[FoRK] My sentiments exactly...

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Sat Jan 23 21:39:16 PST 2010

Adam L Beberg wrote:
> Stephen Williams wrote on 1/22/2010 6:04 PM:
>> Arthur Anderson was dissolved, directly or indirectly as a result of
>> begin charged with a felony.
>> The partners that wanted to formed Accenture to go back into business.
>> Everyone who worked at the company suffered from the stigma of having
>> worked at a criminal enterprise with extremely poor auditing practices.
> Sounds like no harm done to me. That is a great example. Those 
> responsible withing a corporation face no risks. Again, that is the 
> entire point of a corporation.

The value of Arthur Anderson went to zero, so every partner lost 
something, many probably millions.  While still not jail time, it is not 
nothing.  Theoretically, you could charge people with negligence probably.
> And Exxon hasn't even close to cleaned up their mess. Fines mean 
> nothing when the entire US military's primary job is security and 
> resource acquisitions for the oil business. That's cost us many 
> trillions.

The government should have insisted that they pay whatever it took.  If 
the government didn't, it isn't Exxon's fault at that point, at least 
not completely.  At some point at least, they agreed to pay to clean it 
up.  If "we" didn't ask enough, shame on "us".

It appears that a jury agreed to cut it to $2.5B and Justice David 
Souter somehow limited it to 507.5M even though, according to this 
article, the cost of cleanup was $2.5B.

This is more accurate and complete:
> Because Prince William Sound contained many rocky coves where the oil 
> collected, the decision was made to displace it with high-pressure hot 
> water. However, this also displaced and destroyed the microbial 
> populations on the shoreline; many of these organisms (e.g. plankton) 
> are the basis of the coastal marine food chain, and others (e.g. 
> certain bacteria and fungi) are capable of facilitating the 
> biodegradation of oil. At the time, both scientific advice and public 
> pressure was to clean everything, but since then, a much greater 
> understanding of natural and facilitated remediation processes has 
> developed, due somewhat in part to the opportunity presented for study 
> by the Exxon Valdez spill.
> Both the long- and short-term effects of the oil spill have been 
> studied comprehensively.[12] Thousands of animals died immediately; 
> the best estimates include 250,000 to as many as 500,000 seabirds, at 
> least 1,000 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor 
> seals, 250 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, as well as the destruction of 
> billions of salmon and herring eggs.[3][11] The effects of the spill 
> continue to be felt today. Overall reductions in population have been 
> seen in various ocean animals, including stunted growth in pink salmon 
> populations.[13] Sea otters and ducks also showed higher death rates 
> in following years, partially because they ingested prey from 
> contaminated soil and from ingestion of oil residues on hair due to 
> grooming.[14]
> Almost 20 years after the spill, a team of scientists at the 
> University of North Carolina found that the effects are lasting far 
> longer than expected.[13] The team estimates some shoreline Arctic 
> habitats may take up to 30 years to recover.[3] Exxon Mobil denies any 
> concerns over this, stating that they anticipated a remaining fraction 
> that they assert will not cause any long-term ecological impacts, 
> according to the conclusions of 350 peer-reviewed studies.[14] 
> However, a study from scientists from NOAA concluded that this 
> contamination can produce chronic low-level exposure, discourage 
> subsistence where the contamination is heavy, and decrease the 
> "wilderness character" of the area.
> In the 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.
> In a decision issued June 25, 2008, Justice David Souter issued the 
> judgment of the court, vacating the $2.5 billion award and remanding 
> the case back to a lower court, finding that the damages were 
> excessive with respect to maritime common law. Exxon's actions were 
> deemed "worse than negligent but less than malicious."[17] The 
> judgment limits punitive damages to the compensatory damages, which 
> for this case were calculated as $507.5 million.
> Exxon spent an estimated $2 billion cleaning up the spill and a 
> further $1 billion to settle related civil and criminal charges
> Exxon recovered a significant portion of clean-up and legal expenses 
> through insurance claims associated with the grounding of the Exxon 
> Valdez.

So, they hardly got away with nothing.  The court and scientists both 
made mistakes and were operating on incomplete knowledge that could only 
be learned by addressing this kind of accident.

At some point, it comes down to whether a corporation and people 
involved should somehow always make the world right again or whether 
society shares some degree of risk.  That is a whole other discussion, 
queued.  Some things are inherently risky and we don't necessarily want 
to completely sock it to the unlucky sop who is the negative case.  
Medical malpractice being a good example of where this is definitely murky.


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