed. At most, only several hundred million dollars remains in dispute, they have argued.

To say the history of the trust accounts and the lawsuit "have been exhaustively chronicled," Robertson wrote in the January opinion, would "stretch the limits of understatement."

The lawsuit has generated more than 3,500 docket entries. Various orders and findings have been appealed, resulting in several opinions from courts of appeal. Over the years, three Cabinet secretaries were found in contempt of court by Royce C. Lamberth, the first federal judge to oversee the case.

In a rare action, an appeals court in 2006 removed Lamberth, who is now the District Court's chief judge, saying he was biased against the Interior Department, which he called "the morally and culturally oblivious hand-me-down of a disgracefully racist and imperialist government."

Elouise Cobell, a leader of the Blackfeet tribe in northwest Montana, filed the class-action lawsuit in 1996, seeking to force the Interior Department to account for billions of dollars in royalties from Indian lands held in trust by the government. The origins of the suit date back to 1887, when the government divided up millions of acres of Indian reservation land, parceled it out to individual Native Americans, but put the lots into trusts controlled by the Interior department.

On behalf of the Native Americans, the government then leased the land to oil, gas and other companies. Lawyers for the Native Americans allege that the government should have paid the Native Americans billions of dollars over the years.

The government has run into a lot of trouble trying to account for the money.

Many records are missing. Some are kept in different forms. Others were destroyed. And Congress did not allocate the money necessary -- estimated to be in the billions of dollars -- to perform an audit that might ultimately determine what happened to the funds.

In his 165-page January opinion, Robertson noted that it would be nearly impossible to figure out the difference between what the government collected from the leases and what it then paid out to the Native Americans over the years.

The government's own data suggested a potential gap of about $3 billion, according to Robertson, who expressed doubts that the government was actually trying to admit there was a shortfall.

"If the mysterious $3 billion shortfall . . . demonstrates anything, it is that even the broadest questions -- and therefore, the easiest questions to answer with statistical sampling -- do not seem to have been answered so far," Robertson wrote. He added that "there is little reason to be confident that answers are forthcoming."

Despite the lack of a thorough accounting, Robertson wrote that a resolution to the case is not hopeless. He said that a "remedy must be found for the Department's unrepaired, and irreparable, breach of its fiduciary duties over the last century."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co … 02739.html

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#29 Jun-12-2008 08:48:am

bls926
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From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Cobell plaintiffs rest case in trust fund trial
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Filed Under: Cobell

After three days of testimony, the plaintiffs in the Indian trust fund lawsuit rested their primary case on Wednesday.

The final witness was Don Pallais, an accountant. He testified about the reliability of the federal government's data on the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust.

"You cannot depend on the disbursement numbers to represent valid disbursements to individual Indians," Pallais told the court. "The system is not good enough, not dependable enough."

After Pallais was off the stand, the Department of Justice called its first witness. Michelle Herman, a consultant who has been hired by the Interior Department to work on the trust, began testimony about the money that comes in and out of the trust system.

The government is relying on Herman's work from FTI Consulting to revise some key figures in the case. Judge James Robertson has said somewhere between $3 billion to $3.5 billion remains in dispute, according to data presented at a trial last year.

Herman testified that she was hired to "provide a better estimate" of these key figures. She said the prior data included funds that never belonged to individual Indians and that, in some cases, the funds were "double counted."

As Herman began to delve into the new numbers, Robertson went into recess for the day. Testimony resumes this morning at 9:30am. Friday is a day off for the trial.

Trial Transcripts:
June 9 AM http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 9 PM http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 10 AM http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf

http://www.indianz.com/News/2008/009250.asp

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#30 Jun-27-2008 01:26:am

bls926
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From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Judge to issue final ruling in Cobell case in August
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Filed Under: Cobell

The federal judge handling the landmark Indian trust fund lawsuit said on Wednesday he will issue a final ruling in August.

After 10 days of trial, Judge James Robertson heard closing arguments in the 12-year-old case. Though he has ruled that the federal government cannot account for billions of dollars in Indian trust funds, he cautioned against an equally large final judgment.

"From where I sit today, the dispute in the case is between 10 digits and 9 digits," Robertson said, referring to the dollar figures at issue.

Robertson's commentary indicates that he is considering an award of no more than $10 billion. That's in the range suggested by several independent experts who have told Congress that the case is worth anywhere from $6 billion to $10 billion.

But it's far less than the $58 billion in restitution the Cobell plaintiffs sought in their initial filings. Based on new data produced during the trial, the request was lowered to $46 billion.

"A large number should not turn this court away from justice," said plaintiffs' attorney Bill Dorris during closing arguments. "The amount is high but the years have been many."

On the other hand, a 9- to 10-digit dollar award would be much higher than the amount suggested by the Bush administration. According to the federal government, the overwhelming majority of funds in the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust have been distributed.

"At worse, no more than $409.8 million cannot be explained in the IIM system," said Department of Justice attorney Robert Kirschman. To the extend that any award is being considered, "it should be a low amount indeed," he said.

Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, and four other Indian leaders filed the case on June 10, 1996, during the Clinton administration. The lawsuit was certified as a class action to represent hundreds of thousands of current and former trust beneficiaries who never received an accounting of their funds.

The first major victory came in December 1999, when Judge Royce Lamberth held that the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994 required the Interior Department to account for "all funds" in the IIM trust. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2001 upheld the decision, noting that the law did not create the duty to account but merely affirmed it.

Once the Bush administration came on board, the case took on a particularly acrimonious tone. After a slew of trials, contempt charges and appeals, Lamberth was removed from the case in July 2006 amid complaints about his impartiality.

Robertson was assigned to the case in December 2006 and pledged to resolve it as quickly as possible. He convened a trial in October 2007 to examine all of the issues surrounding the historical accounting.

