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Cobell
Elouise Cobell answers questions about trust settlement


Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the Indian trust fund lawsuit, will be answering questions about the proposed settlement to the case. Cobell is a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana.

This is the eighth letter in a series of open letters that I?m sending to Indian Country to answer questions you have asked me about settlement of the Cobell class action lawsuit. Prior Ask Elouise letters can be found on the settlement website: Prior Ask Elouise letters can be found on the settlement website: http://cobellsettlement.com/class/ask_elouise.php.

We also have a "frequently asked questions" section to answer the most common questions we've received: http://cobellsettlement.com/press/faq.php. I can’t answer every question, but I will try to answer as many as I can every week.

The most common question I receive every week relates to whether someone is included in this settlement. Unfortunately, I do not have that information. The settlement agreement provides general guidelines (see prior Ask Elouise letters), but I also understand many of you have unique or unusual circumstances which make it unclear whether you are included. For those of you who still have questions, I recommend that you register to receive all Court-ordered communications to ensure you do not miss important information. There is no need to register if you are receiving a quarterly IIM statement. The Court ultimately will determine who is included in this settlement. Registration information can be found at the end of this and every Ask Elouise letter.

Prior to answering your questions, I wanted to share updated information I received from the government about how much you might receive as part of this settlement. On March 15, 2010 I transmitted an Ask Elouise letter answering the following question: “How much will I receive as a member of the trust administration class?” I’ve included the revised answer, below:

How much will I receive as a member of the trust administration class?
It depends on how much income you've collected into your IIM account. As noted above, each member of the class will receive a baseline payment of $500. Individuals with an IIM account open between 1985 and September 30, 2009 may receive more than $500. This trust administration class payment is separate from, and in addition to, the $1,000 payment to individuals in the historical accounting class and that you can be a member of both classes if you meet the criteria (see prior Ask Elouise letters).

The calculation uses an average of the 10 highest years of trust revenue deposited and recorded in your IIM account - this is called your Assigned Value. That determines your share of the trust administration fund, which tentatively is estimated to be $850 million to $900 million. The following calculations, which are estimates based on information provided by the government, are as follows; however, your final trust administration payment can be more or less.

If your Assigned Value is between .01¢ and $5,000, you will receive between $500 and $1,500.

If your Assigned Value is between $5,000 and $15,000, you will receive between $1,500 and $5,000.

If your Assigned Value is between $15,000 and $30,000, you will receive between $5,000 and $7,500.

If your Assigned Value is between $30,000 and $75,000, you will receive between $7,500 and $15,000.

If your Assigned Value is between $75,000 and $750,000, you will receive between $15,000 and $150,000.

Individuals with an Assigned Value greater than $750,000 will receive more than $150,000.

I heard that the Court ordered another extension to the settlement agreement; what is going on with the settlement?
We still await Congressional approval of the settlement. The District Court met with both parties on Thursday, April 8, 2010. A transcript can be downloaded here: http://cobellsettlement.com/docs/Settlement_status_hearing.pdf. The Court expressed frustration that Congress has not acted on this settlement which is good for individuals Indians and Indian Country as a whole. It also authorized an extension of the settlement agreement for an additional six weeks, until the start of the Memorial Day recess. The Court also noted that if Congress does not act by the middle of May, it will hold a public hearing and invite the Secretary of the Interior, the Director of Office Management and Budget, and appropriate members of Congress to explain why the settlement has not been authorized by Congress. I continue to be disappointed and frustrated that Congress has not passed legislation at this late date. The settlement is fragile and it will terminate if legislation is not passed. I and our attorneys continue to push for legislation, but we now are analyzing our options in Court in the event settlement continues to be thwarted.

I have multiple IIM accounts across different regions, do I receive multiple checks under the settlement agreement?
Members of the historical accounting class and/or the trust administration class will receive one payment for membership in each class. This means, for instance, that an individual with five accounts could receive a maximum of two payments: one for his or her membership in the historical accounting class and one for his or her membership in the trust administration class. If an individual has multiple accounts and is a member of the trust administration class, the calculation is as follows: The Assigned Value is calculated on an account by account basis with each of the calculations added together to derive a collective Assigned Value for that individual. In this way, all recorded activity across an individual’s multiple accounts is considered.

I’ve registered on the website, but I’ve received no communications from anybody about the settlement, what does registration do for me?
If you are not currently receiving an IIM account statement from the government, the most important thing you can do is to register on the website or by calling the toll free number (see below). The purpose of registering your contact information is so that the Court may order that Court-ordered communications be sent to you. These Court-ordered communications will likely include important information about the settlement and your rights and obligations under the agreement. Please be aware that you will not necessarily receive any information until legislation is passed by Congress. You don’t have to register if you don’t want to, but I’m recommending that everybody register to ensure they receive important Court-ordered information.

If you are not currently receiving an IIM statement from the government, please remember to register for correspondence over the Internet or by calling the number below.

Internet: https://cert.tgcginc.com/iim/register.php
Telephone: 1-800-961-6109

If you have a question, send an e-mail to: askelouise@cobellsettlement.com.

Otherwise you can send me a letter to the address below. To expedite the processing of your letters our contractor has set up a post office box in Ohio, but I assure you this letter is coming from me and I will see your letters.

Ask Elouise
Cobell Settlement
PO Box 9577
Dublin, OH 43017-4877

Thank you and keep your questions coming!

Relevant Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

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