Chalk it up as Incidental Costs — 4 Days Profit is a Bargain

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

March 24, 2009

RIKI OTT:  […] Exxon promised to make us whole. You know, “You’re lucky you have Exxon.” We hadn’t even gone to court by 1993. We had fish run collapses, bankruptcies, divorces, suicides, you know, domestic violence spikes, substance abuse spikes. The town was just unraveling. And we were waiting for somebody to help us: the State of Alaska, the federal government, the court system, Exxon. Nobody. And–

AMY GOODMAN: There were 33,000 plaintiffs.

RIKI OTT: There are 32,000 claims, 22,000 plaintiffs.


AMY GOODMAN: You’ve said that is not just an environmental disaster, but a crisis in democracy.

RIKI OTT: It is a democracy crisis. The question we started asking as our lawsuit went on and on and on, and we didn’t get paid, was how did corporations get this big, where they can manipulate the legal system, the political system? What happened here?


AMY GOODMAN: How many animals died?

Riki Ott, author, community activist, marine toxicologist and former fisherma’am. She is author of Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Spill.  

AMY GOODMAN: How many animals died?

RIKI OTT: There was up to half a million seabirds, up to 5,000 sea otters, 300 or so harbor seals, billions of young salmon and herring fish eggs and young juvenile fish. And this was a problem, because it created a delayed impact. I mean, when you take out eggs, you don’t really see the impact until those eggs should have become adults and joined the adult population. That’s what we saw with herring. The crash didn’t happen until 1993, four years later, when the young of the in ’89 failed to materialize.

20 Years After Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Alaskan Coastline Remains Contaminated, Residents Still Struggle for Justice — Democracy Now! interview

Astounding Video about the Exxon Court battle — Click Here

March 24, 2009

AMY GOODMAN:  Today [March 24, 2009] marks the twentieth anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, one of the worst environmental disasters in history. The Exxon Valdez spilled between 11 and 38 million gallons of crude oil into the fishing waters of Prince William Sound. The spill contaminated more than 1,200 miles of Alaska’s shoreline and killed hundreds of thousands of seabirds and marine animals.


AMY GOODMAN:  And twenty years after the disaster, litigation against Exxon continues to drag on. In 1994, an Alaskan jury found Exxon responsible and ruled the company should pay $5 billion in punitive damages to some 33,000 plaintiffs. Exxon appealed. In 2006, the 9th US Circuit Court cut the award of punitive damages in half to $2.5 billion. Then, in a 5-to-3 ruling last June, the Supreme Court cut the amount of punitive damages again and ordered Exxon Mobil to pay just $500 million in punitive damages, one-tenth of the original jury’s ruling. That equates to about four days of Exxon Mobil’s net profits.


AMY GOODMAN: 1994, the jury rules you get $5 billion. What happened?

RIKI OTT: The jury — it took three weeks to come up with that decision. They didn’t just pull it out of the air. The jury asked the question: how do we holding a corporation this large accountable to people? And the jury decided they had to tie profit to punishment. So, at the time, 1994, that was one year’s net profit for Exxon, $5 billion. And that way, you can hold — you know, big corporation, big punishment.

What the Supreme Court did was they severed that link, and they instead linked profit to damages. Well, there’s a problem. We are still incurring ongoing damages in Prince William Sound, because we’re not fishing herring, for example, so we didn’t get all of our damages. Meanwhile, this one-to-one ratio of punitive to damages sets–is a problem now for everybody in America. We all lost our ability to hold big corporations accountable. This was the threat of unlimited liability. Just the mere threat held these corporations accountable to consumer safety laws, public health laws, environmental protection laws. We’ve lost that now. What we need is Congress to, what I call, overturn this by taking up the issue of punitive damages and asking the question: How do we hold these large corporations accountable?

AMY GOODMAN: What kind of relief have you gotten at this point, Riki Ott? What have your communities gotten? What has Exxon Mobil paid out?

RIKI OTT: We have gotten ten cents on the dollar. Most of my friends have been able to claim–to receive 7 to 10% of what they have actually lost. At this point in time, twenty years later, I even have some friends whose individual share of that punitive damage award is not–it’s less than what they will have to pay their bankruptcy lawyer.…

SCOTUS ruled that Exxon should incur only very limited liability. In their near-sighted wisdom, they discounted the Jury, the overturned the Appeals Court, and ruled the Corporate Person known as Exxon Mobil, should only be subjected to:

A 1-to-1 linking of penalties with baseline damages … not even the “actual ongoing damages”, mind you.  Just placate the plaintiffs and move along everybody.  Nothing to see here.  Just another day of Big Business.

Where then, is the “economic incentive” for such Oil Profiteers, to clean up their act, when they can just appeal for decades, and finally end up with  such favorable “Golden” rulings like this:

Penalty = Profits  (of 1 Year)  was morphed into just …

Penalty = Damages   (judged to be equal to Just 4-Days of Exxon Profits)

Shoot! That’s just another one of those incidental Costs, of Doing Business in America!

aka  A Bargain! for those Oil Drilling Profit machines.  They only need pay for safety, when they happen to gunk it up.  Ooops!  Sorry about that folks.  It’s just business, you understand.

Communities, Livelihoods, Pristine Beauty, Thriving Ecosystems — can be left in ruins.  Families can be left broken. Local Economies forever depressed. … And the Corporation causing all that Social Chaos — just ends up paying 4-Day’s Profit !?!  from their annual Billions in Revenues.

Where’s the Justice?    Where’s the Accountability?  Where is the fairness?

Where’s the fear of having to “fly right”, or else having to face Debtor’s Prison?

Only in America, where those with the Gold, get to make all the Rules!  (Only in America, are such “fears” banished into a legal web of obscurity.)


and for an similar Astounding Video, asking similar Astounding Questions …

in 1992 — a Speaker addresses the UN on the issue of Environment …

The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes…


Hello, I’m Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O. – The Environmental Children’s Organization.


I am fighting for my future.

Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market.   I am here to speak for all generations to come.

I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard.

I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet because they have nowhere left to go.   We cannot afford to be not heard.


I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realize, neither do you!


I used to go fishing in Vancouver with my dad until just a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers.   And now we hear about animals and plants going extinct every day — vanishing forever.

In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rain forests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.


You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.

You don’t know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream.

You don’t know how to bring back an animal now extinct.

And you can’t bring back forests that once grew where there is now desert.

If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!

But of course, they won’t.

That would require “Corporate Persons” (and their representatives) to actually have a conscience,

and perhaps, a soul.

And those premises, are laughable,

given their relentless quest for profits,

Whatever the consequences.


Skip to comment form

    • jamess on May 2, 2010 at 16:15

    and waaaay too few Answers.

    aka. Business as Usual, in America.

  1. was just scanning this piece at alternet from Riki: Here’s How Exxon Tried to Avoid Paying for Its Massive Oil Spill — Let’s Not Allow BP to Do the Same.

  2. Pretty sick. Bailed out by the Supreme Court. Seems to be a recurring theme: One branch of govt. or another, they all march to the same tune. The earth’s job is to provide resources to corporations, and the people’s job is to labor and sacrifice for the corporations so they become addicted to the “trickle down” of life. Simply put, this is madness.

    Who would ever have thought that the opium of greed would have turned America into an insane asylum with the legal system turned on its head and twisted backwards to protect artificial constructs? All three branches of the Federal Govt. are now working in perfect harmony with each other.

    Americans are now truly treated like all indigenous peoples of the New World.

  3. I’d recommend it ten X if I could.

  4. Government and Large Corporations are interchangeable and totally unstoppable through legal means.  I have no idea how this could be reversed.  

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