In January 2008, Robertson ruled that the accounting was "impossible" due to funding restraints and limitations placed on the effort by the Bush administration. He started a trial on June 9 to finally put an end to the long-running case.

The trial focused on the plaintiffs' claim that they are entitled to restitution for the failure to account and for the benefits allegedly obtained by the government for failing to distribute all of the trust funds to beneficiaries. By adding up the data from 1887, the inception of the IIM trust, to 2007, the plaintiffs arrived at $46 billion.

The government responded during trial that the overwhelming majority of trust funds were distributed. Witnesses testified that the government did not benefit from the trust, which they said represents only a small portion of the trillion-dollar U.S. economy.

A separate issue in the case -- that of trust reform -- has not been on the radar since the appeals court struck down one of Lamberth's rulings. Yesterday, Dorris said the plaintiffs will ask Robertson to drop those claims without prejudice.


Trial Transcripts:
June 9 AM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 9 PM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 10 AM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 10 PM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 11  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 12 AM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 12 PM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 16 AM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 16 PM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 17 AM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 17 PM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 18 AM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 18 PM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf
June 19 AM  http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … script.pdf

http://www.indianz.com/News/2008/009519.asp

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#31 Aug-17-2008 07:26:pm

bls926
Administrator
From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Judge issues final ruling in Cobell trust case
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Filed Under: Cobell

Judge James Robertson issued his final ruling in the Cobell v. Kempthorne case, concluding that Indian beneficiaries are owed $455.6 million for mismanagement of their trust funds.

The amount is far lower than the $47 billion sought by the Cobell plaintiffs. It's not much higher than the "hundreds of millions" that has been suggested by the Bush administration.

"I am disappointed, to say the least," said lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana. "We believe we presented a strong, compelling case that individual Indian trust beneficiaries are entitled to much more than the government's admitted mismanagement of our trust monies over the past 120 years."

"The department is gratified that the court recognized the complexities and uncertainties involved in this case," responded Jim Cason, the associate deputy secretary at the Interior Department. "We look forward to working with the court, the Congress, and the plaintiffs to bring the case to final closure."

Cobell said an appeal is possible. Robertson said his decision does not resolve potential damages claims against the federal government.

Court Decision:
Cobell v. Kempthorne (August 7, 2008)
http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell … rtmemo.pdf

http://www.indianz.com/News/2008/010226.asp

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#32 Aug-17-2008 07:27:pm

bls926
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From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Cobell decision close to low figure cited by government
Friday, August 8, 2008
Filed Under: Cobell

Holding true to his promise to resolve the long-running Cobell case, a federal judge on Thursday said Indian beneficiaries are only owed $455.6 million for the historical mismanagement of their trust funds.

Judge James Robertson hinted at a low figure when he heard final arguments last month. But his decision still shocked the plaintiffs in the 12-year-old case, who are weighing an appeal of the decision.

"I am disappointed, to say the least," said lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana. "We believe we presented a strong, compelling case that individual Indian trust beneficiaries are entitled to much more than the government's admitted mismanagement of our trust monies over the past 120 years."

The Bush administration, on the other hand, hailed the ruling even though the government has maintained throughout the case that it has not mishandled billions of dollars in trust funds. The Interior Department and the Treasury Department were found in breach of trust for failing to account for the money.

"The department is gratified that the court recognized the complexities and uncertainties involved in this case," responded Jim Cason, the associate deputy secretary at Interior. "We look forward to working with the court, the Congress, and the plaintiffs to bring the case to final closure."

Robertson's final judgment was strikingly close to an amount that the Department of Justice conceded at a hearing last month. "At worse, no more than $409.8 million cannot be explained in the IIM system," government attorney Robert Kirschman said.

The plaintiffs cited a much higher figure -- around $46 billion -- that they said they were owed. The amount was based the government's failure to conduct an historical accounting of the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust, plus any alleged benefits the government received for not disbursing all of the funds.

Robertson concluded that his court has "broad equitable authority" to address the government's admitted failure to account. But he rejected the plaintiffs' legal theories and model for disbursement as unsound and unsupported by evidence.

"Whatever problems have existed in the history of this trust, and however serious the misfeasances and malfeasances of the trustees over 120 years, there has never been any evidence of such prodigious pilfering of assets from within the trust system itself," Robertson said, rejecting claims of large amounts of money owed.

Robertson said the next step would be yet another proceeding to determine how to allocate the $455.6 million among hundreds of thousands of Indian beneficiaries. He plans to hold a hearing later this month to address the issue.

Another trip to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, or even to the U.S. Supreme Court, could delay the distribution of any funds. The government, or Congress, also could conceivably fail to restore the money to the IIM trust regardless of the outcome of the case.

The government still faces the possibility of a damages case in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Attorneys have repeatedly argued that some of the plaintiffs' claims -- such as leasing land for below market value -- belong in the claims court.

The Bush administration previously proposed to settle such claims, along with the historical accounting aspect of the Cobell case, for $3.5 billion. The controversial deal was contingent on tribes and individual Indians disclaiming all future liability for their trust funds.

"Perhaps it is not too much to hope that the announcement in this memorandum of a hard number will give rise to some off-line conversation between the parties in the meantime," Robertson said in his ruling.

Cobell and four other Indian leaders filed the case on June 10, 1996, during the Clinton administration. The lawsuit was certified as a class action to represent hundreds of thousands of current and former trust beneficiaries who never received an accounting of their funds.

The first major victory came in December 1999, when Judge Royce Lamberth held that the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994 required the Interior Department to account for "all funds" in the IIM trust. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2001 upheld the decision, noting that the law did not create the duty to account but merely affirmed it.

Once the Bush administration came on board, the case took on a particularly acrimonious tone. After a slew of trials, contempt charges and appeals that favored the government, Lamberth was removed from the case in July 2006 amid complaints about his impartiality.

Robertson was assigned to the case in December 2006 and pledged to resolve it as quickly as possible. He convened a trial in October 2007 to examine all of the issues surrounding the historical accounting.

