Update: HSUS was on the Hook for Nearly $11 Million to Settle RICO Lawsuit

With news of Ringling Bros.’ circus elephant acts ending last week, we’ve been reminding the public of the Humane Society of the United States and its major legal blunder involving the circus. Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling, sued HSUS and other animal rights groups, gaining through settlement $9.3 million from the ASPCA in 2012 and $15.75 million from HSUS and other groups in 2014.

In a nutshell, Feld sued HSUS et al. because it emerged in a separate lawsuit—one brought by animal rights activists against Feld alleging that the circus abused elephants—that groups including HSUS had covertly paid the key witness, who had lied under oath. The animal-rights lawsuit was heartily dismissed, and a law firm representing the activists was even sanctioned. Feld countersued HSUS, two in-house HSUS lawyers, the Fund for Animals (an HSUS affiliate), and others for bribery, fraud, racketeering and other torts under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The $25 million settlement covered these two cases.

Based on HSUS’s 2013 financial statement, we believed that HSUS/FFA’s share of the settlement was $5.675 million. But according to court filings, HSUS/FFA was actually on the hook for nearly double that: $10.675 million. The difference of $5 million is apparently due to HSUS/FFA having a separate liability insurance policy through Traveler’s.

No doubt, their rates have gone up in recent years.

The court filings come from litigation HSUS and the Fund for Animals are still pursuing against an insurance company, National Union Fire Insurance Co., for coverage of the other part of the RICO settlement. In FFA’s case, National Union won at trial, but a Maryland appeals court sent it back to the trial court in February. Who knows how long the latest courtroom saga will last. But one thing’s for sure: Along with the money HSUS and FFA already paid out for the racketeering settlement, they’ve got new legal bills for this current litigation. Donors who want their money to be used on pets and not lawyers should look elsewhere.

Posted on 05/10/2016 at 2:08 pm by Humane Watch Team.

Topics: CircusesCourtroom Drama


  • kaylor2008

    Remember the ridiculous, fraudulent claims made by hsus against the circus ? C’mon, who remembers that when all they have to do is create a smokescreen of bs and then get cities here and there to adopt ordinances that make it impossible for the circus to operate. Without gainful employment these elephants could end up being killed. It costs a lot to feed, house and care for an animal that size. NO they can’t return to “the wild”. Wild places are becoming scarce, they don’t know how to live in the wild. There is no place for them, unless we maintain a place for them!

    • JOAN S.

      you people still don’t get it! elephants do not belong in the circus! you talk about everything else but the cruelty inflicted upon these animals for your stupid enjoyment the same thing is said about carriage horses or any other animal that is only bred so you can be entertained! well, get over it! the day has come and the people that come to spend money have spoken! we don’t want you to use and abuse these highly intelligent animals for your stupid pet tricks! people like you are selfish and only think about yourself! animals are not going to be a slave to you people!

      • kaylor2008

        AND YOU…………….you think these animals are better off dead.
        Well, I can’t agree with that. These animals need a place to be and we are the ones that are displacing them from their natural habitat so we are the ones that need to provide for them.

      • Stephanie Earl

        Their shows sell out everywhere they go and the people spoke regarding NYC’s corrupt mayor’s plan to ban the carriage horses of NYC (most well-treated working animals on the planet). You don’t get it.

      • MisterCadet

        To me the RICO case was not about ending elephant abuse by Ringling Brothers. It was a stupid, misguided, loser of a lawsuit from day one and it was exposed as such by animal welfare advocates I admire and respect. Using the Endangered Species Act in this context was an untested and absurd strategy. The judge who ruled against the animal rights groups over and over is Emmett Sullivan. Judge Sullivan had previously ruled in favor of environmental groups in several earlier cases using the Endangered Species Acts so he is hardly anti-animal. The lawsuit against the circus was not exactly helped by the corrupt choice of paying a discredited witness to lie.

        HSUS is no innocent in all of this because it could have cut it’s losses after it inherited the case from the Fund for Animals instead of dragging it out for another decade. Wayne Pacelle himself signed a check to the front group in 2007! After the $15.75 million settlement was announced, many animal advocates and bloggers expressed disgust that $25 million was WASTED on this debacle. And the odious HSUS CEO is now claiming credit for Feld Entertainment retiring the last 13 elephants (some are being used in medical research). Actually, the legal drama likely delayed the decision by Feld.

      • Heidi Gartland

        What does the world look like when all domestic animals are set free or no longer enslaved by humans?

      • joe

        why are you on this site which animal rights group are you from JOAN S.