BP tries to buy off oil spill victims
Alabama Attorney General Troy King said tonight that he has told representatives of BP Plc. that they should stop circulating settlement agreements among coastal Alabamians.
The agreements, King said, essentially require that people give up the right to sue in exchange for payment of up to $5,000.
I can see why the AG thinks offering Alabaman residents $5,000 bribes might be, at best, in bad taste, and at the worst, preying on vulnerable corporate negligence victims.
But now is a critical time for BP. The corporation has to move fast and hard to limit the damage inflicted upon their bottom line, which as any self-respecting Free Marketer knows, is the only thing that really matters.
They now have two options: A) Buy off the victims, or B) Tie up the justice process for years, and hope the bad press and citizens’ fiery anger dissipates, leaving only a quiet indignation that can be easily managed, and ultimately smothered.
BP should look to Exxon for a model of this second option. Just over twenty years ago, the Exxon Valdez tanker spewed at least 11 million gallons of oil into Alaskan waters. Litigation has dragged on for over two decades, and Exxon is winning.
[As of 2009, t]here are 22,000 plaintiffs suing ExxonMobil. A jury awarded the plaintiffs $5 billion in damages, equal to what was, at the time, a year’s worth of Exxon profits. This was cut by half by a U.S. appeals court, then finally lowered to just over $500 million by the Supreme Court. During the 20 years of court battles, 6,000 of the original plaintiffs have died. ExxonMobil, with its billions in annual profits and armies of lawyers, can tie up the Valdez case in the courts for decades, while the injured commercial fishers slowly die off.
There’s really no need for BP to sweat this one. Obviously, the current administration is on their side, since President Obama just gave the finger to his base, and publicly declared his love for offshore drilling. Plus, BP has the money, which means they can manipulate the justice system like a Machiavellian marionette show. Litigation takes a tremendous amount of time, and injection of cash, two things poor oil spill victims don’t have.
BP also enjoys the protection of personhood, a right granted to them by the Supreme Court. Now, a corporation, which is not a person, enjoys the same legal rights granted to people. One of those rights is free speech, and as Citizens United demonstrated to the world, corporations now have the right to bribe exercise their free speech unto politicians, manipulating them into doing the corporation’s bidding, which of course includes perpetuating “Drill, Baby, Drill,” and cutting regulation at the expensive of oil rig workers, miners, whoever.
The deck is rigged in favor of BP, which need only wait, and delay the justice process. Then, it’s just a matter of time before the victims start dying, the people forget about exploding oil rigs, and the poisoned environment, and corporate executives can go back to enjoying their lavish bonuses.