In January 2008, Robertson ruled that the accounting was "impossible" due to funding restraints and limitations placed on the effort by the Bush administration. He started a trial on June 9 to finally put an end to the long-running case.

The trial, which lasted less than two weeks, focused on the plaintiffs' claim that they are entitled to restitution for the failure to account and for the benefits allegedly obtained by the government for failing to distribute all of the trust funds to beneficiaries. By adding up the data from 1887, the inception of the IIM trust, to 2007, the plaintiffs arrived at $46 billion.

The government responded during trial that the overwhelming majority of trust funds were distributed. Witnesses testified that the government did not benefit from the trust, which they said represents only a small portion of the trillion-dollar U.S. economy.

http://www.indianz.com/News/2008/010249.asp

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#33 Aug-17-2008 07:30:pm

bls926
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From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Indians will appeal trust ruling

Saturday, August 9, 2008
By JODI RAVE of the Missoulian

Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the Interior Department, on Friday said lawyers representing thousands of Native landowners will appeal a final ruling issued by a federal judge in a 12-year-long trust fund case.

An appeal will be filed “as soon as possible,” said Cobell, adding that litigation unfairly put the burden of proof for financial mismanagement on Native landholders instead of the Interior Department.

The decision to appeal comes in the wake of U.S. District Judge James Robertson's ruling on Thursday, providing a $455.6 million restitution settlement in Cobell vs. Kempthorne. Robertson referred to case law as grounds for his equitable settlement figures, calling for “accurate evaluations of difficult evidence,” while not allowing a windfall for victims “or punishment for wrongdoers.”

“In any situation, if there's been wrongdoing, shouldn't they be punished?” said Cobell.

Robertson presided over the Cobell restitution trial for nearly two weeks in June, during which time lawyers argued Native landholders were owed as much as $48 billion.

“Expectations have been very high in Indian Country about this case for a long time,” said John Dossett, an attorney representing the National Congress of American Indians, the largest and oldest Native advocacy organization in the country. He described the judge's opinion as “disappointing” and “a blow” because of its narrow scope in determining how much money was owed to landowners.

Robertson only considered two basic questions, said Dossett. How much money was collected by the Interior Department's agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs? And then, how much money should the department disburse to Indian account holders?

“The department is gratified that the court recognized the complexities and uncertainties involved in this case,” said James E. Cason, associate deputy secretary of the Interior, in a statement. “We look forward to working with the court, the Congress, and the plaintiffs to bring the case to final closure.”

The department has been responsible for collecting and distributing money earned from natural resources on 11 million acres of land owned by Native individuals since Congress passed the Dawes Act in 1887. The income included grazing leases and sales from oil and timber.

“We always believed much more of the money was never collected in the first place,” said Dossett. “And that's always been the biggest flaw in the BIA's system, is that they didn't have an accounts receivable system in which they were able to make collection efforts,” if someone failed to pay. “Far more has never been collected than what was inaccurately distributed.”

Accounting irregularities pushed Cobell to file a class-action suit in June 1996, now called Cobell vs. Kempthorne. In 1999, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth affirmed a 1994 trust reform law that required the Interior Department to properly account for all Individual Indian Money accounts.

The act - as well as dozens of government reports and court rulings - slammed the department for mismanaging Indian money and breaching its trust responsibility on 500,000 trust fund accounts worth billions of dollars.

Robertson made his final decision on the case without regard for established principles of trust law. Breach of accounting rules “cannot be applied” to a “121-year-old perpetual trust, managed by civil servants, with rapidly multiplying beneficiaries,” said Robertson in court filings.

Meanwhile, Robertson has brought a quick end to the 12-year-long case, which he has presided over since December 2006 when he replaced Judge Lamberth. The D.C. Court of Appeals removed Lamberth from the Cobell suit after government lawyers complained that his court rulings were favorable to Indians.

When he took over the case, the Interior Department had been ordered to provide a complete accounting as mandated by the Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994. Robertson said his final ruling “no longer directly concerns the accounting question that dominated the first 12 years of its existence.”

The judge has yet to determine how the $455.6 million restitution will be awarded. And his opinion also states the Cobell litigation does not resolve “any claims that IIM holders may have for damages against the government.”

Dossett said those are two major questions that need to be answered.

“It's a horrendous slap in the face after 120 years of injustice to have this kind of ruling come down,” said William Lomax, president of the Native American Finance Officers Association, or NAFOA, a financial management watchdog organization in Phoenix.

“It's very clear the judge's biases in this case were in favor of the government,” Lomax said. “He has not even awarded interest in this case. It's a clear mistake.”

Lomax said he is encouraging tribal leaders to attend the NAFOA conference in Chicago Sept. 3-4, so they can continue to fight for accountability of Indian trust funds. He said tribal leaders will be asked to “step up” as the appeal process moves forward.

“This issue is so important to Indian Country,” Lomax said. “We as a community need to stand behind Elouise.”

http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2008 … rave39.txt

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#34 Aug-17-2008 07:36:pm

bls926
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From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Reactions to Cobell decision range from trauma and rejection to hope 

Posted: August 15, 2008
by: Jerry Reynolds / Indian Country Today

WASHINGTON - In 1982, Rebecca Adamson walked across a parking lot in Mount Pleasant, Mich., with Arnold J. Sowmick, the late, great leader of the Saginaw Chippewa. Then in her second year of a 25-year tenure as founder and president of First Nations Development Institute, Adamson had been called to Michigan to assess the potential for expanding the tribe's wood pallet production business into a pre-fabricated housing construction operation.

She saw problems with the plan and recommended against it. As she left, Sowmick told her that what he really wanted was to invest the tribe's forthcoming judgment award. Adamson, Eastern Cherokee, said that could be done. Sowmick said the BIA wouldn't allow it, even though he was pretty sure the tribe could do better investing its money than the BIA had ever done. Adamson said she was pretty sure it could be done all the same, and proceeded to raise funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to do it.

