Written by Adrianne Madden
Friday, 15 August 2008
Somebody stop Exxon Mobil before they litigate again.
Alas, the Supreme Court passed this week on ruling whether the oil giant should pay interest on the punitive damages award it must pay to the plaintiffs for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound. Instead, it kicked the question back to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for resolution.
The original $5 billion sum eventually got whittled down to $2.5 billion and then the Supreme Court chopped that total down to $507.5 million in late June. Now Exxon Mobil is arguing that the interest payments should accrue from the date of the Supreme Court ruling, not from 1994 when punitive damages were first set.
Think Exxon would appeal a negative ruling from the appeals court?
There are many things that are vexing about this whole mess, and we've done our fair share of writing about it, too.
What bothers me most is that it really makes me wonder what has happened to our moral compass. I understand we don't live in the land of milk and honey. Everybody isn't sitting around the campfire, making smores and singing "Kumbaya".
And yes, Exxon Mobil's legal eagles have a fiduciary responsibility to explore every possible avenue to protect their client. No one can say they haven't been thorough.
But at some point, if you're a member of Exxon Mobil's Board of Directors or a shareholder, you stand up and say, "Enough already."
You say, yeah, we can exhaust every legal avenue available to us, drag the battle out for years and in the end, probably not have to pay anywhere near the sum the jury originally set. But that doesn't mean we should.
You say, our net profit won't be quite as robust and our stock dividends won't pay out quite as handsomely. But we need to help these people and give the plaintiffs the resources to try and put their lives back together. That's what you say.
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