June 27, 2008

"Set Back" Takes on Meaning in High Court's Exxon Decision

Mother Jones Magazine's blog sums up the US Supreme Court's recent decision on cutting the Exxon Valdez oil spill damage penalty to nearly nothing:

After spending hundreds of millions of dollars fighting the $5 billion punitive damage award handed down by an Alaska jury in 1994 for its role in the massive oil spill in Prince William Sound, Exxon today landed a major victory at the Supreme Court. In a 5-3 ruling, with Alito sitting out, the court overturned a lower court decision that had reduced the verdict to $2.5 billion, and sent the case back saying that the punitive damage award was excessive and should not exceed about $500 million, the same as the compensatory damages.

$500 million sounds like a lot, rather than "nearly nothing," until the amount is put into perspective by DemocracyNow:

Last year Exxon Mobil made just over $40 billion in profits. This means the oil company will be able to pay the punitive damages in about four days.

Exxon caused the catastrophic damage over 6,500 days ago (March 1989), and will now pay a scant four days of profits as a damage penalty. The principle of punitive damages is that the penaly is supposed to be large enough to deter similar behavior in the future (the spill wasn't an accident, it was gross negligence). Exxon can easily budget 4-days of profits into its business plan to allow for future a Valdez-like crime and feel no pain. We can see that the US Supreme Court has dashed the principle of punitive damages against Bligh Reef of Prince William Sound.

Regarding the why this is a "set back" a little background on the long-term fate of corporations is in order. The corporate business form is a doomed concept, just like "slavery" was known to be doomed for a long time before slavery finally collapsed. Similarly with corporations, which have become profit-seeking monsters that do more harm to society than good (keep in mind that businesses can exist without having the special protections of being a corporation). If you accept this, we can say that some year, off in the future, corporations will be pronounced as dead as slavery is today. Perhaps this will be in 2108, or sooner, or later.

The Supreme Court's recent decision in the Exxon Valdez case is a precedent that applies to all corporations. Their decision has likely set back the date when corporations will be eradicated. Corporations will continue interfering with our freedom and self-governance for more decades than would have been the case without this Court decision. As a result, many more people will suffer, and even die, because of the harsh edges of greed that are inseparable from the corporate business form.


DemocracyNow, Supreme Court Slashes Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Fine to One-Tenth of Original $5 Billion Ruling, June 26, 2008.

Mother Jones Blog, Supreme Court Overturns Exxon Valdez Verdict, June 25, 2008.



libhom said...

This, along with their heterosexism, is why I boycott Excon.

GDAEman said...

LOL Excon good one, except they are still cons,.