In researching the trust monies held for the Saginaw Chippewa by the BIA, Adamson didn't set out to work directly on Individual Indian Money accounts. But her research took her there, and the BIA track record on the IIM trust and tribal trust funds strengthened her hopes for the tribe.

At a council meeting, she reported back to the tribe as follows: ''I have good news and bad news. The good news is, you can do better than the BIA at investing your trust funds. The bad news is, so could a chimpanzee.''

Twenty-six years later, U.S. District Judge James Robertson has ruled that IIM account holders deserve $455.6 million for 121 years of IIM trust mismanagement - less than Congress and the federal government have spent over the past decades trying to fix an IIM management system the existence of which Robertson has questioned, and to deliver an accounting of the IIM trust Robertson has ruled impossible. The lawsuit that led to the Aug. 7 opinion is Cobell v. Kempthorne et al., after Blackfeet lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell and current Interior Department Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. The BIA is a sub-agency of Interior.

Philip Baker-Shenk, a lobbyist of wide-ranging legislative experience in Washington now with the firm of Holland & Knight, also goes back to the early days of the generational effort to reform IIM trust management. His memory is of the late Mike Petersen, a trusted non-Indian who served the Red Lake Band of Chippewa as the equivalent of a chief financial officer. He wanted a tribal trust accounting in 1986, when Baker-Shenk met him. ''That was one of his crusades. ... He sniffed out some irregularities in the reports the BIA was giving the tribe, scouted it out, assembled the data and understood what the financial reports should show. ... It began with some simple, pointed questions from tribes that didn't elicit the right answers, and then tribes began to talk with one another.''

Eventually Mike Synar, the late Oklahoma congressman who died at 45 of a rare aggressive brain cancer, got involved and carried the fight for reform to the IIM trust accounts.

Jim Parris, Cherokee, has spent a career working on IIM and tribal trust accounts, first within the top ranks of Interior's Office of Trust Funds Management and now as a sole practitioner CPA devoted to tribal trust management. He tried to find a silver lining in Robertson's decision, suspecting the judge awarded as much in restitution as he felt he could without getting overturned on appeal, in view of the lack of robust evidence for IIM losses in the threadbare documentary record. ''It really is a disappointment,'' Parris said of the award figure. ''We're all upset that it wasn't more, but it's nothing that cannot be cured by filing in the Court of Federal Claims.'' District court judges can't speculate beyond the evidence or consider the assets that generate IIM revenue from lease royalties - oil, land, timber, gas - much less investment losses or interest on damages, Parris explained.

''Somebody needs to pick up the traces and take it to Federal Claims Court and really get after it.''

W. Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe in Washington state and treasurer of the National Congress of American Indians, said he was stunned at the court's ruling. ''I was surprised at how low the court ruled was appropriate restitution.'' But in view of the toll the case has taken on the BIA, which was disconnected from the Internet for years over court concern for the security of IIM account information, he hopes the plaintiffs ''close this deal and move on. ... I think there's a general feeling that Elouise and the Cobell case have done their job and now we move on.''

The agenda now should be for Congress to continue riding herd on the BIA and its parent federal department, Interior, as they continue to fix the trust accounting systems, fold the Office of the Special Trustee back into the BIA, and appropriate more funding for tribes to manage IIM and tribal trust funds. ''There's absolutely no reason tribes can't do that as well as the bureau,'' Allen said.

Tex Hall, chairman of the Inter-Tribal Economic Alliance, considers all the IIM reform efforts of Indians and others over the years significant. The Three Affiliated Tribes' former chairman remembers afternoons from his own youth, waiting in a car as his parents visited the BIA agency in New Town, N.D., asking about their IIM accounts. They usually returned impatient and out of sorts, sometimes with an old brown envelope and a check inside but never any specific knowledge of what it was for.

He called Robertson's ruling ''unbelievably wrong,'' ''a limited, flawed decision'' and ''a slap in the face.''

''And it was just a huge, huge misunderstanding of the magnitude of this issue. Without that understanding, he just pushed for a quick decision. ... It [IIM] is a broken accounting system, a broken [land] appraisal system, a broken leasing system, a broken probate system. There is no way any account holder should accept that [$455.6 million]. It just did not do any justice to the claims that are there. I know too much about this system to accept it.''

Hall isn't worried about the possibility the award could be reduced on appeal. ''For one account holder here in North Dakota, $50 [per IIM account holder] is nothing compared with the magnitude of the problem. So I'm not worried about a reduction. It's still wrong, it's still unjust. So, $50 or $25, it's not going to matter to any Indian.''

He called on IIM account holders to make a point by refusing any distribution of the award.

http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096417951

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#35 Nov-24-2008 08:38:am

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Appeal granted for Cobell historical accounting
Friday, November 21, 2008
Filed Under: Cobell

The D.C. Court of Appeals has granted petitions to review a judge's decision to award $455.6 million in the Cobell Indian trust case.

The plaintiffs and the federal government are both appealing the decision. The plaintiffs say the amount is too low while the government contends no money can be awarded.

In January, Judge James Robertson ruled it was "impossible" to perform a historical accounting of the Individual Indian Money trust.

Court Order:
Cobell v. Kempthorne (November 18, 2008)
http://www.indiantrust.com/_pdfs/200811 … ranted.pdf

http://www.indianz.com/News/2008/012117.asp

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#36 May-12-2009 09:34:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Salazar vows to resolve Cobell trust fund lawsuit
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Filed Under: Cobell


In an interview with the Associated Press, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he is committed to resolving the Cobell trust fund lawsuit.

Salazar called the case "a blemish on the United States and the Department of Interior." The AP report did not quote other comments by him about the case but in a video clip he said he will consult with Native American communities "as we carry out our trust responsibilities."

