Trusts & Estates

Gov. Liable for $455M in American Indian Trust Dispute

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In a long-running dispute involving claims that the federal government has swindled American Indians under a trust account system created more than 100 years ago, a federal judge has sided, to a point, with the trust holders.

But rather than the $48 billion that the American Indian trust holders claim they are owed, U.S. District Judge James Robertson, has found the government liable for only $455 million, the New York Times reports.

That’s because, Robertson reasons, trust law is applied differently to government trustees, compared with private citizens.

The Times quotes plaintiff spokesman Bill McAllister, “He basically accepted the government’s argument that not that much money is missing. He rejected our methodology and our theory of the case.”

Robertson also didn’t order the government to pay the plaintiffs, who are led by Elouise Pepion Cobell, a member of the Blackfoot tribe in Montana. It’s a class-action suit that dates back to 1996.

More hearings are scheduled to resolve payment issues.

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