WHAT: The federal government has agreed to pay $3.4 billion to settle claims that it mismanaged the revenue in American Indian trust funds for decades, hopefully ending one of the largest and most complex class-action lawsuits ever brought against the United States.
WHY: Starting in 1887, the Interior Department gradually took over management of about 56 million acres of Indian trust land, administering leases for mining, livestock grazing, timber harvesting and drilling for oil and gas. In the 2009 fiscal year, it collected about $298 million for more than 384,000 individual Indian accounts.
THE DISPUTE: The Indian lawsuit filed in 1996 accused the feds of historical accounting irregularities and mismanagement spanning three presidencies. It was heard in seven trials taking 192 courtroom days, produced 22 published judicial opinions, and went before a federal appeals court 10 times.