Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Supreme Court Hands ExxonMobil A Big Payday

The U.S. Supreme Court’s death penalty ruling will probably grab all the headlines, but let’s not overlook this mulit-billion dollar payday they handed ExxonMobil today:
The Supreme Court on Wednesday also cut the $2.5 billion punitive damages award in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster to $500 million.

The court ruled that victims of the worst oil spill in U.S. history may collect punitive damages from Exxon Mobil Corp., but not as much as a federal appeals court determined.

Justice David Souter wrote for the court that punitive damages may not exceed what the company already paid to compensate victims for economic losses, about $500 million compensation.

Exxon asked the high court to reject the punitive damages judgment, saying it already has spent $3.4 billion in response to the accident that fouled 1,200 miles of Alaska coastline.

A jury decided Exxon should pay $5 billion in punitive damages. A federal appeals court cut that verdict in half.

And the SCOTUS cut that verdict even further.

If there were any doubt about the corporate-friendly stance of the U.S. Supreme Court, this should put it to rest. It’s been 19 years since the ExxonValdez disaster, which destroyed the livelihood of thousands. And the SCOTUS just handed the people of Alaska a big “fuck you,” while ExxonMobil earned $1,300 per second in 2007.

Is anyone surprised? Of course not:

Steve Smith, a 69-year-old Cordova fisherman, worries that big business will prevail.

"I really wonder, what do you do if you don't get a just decision out of the Supreme Court," he said on his boat Prince William. "I mean, there's no other court to take it to. What do you got left, really? Anarchy?"

Well, that’s one alternative.

Elections have consequences. A President Al Gore or President John Kerry would not have put Samuel Alito or John Roberts on the SCOTUS.

Something to keep in mind.