Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Patience (with a big stick) is a (profitable) Virtue.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989. It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters ever to occur in history.

AFTER more than 20 years EXXON (now Exxon/Mobil) is still working the EXXON VALDEZ oil spill in Alaska. Not on the beaches (that's work for old mother nature) but in the Courtrooms - where the real profits are made.

In the [Exxon Valdez oil spill] case of Baker v. Exxon, an Anchorage jury awarded $287 million for actual damages and $5 billion for punitive damages. The punitive damages amount was equal to a single year's profit by Exxon at that time.

(Big headlines everywhere announced/cheered the decision against greedy big oil)

Exxon appealed the ruling, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the original judge, Russel Holland, to reduce the punitive damages.
On December 6, 2002, the judge announced that he had reduced the damages to $4 billion.

(well that's still a lot of money)

Exxon appealed again
Judge Holland increased the punitive damages to $4.5 billion, plus interest.

(see justice works, it's fair)

After more appeals, and oral arguments heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on January 27, 2006, the damages award was cut to $2.5 billion on December 22, 2006.

(now justice is really working)

Exxon appealed again.
On May 23, 2007, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Exxon/Mobil's request for a third hearing and let stand its ruling that Exxon owes $2.5 billion in punitive damages.

(justice knows when it's got it right)

Exxon then appealed to the Supreme Court,
On February 27, 2008, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for 90 minutes.
The Supreme Court vacated the $2.5 billion award remanding the case back to a lower court,

Exxon's actions were deemed "worse than negligent but less than malicious." The judgment limits punitive damages to the compensatory damages, which for this case were calculated as $507.5 million.

(Big justice takes time, and patience)

Exxon's official position is that punitive damages greater than $25 million are not justified because the spill resulted from an accident, and because Exxon spent an estimated $2 billion cleaning up the spill and a further $1 billion to settle related civil and criminal charges.

for a bit more of the devil in the (unheralded) details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill

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