The case was filed in June 1996. A federal judge last said the plaintiffs weren't paid $455 million, a decision that is being appealed.

http://64.38.12.138/News/2009/013498.asp

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#37 May-12-2009 09:38:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Appeals court to hear Cobell appeal in May
Friday, March 13, 2009
Filed Under: Cobell

The Cobell plaintiffs and lawyers for President Barack Obama will go to court on May 11 to argue a critical appeal in the long-running Indian trust fund case.

Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, and other Indian leaders filed the lawsuit in June 1996 in hopes of accounting for billions of dollars in their trust funds. After a slew of decisions, a federal judge last year said the plaintiffs were underpaid $455.6 million.

The amount was far lower than the $46 billion that the plaintiffs said was missing from the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust. They are asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on key issues that could increase the figure.

Obama, on the other hand, is continuing a cross-appeal filed by the Bush administration. The Department of Justice contends the plaintiffs aren't entitled to any money for the federal government's failure to account for the trust.

In testimony to Congress last month, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he wanted to settle the suit. The comments drew a favorable response from Cobell.

"We are happy that the Obama administration appears to be taking a positive view toward resolving our case," Cobell said in a statement at the time.

But more recent comments indicate a potential shift in thinking in Washington. In an interview this week with the Associated Press, Salazar said he might wait until the D.C. Circuit issues a ruling in the case before trying to settle.

"It may create the framework for us to move forward with some kind of final resolution of the litigation," Salazar said of the pending appeal.

Cobell fired back and called Salazar's statement "an insult to Indian people." She said the administration must move now to settle rather than wait for a decision, which could be many months away.

"Let's talk settlement, serious settlement," Cobell told the AP. "I don't want words that say 'let's resolve it.'"

The plaintiffs reached a settlement in the closing months of the Clinton adminsitration but the terms were rejected by government lawyers. Talks resumed during the Bush administration but government officials walked away from the table and later asked Congress to extinguish all types of trust mismanagement claims for $7 billion.

Since that last proposal, which was made by former Interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne two years ago this month, Congress has not taken a serious interest in trust reform or management issues. Democratic leaders have focused on housing, health, education and other matters.

With the 111th Congress underway, the outlook doesn't look any different. Neither Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, nor Rep. Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, have identified trust as an issue on their agendas.

The D.C. Circuit appeal will be heard by Chief Judge David B. Sentelle, Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg and Judge A. Raymond Randolph. All three are very familiar with the case, having heard appeals in the past.

D.C. Circuit Order:
Cobell v. Salazar (March 13, 2009)
http://www.indiantrust.com/_pdfs/200903 … gument.pdf

http://64.38.12.138/News/2009/013580.asp

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#38 May-12-2009 09:39:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Appeals court set to hear Cobell case on Monday
Friday, May 8, 2009
Filed Under: Cobell

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the Indian trust fund lawsuit on Monday.

The outcome of the appeal will determine how much money, if any, is owed to beneficiaries of the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust. The federal government has been unable to provide a historical accounting of the funds owned by individual Indians.

The plaintiffs are seeking billions of dollars while the federal government claims the lawsuit can't result in a money award. A federal judge said the plaintiffs were entitled to $455.6 million.

The case will be heard by Judge David B. Sentelle, Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg and Judge A. Raymond Randolph in Courtroom 20. The court's calendar lists it as the final argument of the panel.

http://64.38.12.138/News/2009/014466.asp

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#39 May-12-2009 09:45:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Court hears sides in royalties case
Federal ruling nears in lawsuit brought by Native Americans


Ledyard King • Argus Leader Washington Bureau • May 12, 2009


WASHINGTON - After more than a decade fighting the federal government, Native Americans hope to learn shortly whether their quest for billions in unpaid royalties will be successful.

A three-judge federal appeals panel, which heard arguments Monday, is expected to rule within a few months on a class-action lawsuit first brought by Native Americans in 1996. The tribes say they're entitled to an estimated $47 billion in oil, grazing and minerals royalties that the Interior Department has been collecting as a trustee since 1887 but never has come close to paying.

The case has ping-ponged from court to court for years. The lawsuit has reached the appellate level at least nine times, only to be kicked back to a lower court each time. A final decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

What's different this time is that a district court judge last year ruled that the Interior Department owes the tribes $455 million - much less than what Native Americans are seeking but a sign the battle might have shifted from whether they're entitled to anything to how much they should get.

"They're going to lose this one," Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet tribal member from Montana and the lawsuit's lead plaintiff, said after Monday's arguments. "I feel really optimistic."

Government lawyers told the appeals panel Monday that a 2001 federally commissioned audit of select records shows the Interior essentially has paid what it owes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs kept "remarkably" accurate accounts.

"Nothing that we found shows that the plaintiffs are owed any money," Department of Justice Attorney Alisa Klein told the panel, adding that the lower court "was overstepping its bounds" in making an award.

The lawsuit covers about 500,000 Native Americans and their heirs and involves 54 million acres west of the Mississippi River. It was filed after the Interior Department failed to fully show how much money it had collected and distributed as demanded by Congress in 1994.

Even if Native Americans win what they're asking for, there's another problem: how to divide up the money.

Thousands of records have been lost and destroyed in recent decades, making the task of accurate repayment impossible, said Dennis Gingold, lawyer for the plaintiffs. That would force a system of "rough justice," he said, in which individual awards would be made on a per-capita basis or based on what kind of land Native Americans held.

Gingold told the judges the federal government shouldn't get off the hook because it lost records.

