PART 7 of A WHITE PAPER GUIDE TO HB724
SUPPLEMENT #6 hashtag #whitepaperhb724
DATED JULY 21, 2014
UNCLAIMED MINERAL PROCEEDS COMMISSION IN ITS HISTORICAL MISSION
March 21, 2014/April 25, 2014
BY MR. GEORGE FARIAS
PROPOSED DRAFT OF THE UNCLAIMED MINERAL PROCEEDS COMMISSION PRESENTED AND REVIEWED AT THEIR COMMITTEE MEETING OF SEPTEMBER 12, 2014.
The Claims Process and Current Barriers
The draft report of the HB724 Commission is welcome for the public to review its contents and provide
feedback for an improved final product, and commendable as this is a very important step in the process.
I have several concerns, comments, and recommendations after an initial personal review and the review
by the commission of its major sections during the September 12th meeting.
The draft report is lengthy and cumbersome. Sixty pages, even for a final report, is excessive. I doubt
if any legislators, with their busy schedules, will take the time to read it in its entirety. Perhaps a summary
report of 3-5 pages with conclusions and separate exhibits would be preferable.
For example, Conclusion Number One would refer to HB724 Mandate #1, see Exhibit A for details,
Conclusion Number Two, HB724 Mandate # 2, See Exhibit B, and, so on. What readers will seek is
the bottom line of the report addressing HB724. Everything else is superfluous.
The report should steer away from irrelevant content and especially continuing personal criticisms
bordering on slander. The continued misinformation about attorney Eileen McKenzie Fowler and her
program is deplorable and unprofessional and serves only to harm her, her clients, and the esteem of
commission members. One criticism concerns her fees and the patently false notions that she has
amassed millions and abused her clients. The facts will show exactly the opposite.
Initially, ten years ago, Mrs. Fowler, was charging $ 100-$200 per person to obtain a declaratory judgment.
When I joined her program in 2006 the fee was $ 250.00. Today I believe it is $ 375.00. I paid $ 250.00 for
my first declaratory judgment. If I never collect a single mineral royalty the judgment itself is of immense value
to me and my descendants and worth a lot more than what I paid for it. It takes hours of work to prepare for
a court hearing. Some attorneys charge this much for one hour of consultation and may not even take the
case. I read in the newspaper recently that an attorney in a high profile state case is charging $ 450 an hour
perhaps being charged to taxpayers.
I am not privy to Mrs. Fowler’s finances but as a former accountant, knowing what I paid, and
since she noted a total of 11,000 clients adjudicated in our HEIRS brochure, I can estimate her annual
budget. Assume that her average fee has been $300.00. Multiplying that rate by 11,000 produces a
gross income of $ 3, 300,000. Divide that number by ten (10) years of operation and her average
annual budget is $330,000.
Divide that by 12 months and her monthly budget is $27,500. She has staff of four-five case
managers who confirm genealogical data preparing and copying voluminous court documents. To that
payroll with taxes, add rent, utilities, travel to various judicial districts, hotel, court costs, legal consultations,
and administrative expenses. These details are private but one can readily see that what is left over for her
as income Is significantly below what an average attorney of her experience would earn. Mrs. Fowler is in
good standing with the Texas Bar Association, and in constant consultation with them. I would expect
more respect and professional courtesy toward her, at least, by her legal colleagues.
In addition, Mrs. Fowler has never promised her client millions, although statements can be misinterpreted.
Perhaps the mention of the millions of dollars the State of Texas has misappropriated over 34 years gives some
persons the impression that they will become wealthy. This is a personal misperception and not one that is
promised or promoted. All HEIRS reports and other documents have informed clients that their recovery
may be modest and that they have no claims if their land grants have no production. In my White Paper
I noted the fact that our heirs would not become wealthy when we obtain the authorization to file claims.
Another example of deficiency in the draft report is rehashing testimony that has no relevance. In particular
I am speaking about the comment in the HEIRS brochure under “Unclaimed Surface and Mineral Rights,”
about transfer of minerals title when the contract is silent on the matter. My White Paper Supplement # 2
explained that this clause is irrelevant because, in the minerals we claim, no contract has ever been found
and that is why the wells are designated as “unknown”. This clause has not been proven right or wrong but
to avoid further confusion we will reprint the brochure and eliminate this offending clause.
One mandate that has been avoided by the commission is the total sum of unclaimed minerals deposited
in the general fund and their disposition. The transparent fund (Type 1) of unclaimed royalties abandoned by
their title holders is well recognized and does not need to be endlessly mentioned in deliberations and reports.
What is lacking is the total sum of unclaimed minerals from wells with no name deposited by the state since
1980. (Type 2). While the monies have been spent, it is incumbent upon the commission to provide the
legislature the total sums deposited during this period. The comptroller’s office is obliged to provide this
data and I request it be presented to the commission at the October 24th meeting. The commission has
requested numerous pieces of information from descendants to assist the process and now we, in turn,
ask the commission to produce this important record of deposits from Texas as a whole.
