Friday, January 5, 2018

Event: Commonfund Forum March 11-13, 2018

TSW Community,

If you're interested in learning more about sovereign wealth and portfolio management, a good educational event is the upcoming Commonfund Forum March 11-13 in at the JW Marriott in Orlando, FL.

The Forum is geared towards sophisticated investors representing endowments and foundations, pension funds, healthcare systems, charities and other investors. Its a three day series of plenary sessions and breakout meetings focused on key issues of investment policy, strategy, risk management and governance. Each year, there are about 60 outside speakers, representing leaders from the investment community, academia, government, public policy groups, endowments and foundations.

This year's forum features former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, among others.

Commonfund was founded in 1971 as an independent nonprofit asset management firm with a grant from the Ford Foundation. Commonfund today manages customized investment programs for endowments, foundations and public pension funds.

I attended the Forum in 2016, along with leaders from a Native Hawaiian Organization, and thought it was of value. 

Commonfund also has a trustee and board member training program called the Commonfund Endowment Institute, which at one time was held annually at Yale University. I don't believe they held the institute last year, but assuming they hold it this year I will plan to attend.

I will likely attend the Forum in March. Please let me know if your tribe, ANC or NHO is planning to attend and we can touch base while we're all in Orlando.

Know of any other events the community should know about? Send them my way!

In Perpetuity.

NOTE: I'm now realizing the Commonfund Forum may be a invitation-only event since folks haven't been able to see the 2018 agenda or registration link just by going to the Commonfund website. If you're having trouble registering, drop me a line and I'll touch base with the Commonfund folks.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Cobell Legacy: Trust Settlements as Catalyst for Tribal Sovereign Wealth

TSW Community,

If you're not familiar with Elouise Cobell, you should be.

In 1996, Elouise Cobell filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government (Interior and Treasury) regarding their mismanagement of trust assets on behalf of Native Americans.

In December 1999, along with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), Cobell won a precedent-setting ruling that required the federal government to conduct an accounting of all funds held in trust.

In December 2006, NARF filed a class action lawsuit seeking an accounting of billions of dollars in tribal trust funds. The class action sought to represent more than 250 tribal government and coincided with several other individual lawsuits filed by more than 100 other tribes.

2006 was important as the statute of limitations to file trust accounting lawsuits expired on December 31, after the 109th Congress refused to extend it amid opposition from the Bush administration.

In late 2009, the Cobell case was settled for $3.4B, with $1.4B going to individual plaintiffs and another $2B going towards the repurchase of fractionated lands stemming from the Dawes Act.

Also in 2009, attorneys for many of the tribes wrote to President Obama and asked his administration to expedite settlement discussions. In April 2010, Obama administration officials, including then-Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, met with the attorneys and started a settlement process.

In 2011, the Obama administration agreed to pay the Osage Nation (a tribe with significant oil and gas assets) $380M in a settlement. 

In 2012, the ball started rolling when the administration settled 41 tribes for more than $1B. At the end of 2012, that number increased to 61 tribes.

In 2014, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations settled for $184M ($46.5M to Chickasaw, $139.5M to Choctaw). Navajo Nation also settled in 2014 for $554M.  Including the Navajo Nation the Federal government has paid more than $2.61 billion in settlement to 80 tribes.

The IRS has a running list of tribes who have settled their trust lawsuits.

Just as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 helped capitalize 13 Regional Corporations and more than 200 Village Corporations with approximately 44 million acres and nearly $1B in cash (more than $6B in todays $$), the settlements enabled by Cobell have the potential to push Indian Country into a new era of self-sufficiency, self-determination and sovereignty.

Did your tribe negotiate a settlement via the Cobell legacy? How are these fund being invested? Let me know or just leave a comment!

In Perpetuity,