July 20, 2018

A D.C. federal judge on Thursday approved a plan to distribute $38 million from the landmark Keepseagle settlement to nonprofit organizations serving Native American farmers and ranchers, largely rejecting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's claims that two of the awards posed potential conflicts of interest.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan approved most of the recommendations by class counsel for the first distribution from about $380 million in funding left over from the $680 million Keepseagle deal, which resolved claims that a USDA loan program favored white farmers over Native American farmers for almost two decades.

Under a modification to the deal's cy pres provisions — which allow courts to distribute funds "as near as possible" to the original intention of a deal — the planned distribution of $38 million will go to 34 groups, with awards from as little as $150,000 to as much as $9 million.

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The claimants are represented by Joseph M. Sellers and Christine E. Webber of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Jessica Ring Amunson of Jenner & Block LLP, David J. Frantz of Conlon Frantz & Phelan LLP, Phillip L. Fraas of Stinson Leonard Street LLP, and Sarah Vogel.

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