Record profits, yet victims not paid

Even though our country’s highest court has ruled that Exxon was indeed negligent in the 1989 grounding of the Exxon Valdez and the subsequent spilling of 10.8 million gallons of oil, it has not yet paid up! Even though the Supreme Court decided the $2.5 billion punitive charge was too much and lowered it to a ratio of 1:1 with compensatory damages ($507.5 million), it still hasn’t paid up!

Now 14 years later, Exxon is contesting the 1994 interest ruling on the punitive damages, and $70 million in court costs — costs that from day one of the court proceedings were agreed to be bared by each side. Also, the Seattle Seven (seafood companies) entered into a deal to seed back $55 million to Exxon from any proceeds they were to gain.

Do the math: $507.5 million in 2008 without interest would be an equivalent dollar amount of about $257.5 million in 1996 dollars (the year the interest clause was entered). That’s a ratio of about 0.5:1 punitive to compensatory, not 1:1 as our U.S. Supreme Court ruled. Now suppose we give back $70 million in court costs: $187.5 million. Give back $55 million from the Seattle Seven: $132.5 million. Last, look at what percentage that is of the recent $14.83 billion quarterlies: 0.89 percent! Wow … if you make the average 2007 U.S. yearly household income of $50,233 and take the quarterly income of $12,558, you just paid a speeding ticket of $112!

Sherman Antitrust Law of 1890? What does that have to do with Exxon/Mobil? In 1911 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Standard Oil must be broken up into 34 independent companies. Two of those companies were Jersey Standard, which eventually became Exxon, and Socony, which eventually became Mobil. With the merger of Exxon/Mobil, are they not just getting the old Standard Oil back together?

Erik Hjorten


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