"You have a trustee who doesn't keep adequate records," Gingold said. "The question is, can a trustee escape accountability? If that's the case, it will change 115 years of precedent."

http://www.argusleader.com/article/2009 … 20325/1001

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#40 Dec-12-2009 12:35:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

News Release

Date: December 8, 2009
Contact: Kendra Barkoff, 202-208-6416
Frank Quimby (202) 208-7291
Melissa Schwartz (DOJ) 202-514-2007



Secretary Salazar, Attorney General Holder Announce
Settlement of Cobell Lawsuit on Indian Trust Management


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Attorney General Eric Holder today announced a settlement of the long-running and highly contentious Cobell class-action lawsuit regarding the U.S. government's trust management and accounting of over three hundred thousand individual American Indian trust accounts. Also speaking at the press conference today were Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes and Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli.

“This is an historic, positive development for Indian country and a major step on the road to reconciliation following years of acrimonious litigation between trust beneficiaries and the United States,” Secretary Salazar said. “Resolving this issue has been a top priority of President Obama, and this administration has worked in good faith to reach a settlement that is both honorable and responsible. This historic step will allow Interior to move forward and address the educational, law enforcement, and economic development challenges we face in Indian Country.”

“Over the past thirteen years, the parties have tried to settle this case many, many times, each time unsuccessfully," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "But today we turn the page. This settlement is fair to the plaintiffs, responsible for the United States, and provides a path forward for the future.”

Under the negotiated agreement, litigation will end regarding the Department of the Interior’s performance of an historical accounting for trust accounts maintained by the United States on behalf of more than 300,000 individual Indians. A fund totaling $1.4 billion will be distributed to class members to compensate them for their historical accounting claims, and to resolve potential claims that prior U.S. officials mismanaged the administration of trust assets.

In addition, in order to address the continued proliferation of thousands of new trust accounts caused by the "fractionation" of land interests through succeeding generations, the settlement establishes a $2 billion fund for the voluntary buy-back and consolidation of fractionated land interests. The land consolidation program will provide individual Indians with an opportunity to obtain cash payments for divided land interests and free up the land for the benefit of tribal communities.

By reducing the number of individual trust accounts that the U.S must maintain, the program will greatly reduce on-going administrative expenses and future accounting-related disputes. In order to provide owners with an additional incentive to sell their fractionated interests, the settlement authorizes the Interior Department to set aside up to 5 percent of the value of the interests into a college and vocational school scholarship fund for American Indian students.

The settlement has been negotiated with the involvement of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It will not become final until it is formally endorsed by the court. Also, Congress must enact legislation to authorize implementation of the settlement. Because it is a settlement of a litigation matter, the Judgment Fund maintained by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury will fund the settlement.

“While we have made significant progress in improving and strengthening the management of Indian trust assets, our work is not over,” said Salazar, who also announced he is establishing a national commission to evaluate ongoing trust reform efforts and make recommendations for the future management of individual trust account assets in light of a congressional sunset provision for the Office of Special Trustee, which was established by Congress in 1994 to reform financial management of the trust system.

The class action case, which involves several hundred thousand plaintiffs, was filed by Elouise Cobell in 1996 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and has included hundreds of motions, dozens of rulings and appeals, and several trials over the past 13 years. The settlement funds will be administered by the trust department of a bank approved by the district court and distributed to individual Indians by a claims administrator in accordance with court orders and the settlement agreement.

Interior currently manages about 56 million acres of Indian trust land, administering more than 100,000 leases and about $3.5 billion in trust funds. For fiscal year 2009, funds from leases, use permits, land sales and income from financial assets, totaling about $298 million were collected for more than 384,000 open Individual Indian Money accounts and $566 million was collected for about 2,700 tribal accounts for more than 250 tribes. Since 1996, the U.S. Government has collected over $10.4 billion from individual and tribal trust assets and disbursed more than $9.5 billion to individual account holders and tribal governments.

The land consolidation fund addresses a legacy of the General Allotment Act of 1887 (the “Dawes Act”), which divided tribal lands into parcels between 40 and 160 acres in size, allotted them to individual Indians and sold off all remaining unallotted Indian lands. As the original holders died, their intestate heirs received an equal, undivided interest in the lands as tenants in common. In successive generations, smaller undivided interests descended to the next generation.

Today, it is common to have hundreds—even thousands—of Indian owners for one parcel of land. Such highly fractionated ownership makes it extremely difficult to use the land productively or to provide beneficial use for any individual. Absent serious corrective action, an estimated 4 million acres of land will continue to be held in such small ownership interests that very few individual owners will ever derive any meaningful financial benefit from that ownership.

Additional Information is available at the following sites: www.cobellsettlement.com.
The Department of the Interior website: www.doi.gov. The Office of the Special Trustee website: www.ost.doi.gov

http://www.doi.gov/news/09_News_Releases/120809a.html

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#41 Dec-12-2009 12:38:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Statement by President Obama on Cobell Settlement
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Filed Under: Cobell

Statement by the President on the Settlement of Cobell Class-Action Lawsuit on Indian Trust Management.

“Today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Attorney General Eric Holder announced that, at long last, a settlement has been reached in the Cobell class-action lawsuit. This suit was originally filed in 1996 over the United States government's trust management and accounting of hundreds of thousands of individual American Indian trust accounts. With this announcement, we take an important step towards a sincere reconciliation between the trust beneficiaries and the federal government and lay the foundation for more effective management of Indian trust assets in the future. I want to applaud Secretary Salazar and Attorney General Holder for working tirelessly with the plaintiffs to help reach this settlement.

“As a candidate, I heard from many in Indian Country that the Cobell suit remained a stain on the Nation to Nation relationship I value so much. I pledged my commitment to resolving this issue, and I am proud that my Administration has taken this step today. I came to Washington with a promise to change how our government deals with difficult issues like this, and a promise that the facts and policies, and not politics, will guide our actions and decisions.

