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Civil Rights: Additional Actions in Pigford II Claims Process Could Reduce Risk of Improper Payments
Daniel Garcia-Diaz (au)
On April 14, 1999, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved the settlement of Pigford v. Glickman (Pigford I), a class action lawsuit brought against the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) by African American farmers. The farmers alleged that USDA had willfully discriminated against them and other African American farmers by (1) denying or delaying the processing of their applications for farm loans and benefit programs and (2) failing to properly investigate and resolve their discrimination complaints. The settlement was estimated at the time to be worth at least $2.25 billion, the largest civil rights settlement in U.S. history. By the settlement's claim filing deadline, approx. 22,700 individuals had filed claims for relief under the settlement; however, about 74,000 additional individuals submitted requests to file late claims, about 97% of whom were not allowed to proceed under the settlement. After congressional hearings, Congress passed legislation -- the 2008 Farm Bill -- which permitted claimants who had submitted a late-filing request under Pigford I and had not received a final determination on the merits of their claims to bring a civil action in federal court to obtain such a determination. The legislation made available $100 million for payment of successful claims. After the legislation was enacted, 23 separate complaints were filed -- together representing approx. 40,000 individual claims -- which were subsequently consolidated into a single case commonly referred to as Pigford II. After nearly 2 years of litigation, a settlement agreement was reached providing that $1.25 billion be made available for the resolution of claims, contingent upon congressional approval of $1.15 billion in funding beyond the $100 million made available by the 2008 Farm Bill. This report examined: (1) the internal control created to identify and deny fraudulent or otherwise invalid claims under the settlement; and (2) the extent to which the internal control design and operation provide reasonable assurance that fraudulent or otherwise invalid claims are identified and denied. This is a print on demand report.
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