May 04, 2004

Bill Gates Fined $800,000

That's right, you heard it here first, or fiftieth: Bill Gates has been fined $800,000, for failing to disclose a purchase of stock that gives him a certain amount of control in the biotech company that manufactures boner drug Cialis. The amount of the fine would cause some financial concern for a lot of the population. But for Bill? $800,000?! It seems a laughably small sum, but how laughable is it? There's a lot of 0s happening here: we should put this in perspective.

According to this Forbes Article, Gates is worth $46.6 billion American dollars. $800,000 is roughly 0.00171674% of $46.6 billion. So what does that mean for someone likt me? Well, totalling my assets and debts (in my sleepy state), I calculate my net worth (as of this moment) at roughly -$10,000. So essentially, the fine on Gates is about like someone giving me...wait for it...$0.17. Yeowch. That'll teach him!

Posted by Chris at May 4, 2004 06:57 AM | TrackBack

I'm torn. I disagree with fining the wealthy for more than others simply because "they can afford it."

That said, it would be nice to be able to find some sort of way to actually make the ultra-rich NOTICE when they get fined. Maybe that way they'd stop being twits.

Posted by: Nabil at May 4, 2004 10:24 AM

I quite agree with the premise that rights and punishments should not be tied to financial worth. You can't fine me $15 for jaywalking but fine Bill Gates $35 million dollars for the same offense.

But I'm torn as well. If we don't do something, we're actually just letting people buy their way out of laws, because they can afford it. I can't afford a million dollar fine. It's nothing to him. So what do we do? The closest thing I can think of is to scale it according to the verifiable financial "cheat" of some action...that way the punishment fits the crime, not the individual. Or we could set it to a percentage of personal worth. That still disproportionately advantages the rich (even though they pay more). Think Chris Rock: "If you got ten million dollars, and she takes five, big deal! You still got five million dollars! But if you got thirty thousand, and she takes might have to kill her!"

So we have a situation in which the punishements are exactly the same, but the deterrent effect of expected punishment is VASTLY out of proportion. Can't figure out a good solution on my own.

How about this: no more financial penalties for breaking laws/regulations. Do something that takes time: if it doesn't warrant jail time, then community service or civic works. It's arguable that this would disproportionately benefits the healthy and long-life-expectancied. Better? I'm not sure.... But the problem does seem to be with the financial assessment of punishment. We should, in my opinion, strive for something more of an equalizer. Money shouldn't be able to buy advantage. The economy is no less affected if Bill Gates violates regulations than if you or I do.

Hm.... Intriguing line of thought. Thanks! :)

Posted by: Chris at May 4, 2004 11:08 AM

Yeah- fines overall are a bad idea. Fines are more or less a price tag on behavior (it will cost you $300 to drive 100mph on this will cost you $10,000 to smartmouth the judge etc...) and people figure them into their expenses. The fining of Bill Gates is, more likely than not, viewed simply as an expense...just a non-tax-deductable one. I'm not really sure what Bill Gates did wrong, if anything, but fines are definately stupid.

Posted by: dana at May 4, 2004 11:43 AM
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