“But it is important to note that today’s actions are not the final step. The District Court for the District of Columbia must formally endorse the settlement, and Congress must enact legislation to authorize implementation. I urge Congress to act swiftly to correct this long-standing injustice and to remember that no special appropriations are required. I congratulate all those in Indian Country that have waited for this news, and join them in waiting for a quick conclusion to the process.”

http://64.38.12.138/News/2009/017674.asp

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#42 Dec-12-2009 12:39:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Joint Rep. Cole and Rep. Kildee statement on Cobell settlement
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Filed Under: Cobell

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) and Rep. Dale E. Kildee (D-Michigan), Co-Chairs of the House Native American Caucus, praised today’s announcement of a long-awaited settlement of the Cobell lawsuit regarding the mismanagement of over 300,000 individual Indian trust accounts by the U.S. Government.

"I am very pleased that the Cobell case has finally reached a compromise between the federal government and the litigants. After 13 long years of litigation, Native Americans have been vindicated after the Department of Interior's blatant mismanagement of tribal lands. Though I would like to see individual plaintiffs receiving a more substantial compensation, I am glad that the U.S. government was finally willing to acknowledge past mistakes and offer a measure of compensation to the injured parties. It is my sincere hope that these monies will be distributed quickly and efficiently,” said Congressman Cole. “The tribal trust land management must still undergo serious reform; however, this decision is an important step to granting Native Americans the compensation they deserve and correcting over a century of government negligence."

“Today’s announcement that the Cobell case has been settled after 13 years of litigation will bring welcome closures to our Native American tribes. This decision will help make amends for the past mismanagement of Indian trust funds by the U.S. Government, as well as bring much needed resources to address fractionated Indian lands. While this is an important step, this is not the end of the fight for justice on behalf of Indian trust assets, and I will continue to fight to ensure that our tribes are treated in a fair and equitable manner,” said Congressman Kildee. “I commend President Obama, Attorney General Holder and Interior Secretary Salazar for their attention to this matter and their continued efforts to strengthen the relationship between the United States and tribal nations.”

http://64.38.12.138/News/2009/017688.asp

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#43 Dec-12-2009 12:39:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Statement by Rep. Rahall on Cobell Settlement
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Filed Under: Cobell

Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-West Virginia), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, today released the following statement commending the Obama Administration's announcement of a long-awaited settlement to the Cobell class-action lawsuit regarding the mismanagement of three hundred thousand individual American Indian trust accounts.

"Today marks the closure of a contentious court battle spanning over 13 years concerning the manner in which Indian trust funds were shamefully managed by the U.S. government. I commend President Obama for fulfilling his promise to bring closure to the matter, as well as Attorney General Holder and Interior Secretary Salazar, who have shown that this is a new day for strengthening relations with American Indian citizens. This agreement will not only make amends to the thousands of Indian account holders whose monies were mismanaged in the past, but it brings needed resources to address fractionated Indian lands.

"All of Indian Country owes a large debt of gratitude to Elouise Cobell, who has dedicated over a decade of her life to fight this battle. She has been a stalwart advocate, who never wavered in her pursuit to collect what was duly owed to affected tribal communities, despite unfair attacks and pressure to end her quest over the years. Today, the hard-fought efforts of Elouise and all of Indian Country have been vindicated." 

http://64.38.12.138/News/2009/017683.asp

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#44 Dec-12-2009 12:42:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Statement by Sen. Dorgan on Cobell Settlement
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Filed Under: Cobell

STATEMENT BY SENATOR BYRON DORGAN (D-NORTH DAKOTA), CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS

“I welcome today’s announcement that a settlement agreement between the plaintiffs of the Cobell lawsuit and the federal government has been reached. For a long time, I have believed that settling the case, rather than continuing to litigate it for more years, at even greater cost, is the best course.

“For many, many, many years, the federal government’s performance of its trust responsibility for assets owned by American Indians has been shameful. The losses incurred by Native Americans as a result of the federal government’s mismanagement of Indian trust accounts have been enormous.

“Ultimately, Congress must approve implementation of this settlement. I am committed to ensuring that the settlement is fair and equitable, and to Congress considering it expeditiously.

“I especially want to congratulate Secretary Salazar for his successful efforts to settle this case. By allowing the federal government to move beyond the Cobell lawsuit, he is clearing the decks for the federal government to begin acting to keep the many other promises it made to Native Americans, including health care, housing, law enforcement, and the many other areas where action has been long postponed.”

http://64.38.12.138/News/2009/017680.asp

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#45 Dec-12-2009 01:06:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Senate committee sets Cobell settlement hearing
Friday, December 11, 2009
Filed Under: Cobell

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is moving quickly to address the Cobell settlement.

The committee has scheduled a hearing next Thursday, December 17, to discuss the $3.4 billion deal. A witness list hasn't been made public.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the committee, supports the settlement. "It has been a long and tortured trail for that case," he said on Wednesday.

"My hope is that the settlement of the Cobell case would allow us to move beyond and begin to address other issues" in Indian Country, Dorgan added.

The deal requires legislative and judicial approval. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he hopes Congress takes action by the end of the month.

The hearing will take place immediately following a business committee meeting at 2:15pm in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building.

Get the Story:
OVERSIGHT HEARING on the Cobell v. Salazar Settlement Agreement
(December 17, 2009)
http://indian.senate.gov/public/index.c … 727b7bfe09

Relevant Documents:
Agreement  http://www.cobellsettlement.com/docs/20 … eement.pdf
Press Release  http://www.doi.gov/news/09_News_Releases/120809a.html
Q&A  http://www.doi.gov/documents/Cobell_v_Salazar_QA.html
Audio  http://www.doi.gov/news/audio/recording … lement.mp3


http://64.38.12.138/News/2009/017744.asp

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#46 Dec-12-2009 06:06:pm

Chevy
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Registered: Aug-01-2007
Posts: 1577

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Elouise Cobell is one heck of a woman. ! cooltongue

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#47 Dec-12-2009 06:07:pm

Chevy
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Registered: Aug-01-2007
Posts: 1577

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

June 10, 1996 to Dec. 2009
13 years

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#48 Dec-19-2009 11:24:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Cobell urges Senate to move quickly on settlement
Friday, December 18, 2009
Filed Under: Cobell


The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing on Thursday to address the Cobell settlement.