There are sections of the draft report indicating that there should be no valid claims in that this matter
was settled 100 years ago. This is completely erroneous. This commission was created to recommend
solutions to resolve this problem which remains an important and critical issue for land grant heirs. The
commission should stop the obfuscation of issues by repeated references of how well Type I funds are
managed by the comptroller’s office, and how much is paid out annually. In the main, this fund is
meaningless for our cause and valuable time would be saved by mentioning this separate property only
in passing. Mrs. Fowler has prepared information on the unclaimed wells by grant and the formula for
distribution. She was denied to be put on the Invited testimony for the meeting of September 12th, but this
information will be presented very soon to the commission. Mr. Bennie Bock was correct in stating that the
formula for distribution of funds needs to be simple to be accepted. Mrs. Fowler’s formula, with some fine
points, essentially takes the unclaimed mineral production since September 1, 1980 and divides it by the
number of oldest living heirs , called primaries, for each land grant. This formula is also legally based on
the laws of distribution and descent and is also mentioned in the Heirs brochure in the
The legal basis for our claims is Common law. If the commission disputes this fact, we want to know,
“ then who are the rightful owners?” We want this answered at the next meeting of October 24th. It was
puzzling on September 12th to hear statements that the heirs have no rights to unclaimed funds, yet there
followed discussions about a formula for distribution.
Much ado about nothing has been discussed about the exit of Judge David Peeples from hearing
and approving declaratory judgments. His reasons are personal
but he assigned ad-litem judges to hear Mrs. Fowler’s cases and hearings are being scheduled currently.
The declaratory judgment is a valid legal process and one definitely required by the comptroller to pay claims.
Statements were also made at the September 12th meeting that Mrs. Fowler has failed to obtain
unclaimed royalties for her clients over the years. The blame lies with the Texas state bureaucracy,
not with her. About five years ago she contacted the comptroller’s office and explained several initial
claims she was about to file. A representative of the comptroller informed her that these claims could
not be paid, that the law would have to be changed, and that the state had no money to pay these
types of claims.
First of all, the representative was incorrect in her first statement. Present law and the
comptroller’s guidelines detail the steps to claim by heirship. The law does not need to be changed,
but this led to the failed attempt in 2011 to amend the property law. The bill did not pass and apparently
not necessary. Secondly, it was correct that the state had no money, because for over 34 years the state
has balanced the budget on the backs of the land grant heirs, and in years past prior to 1985. However,
as noted, the state has to stand behind its obligations and, if the money is gone, the state will have to find
the necessary sums to pay our claims. Again, I explain this in the Heirs Brochure in the section “ The
Claims Process and Current Barriers.”
What the commission fails to grasp, or refuses to acknowledge, by not reading and understanding
material presented, is that since our heirs group has no distinct title to unclaimed wells, it is impossible
to match wells with Individual heirs. Our ancestors who obtained the grants had original titles. What is
happening here is that a group of land grant heirs is laying claim to the oil and gas production in their
ancestral lands of a group of unclaimed wells. This type of claim has never been considered or paid in the
past. This is a new phenomenon (Heirs Brochure, “The Claims Process and Current Barriers”). What is
required singularly to solve this problem is to obtain a formal legal opinion to confirm that the heirs are
correct in their rightful claims under the law, an opinion this commission refuses to obtain. The solution is
simple to clear this barrier. We do not have to engage in endless, immaterial, misleading and irrelevant
points of view. Most of this commission’s work has been a waste of valuable time for the commissioners
and the heirs who have also spent personal resources to travel to Austin. Truth is immutable. It never
changes. and in time, in spite of artificial barriers, we expect to prevail in our claims. One advantage to
this commission is that our claims are now in the public record. History will judge who is right and who is
wrong here, but we cannot wait for the judgment of history.
One other item merits a review and comment. Considerable time has been taken in testimony
about the injustices to South Texas families in the past due to murders and theft of property. This
is a separate legal issue and is not an issue the commission is charged with reviewing. Many
families suffered injuries and those abusive acts, as my daughter, Diane, testified, created a pattern
that has been passed down from one generation to the next permeating every aspect of our lives. If
those persons can prove those illegal acts, that have no statute of limitation, they can seek restitution
from the state. If ignored, lawsuits can be filed in federal court as the State of Texas has violated the
Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution numerous times. This constitutional amendment
concerns the responsibilities of the state to protect the life and property of its citizens. Not only
does the State of Texas have a miserable record of protecting the rights of South Texas families,
the state condoned the illegal acts and agents of the state were complicit in many of these atrocities.
Chairman Lance K. Bruun at the January meeting stated that the commission was not formed to hear
grievances. I commended him for hearing these stories in spite of this rule but the rule should be enforced
now rather than spending valuable time deflecting the unclaimed mineral issue. These historical crimes of
murder and thievery are separate but related to the issue of minerals, the purview of this commission. In the
instance of unclaimed minerals the state has been legally negligent as well.
In spite of my disenchantment, I see a positive dawn in the state of Texas. Current generations, as has
been noted, did not commit the aforementioned abuses. However, present day legislators and state officials
have the power and the means to provide relief and ameliorate the excesses of the past. I am not naïve
enough to think that bad habits and bad business practices can be easily changed in a governmental culture
but I am encouraged that more persons of good will are coming into positions of leadership in our great state.
The future bodes well for all Texas citizens as long as we stay informed, vigilant, and vote to demand our
rights under the law.
Finally, I repeat and emphasize my criticism of the commission disregarding the mandates of HB 724 by
not employing staff members of state agencies to provide important data and not getting pertinent legal
opinions from the Texas Attorney General. ( White Paper Supplement # 3). It is not up to the HEIRS
group to provide the commission all the information it needs to deliberate, although substantial material
has been provided. The Commission must do its own independent research, and cannot finalize any
credible report unless they do the work to support the claims of heirs or produce concrete and unassailable
evidence to refute their claims.
In the absence of not performing their specifically charged legal duty the commissioners run the risk of
being in contempt of the legislature.
October 6, 2014
Author George Farías blogged and used by permission Please note: these are Mr. Farias' personal presentations to the HB724 commission as a descendant/heir and do not reflect the opinions of anyone else. They are a matter of public record.
Photo Credit: Source: the Voice of Change Network Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved
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