Supreme Court slashes Exxon’s punitive damages for Valdez oil spill
ExxonMobil is off the hook for billions in punitive damages related to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. In 1994, the oil giant was ordered to pay $5 billion in punitive damages. In 2006, that amount was cut to $2.5 billion. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court slashed the amount once again, to $507.5 million. By a 5-3 vote (Exxon stockholder Samuel Alito sat out), the court reasoned that punitive damages should not exceed what the company paid to victims for economic losses. Since the accident, Exxon has paid $3.4 billion in various fines, penalties, cleanup costs, claims, and other expenses. The $507.5 million will be divvied up among 32,677 commercial fisherfolk, seafood processors, landowners, native Alaskans, and small business owners. Exxon, which posted a record-breaking annual profit of $40.6 billion in February, makes $507.5 million in approximately 12 hours of sales.