F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Rich Boy” Continues to Have Relevance in the New Gilded-Age
On January 11, 2012 the largest termite company in the world was ordered by an arbitrator it asked to be appointed to pay a victim of its intentional pattern of fraud the sum of $1,020,000, plus additional costs incurred for the private arbitration.
A deadline of paying in 30 days has come and gone. Terminix welched on its bet that its scam would either go undiscovered or unpunished.
Terminix rakes-in 1.2 billion dollars a year. Most people pay their debts – especially when ordered to do so by a private judge you agreed would be allowed to decide how much you owe. Terminix International appears to think differently. Terminix just don’t pay and won’t say why. Is it because the tens of thousands of dollars it will cost to collect the debt if they fight hard or because it is a good way to send a message to other victims of the same fraud? After all, the story of David and Goliath is a famous precisely because the much weaker guy won.
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”– Opening Paragraph of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Rich Boy” essay, circa. 1925
Terminix insisted in a contract that promised to prevent termites in a Mountain Brook family’s home that any future lawsuits could not be brought in public courts. Even if victims allege Terminix committed fraud for failing to vaccinate homes from termites, the claims should not be filed in public courts. Instead the company said the claims had to be filed in arbitration where there is no effective right to appeal and a trial will be held in a lawyer’s conference room rather than a public courtroom.
The public forum would cost $455. The private conference room and lawyer would cost the cheated customer $40,000.
The Terminix contract does not disclose that the arbitration that it publicly ballyhoos as “cheaper and faster” actually costs $40,000 or more.
So the private trial Terminix demanded which does not provide an effective right of appeal resulted in Terminix being hit with punitive damages and an order to pay over a million dollars within thirty days.
Terminix failed to pay. It says it may appeal but it will not disclose what basis it could possible have. It has already been represented by a Chicago law firm with more than 500+ lawyers (www.hinshawlaw.com) and another nationwide litigation boutique firm with 45+ litigation specialists (https://huielaw.com/). When faced with the order to pay over one million dollars by the arbitrator it asked to be appointed, Terminix chose to add another law firm with over 400 lawyers across the South (http://www.babc.com ).
So apparently the very rich don’t feel like they have to follow the rule that says you should pay what you owe – even when they are caught committing fraud. Is F. Scott Fitzgerald right? Are the very rich different from you and me? Is it 1925 all over again? Who will win in the end, the “Rich Boy” or the Mountain Brook, Alabama family?