Indian Money (IIM) Accounts - Cobell
The Native American Rights Fund and private co-counsel filed this class action case in federal district court in Washington, D.C. in 1996 to force the federal government to provide an accounting to approximately 300,000 individual Indian money account holders who have their funds held in trust by the federal government. Through years of litigation, decisions of the federal district court and the federal court of appeals held that the government was in breach of trust and must provide an accounting. NARF was active in case until 2006 when the case was fully staffed and NARF's resources were shifted over to help 41 unrepresented Tribes who faced a deadline to file suit against the federal government for accountings of their tribal funds held in trust by the federal government under the same system. That tribal trust fund litigation is proceeding.
On December 8, 2010, President Obama signed into law a settlement of $1.5 billion to be paid to the 300,000 individual Indian money account holders with another $1.9 billion made available to pay individual Indians who want to sell their small fractionated interests in their trust lands to the federal government to be turned over to their Tribes. The total $3.4 billion in settlement funds will be paid out if the Court of Appeals approves the settlement. The federal district court approved the settlement on June 20 and the decision was appealed. The federal district court also awarded $99 million in attorneys' fees and expenses on June 20 and will later decide how the $99 million will be divided among the attorneys if the Court of Appeals approves the settlement and the $99 million award. NARF, through its pro bono attorneys, DLA Piper, has submitted an application for $8,098,821 in attorneys' fees and expenses for its work on the case.
Further information about the settlement can be found at www.cobellsettlement.com.