The settlement provides $1.4 billion to Indian trust fund beneficiaries and authorizes $3 billion for a land consolidation program. The deal requires Congressional approval -- action must be taken by the end of this month or else the plaintiffs and the federal government will have to agree to an extension.

If Congress acts soon, money can be in the hands of Indian beneficiaries by fall 2010, said Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. She said most people will get $1,000 but many will receive more money, based on the type of activity that occurred on their land.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the committee, said he supports the settlement. He said resolution will allow the federal government to focus on education, health, law enforcement and other needs in Indian Country.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the vice chairman, asked about attorney's fees. Tom Perrelli of the Department of Justice said Cobell's legal team could receive as much as $100 million for their 13 years of work but noted that the actual amount will be determined in court.

Barrasso also had questions about land consolidation. David Hayes, the deputy secretary at Interior, said the program will focus on parcels with 20 or more owners, an effort that will result in addressing the most cumbersome parts of the Indian trust.

But he acknowledged that it will take between $6 billion and $8 billion to "truly resolve" fractionation of the Indian estate. He also said the land consolidation program won't focus on parcels with mineral assets because he said they are harder to assess.

Get the Story:
Indian trust fund OK may miss deadline (AP 12/18)
http://www.greatfallstribune.com/articl … 02/news01/

Attorneys Fees in Cobell Case Capped at $100 million (The Blog of Legal Times 12/17)
http://legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2009/ … llion.html

SCIA Hearing:
OVERSIGHT HEARING on the Cobell v. Salazar Settlement Agreement
(December 17, 2009)
http://indian.senate.gov/public/index.c … 727b7bfe09


http://64.38.12.138/News/2009/017849.asp

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#49 Dec-25-2009 11:27:pm

bls926
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Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

The United States continues to steal from Indians
A settlement will pay back $3.4 billion of $137 billion owed. And that's just what was documented.

By BILL MEANS
Last update: December 14, 2009 - 7:34 PM


With all due respect to Elouise Cobell, lead plaintiff in a recently settled lawsuit over American Indian trust funds ("U.S. to pay Indians $3.4B," Dec. 9), I think the United States is continuing a policy of "Indians are not humans."

During the course of this long-running, class-action litigation, it has been documented that the United States owes Indian people more than $137 billion for mismanagement of trust accounts. That was established just by the documents that were presented.

The original federal judge on this case was Royce Lamberth, who held at least three secretaries of the Interior in contempt for not producing thousands of additional documents. Also, during the course of this case, hundreds of relevant documents were found in the trash by Interior Department employees, who reported this to the court and to Interior Department officials.

Those of us who own Indian land, heirs and the American public do not know the total amount owed to Indian people, because the government has refused to turn over all the documents ordered by the federal court. Lamberth was removed from the case; officials in the Bush administration argued that he was biased in favor of Indians.

This has rarely happened in the history of U.S. jurisprudence. Lamberth was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan and is a Texas Republican.

So basically, now, the U.S. government is saying that it has identified the thief of Indian royalties and resources as itself. It has allowed the thief to determine the value of the settlement and mostly has allowed the thief to keep what has been stolen.

Only in America if you steal something and hold onto it long enough does it becomes yours.

To add insult to injury, the government is clearing its conscience by paying back 2.48 percent of the so-far known value of what the United States stole in the first place. Paying $3.4 billion on a known debt of $137 billion is a national disgrace; this needs to be known by all Americans. Cobell should have at least held out until all the documents were presented or a final calculation of the debt was determined.

In the words of a great Oglala Lakota statesman Chief Red Cloud: "The United States made us many promises, but they kept only one. They promised to take our land, and they took it."

Bill Means is a board member of the International Indian Treaty Council.

http://www.startribune.com/opinion/comm … 62557.html

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#50 Jan-07-2010 12:03:am

bls926
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From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cobell historical accounting trial

Editorials

Native Americans win $3.4 billion in lawsuit against U.S.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

IT TOOK NEARLY 14 years of litigation, three administrations and two contempt citations against Cabinet secretaries, but Native Americans are finally poised to receive some measure of restitution from the U.S. government for its gross mismanagement of Indian trusts.

Elouise Cobell filed a class-action suit in 1996 on behalf of herself and the hundreds of thousands of other Native Americans who own land kept in trust by the U.S. government. The government collected oil and gas royalties from private companies that leased the property and was supposed to disperse the funds to the individual Indians with an ownership stake. But billions of dollars appear to have been unaccounted for since the government began the program more than 120 years ago.

While the government's lapses in managing the accounts were disturbing, its stonewalling during the Bush administration and its apparent destruction of information and noncooperation during the Clinton years were infuriating, unnecessary and cruel and served only to compound already great injustices.

President Obama made good on his campaign promise to resolve the matter, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, as well as a host of other Interior and Justice Department officials, negotiated in good faith. Last month, the administration announced a settlement worth $3.4 billion, with roughly $1.4 billion going to individuals and the remainder set aside for the government to buy plots of land that will be turned over to the pertinent Indian tribe. The deal also includes establishment of a $60 million scholarship fund for Native American children, and the government has agreed to set up a commission to study the trust program to ensure that such lapses do not happen again. Congress has until Feb. 28 to sign off on the agreement, which must also be approved by a D.C. federal judge before funds are dispersed.

The payout to most individuals will probably be small. The 300,000 or so class-action suit members are guaranteed $1,000. Many will get a few thousand dollars more, depending on the oil or gas deposits on their properties. A dozen or so with the largest and richest parcels could receive $1 million or more.

"Did we get all the money that was due us? Probably not," said Ms. Cobell. But she agreed to the settlement because she saw it as the best deal that was likely to be achieved. Plus, she added, "individual Indian beneficiaries . . . are dying every single day without their money."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co … 03141.html

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