Latest News: M&S Wins Millions for Victims of Volkswagen Pollution, Ends SSA’s Unlawful Seizure of Old Taxpayer Debts
M&S Wins Historic Settlement for Cherokee Nation in Environmental Justice Case Against Volkswagen Group
American Indian tribes will receive a $50 million trust account to mitigate pollution from vehicles as part of a historic $14.7 billion settlement from the Volkswagen Group. Mehri & Skalet and co-counsel represented the Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in connection with allegations that Volkswagen Group and its related entities cheated on emissions tests and deceived their customers. Mehri & Skalet and co-counsel worked with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Environmental Protection Agency to help secure and improve the $50 million Tribal Allocation Subaccount, ensuring that Indian tribes receive a proportional allocation of the mitigation trust. Tribes will be able to submit funding requests for pollution-reduction projects beginning in late 2017.
The legal team emphasized the United States’ obligation to engage with federally recognized Indian tribes on a government-to-government level, and the Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians were recognized as leaders in this effort.
Media Coverage About Settlement:
New York Times, “Engineering a Deception: What Led to Volkswagen’s Diesel Scandal”
Reuters, “U.S. judge approves $14.7 billion deal in VW diesel scandal”
NPR, “Judge Approves VW’s $14.7 Billion Settlement Over Emissions Scandal”
M&S Lawsuit Ends Social Security Administration’s Unlawful Seizure of Old Taxpayer Debts
The Treasury Department ceased its practice of seizing tax refunds to recover debts from alleged overpayments more than 15 years old and agreed to repay refunds that could reach as high as $56 million. For three years, Mehri & Skalet served as co-counsel on the case that represented taxpayers and put pressure on the Social Security Administration to end the unlawful seizures. Frequently, the tax refunds were seized from children whose deceased parents had been the actual recipients of the SSA payments decades earlier, even though the payments were supposed to be used for the benefit of the children. The lawsuit, which was done pro bono by all attorneys involved, represented a number of taxpayers who sought to reverse the SSA policy that was born out of a one-line change in the 2008 farm bill. As part of the agreement, the SSA will be offering refunds to as many as 65,000 individuals whose tax refunds were seized to repay alleged debts.
To read more about the case, and about the taxpayers who were personally affected, check out this Washington Post article.