Mark Zuckerberg is “reconsidering” suing Hawaiians to make them sell their stakes in parcels of land scattered throughout his Kauai estate, he told Business Insider on Tuesday.
The Facebook CEO was met with widespread criticism after it was recently revealed that he filed quiet title lawsuits against a few hundred Hawaiians with ancestral ownership rights to portions of land on his 700-acre property.
“Based on feedback from the local community, we are reconsidering the quiet title process and discussing how to move forward,” Zuckerberg said in a statement, which was first reported by BuzzFeed News. “We want to make sure we are following a process that protects the interests of property owners, respects the traditions of native Hawaiians, and preserves the environment.”
Zuckerberg filed eight lawsuits in local court on December 30 against families who collectively inherited 14 parcels of land through the Kuleana Act, a Hawaiian law established in 1850 that for the first time gave natives the right to own the land that they lived on.
The 14 parcels total just 8.04 of the 700 acres Zuckerberg owns, but the law would give any direct family member of a parcel’s original owner the right to enter the billionaire’s otherwise private compound. Because the ownership stakes are passed down and divided among family descendants by the state, many people don’t realise they have a claim until action is taken against them in court.
Zuckerberg has said that the lawsuits suits are designed to “find all these partial owners so we can pay them their fair share,” and that most owners “will now receive money for something they never even knew they had.”
But his decision to pursue expensive litigation against native Hawaiians has not sat well with many locals, including Hawaii State Representative Kaniela Ing.
“We cannot allow billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg to use piles of money to tilt Hawaii’s justice system against local residents,” Ing recently posted on Facebook. “Let’s remind Zuckerberg that, in Hawaii, we approach each other with aloha and talk story first. We don’t initiate conversation by suing our neighbours.”