Lawyers anticipate failures in Indian trust fund accounting plan

The Interior Department is expected to file a proposal this week detailing how it will review American Indians' assets held in trust by the federal government, but plaintiffs in a long-running lawsuit already say the plan is likely to be flawed.

"Defendants impermissibly exclude from the accounting the vast majority of the beneficiary class and their trust assets," lawyers for lead plaintiff Eloise Cobell and others in the class action lawsuit Cobell v. Kempthorne argued in a brief filed Tuesday.

In the 61-page document, the first of two to be filed on the subject, lawyers argued that the plan will likely wrongly exclude 11 categories of account holders and assets.

Justice Department lawyers are due to submit Interior's accounting plan to U.S. District Judge James Robertson by Thursday. A Justice spokesman said Wednesday that the plan was not yet available. Lawyers for Cobell said their filing was based on an accounting plan proposed by Interior officials in 2003, quoting the defense as saying that the new plan won't contain anything that was not in the earlier proposal.

The court filings are in preparation for a trial-like hearing scheduled to start in October that will examine the adequacy of Interior's accounting for assets held for American Indians since the 1800s. Groups pay Interior to use American Indian lands for oil, gas and mineral extraction, as well as other activities, and Interior then distributes money to trust funds. But the long-standing lawsuit claims the department has mismanaged the accounts.

Interior officials have proposed carving out some accounts as outside the scope of a reckoning the department was ordered to provide under an earlier court ruling, and have said some types of assets also do not require an accounting.

In the new brief, Cobell's lawyers argue that four proposed exclusions that already have been listed are not justified: accounts closed before a 1994 court ruling, transactions that took place before a 1938 law took effect, payments made directly to beneficiaries under Interior-negotiated oil and gas lease agreements, and payments made to deceased beneficiaries, even if they have living heirs.

They also argued against a series of "likely" exclusions that have been proposed in the past, including accounting for noncash assets such as trust land, assets that were unlawfully turned over from minor account-holders to tribes, lease income that was due to land-owners but never paid, and accounts opened since 2001.

"Impermissible exclusions with respect to the scope of defendants' historical accounting plan remain so remarkably broad that an adequate accounting will not be rendered for the plaintiff class," the lawyers wrote in rejecting the expected plan.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.