I, along with many other producer organizations, have been receiving questions regarding “When will the DFA Settlement Monies be received by farmers?” The answer: NOT anytime soon, and NOT until the proper reviews have been completed by first, the official Claims Administrator, Rust Consulting, followed by reviews and approvals of their work and official report by THE COURT!
As of Monday, August 19, an additional round of audit letters were received by several class members/producers in several states from Rust Consulting, the Claims Administrator. These letters were checking pounds claims discrepancies reported by Class members ranging from only a view pounds to several hundred thousand pounds. One producer reported that a phone call to Rust is all it took to correct the requested information.
However, that letter does state a response deadline (to Rust Consulting) of September 16 for verifying or correcting the information. Provided there is not another round of audit letters, and observing the January 2013 Dean Settlement payment process as an example, it is predicted that it will be late October AT THE EARLIEST before DFA Settlement Checks can be expected. Any delays will delay checks even further.
If anyone tells a producer to ‘expect payments anytime soon,” ask where they are getting their information. Unless that source can provide documents from the Court’s record, they are citing no official source. Speculation and ‘country-store discussions’ are not proper in this process!
The COURT is supervising this process, under the guidance of long-established Federal Court Rules. Documents filed on the Court’s record are the only source of accurate information, and are made public when there is official action. Here is the general sequence of events which will occur before checks can finally be issued:
1. The first step has been taken with the filing of a Motion requesting Payment #2 in the Dean Foods Settlement.
2. Requests were made in that document to alter some of the pounds claimed in the Dean Settlement, which in turn may affect the final allocation of pounds to an individual claimant in the DFA Settlement.
3. Those requests must be reviewed and approved by the Court before proceeding to the next step – the filing of a Motion requesting the Disbursement of the DFA Settlement Monies. Rust Consulting must complete their work before that Motion is filed.
4. Since the DFA Settlement will involve some substantial payments, and will be dispensed at one time, every care must be taken to make sure the pounds, and resulting monies, are allocated as fairly as possible and to the Court’s satisfaction before the Judge will approve issuing checks to producers.
To clear up a couple of other ongoing questions:
1.) The settlement checks will not be coming directly from DFA (Dairy Farmers of America. In accordance with Court procedure, DFA placed $140 Million in an escrow account earlier this year. The interest accrued by that fund becomes part of the Settlement fund. The eventual checks will come from Rust Consulting, Claims Administrator.
2.) There is no word yet on when the sealed documents, which DFA agreed to open to the public per terms of the Settlement Agreement, will be available for public review.
Please, Please, be patient. Most events in this case are not our area of expertise, are defined by Rules of Federal Court and process, and are dependent upon work performed by others, and are quite frankly, out of our control. News of important events concerning payments will be distributed as quickly as it becomes available. This is a complex legal event, and while the finish line is hopefully in sight, it is still a legal event, and the final outcome can be determined by a variety of factors.
(Note: photo at top is Greeneville, TN Federal Courthouse, the site of the hearings in the Southeast Milk Litigation, now in its sixth year.)