Last week the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General announced settlement of two of the 24 post-Sandy price gouging cases the state has pursued. Shiv Shivam Inc., doing business as Lukoil in Piscataway agreed to pay $20,000 to the state; C.S. George & Sons, Inc., doing business as George’s Gulf Station in Clifton agreed to pay $26,000. Neither gasoline retailer admitted fault. One detail about the payments to the state struck me as odd.
Here are two paragraphs from the Shiv Shivam Final Consent Judgment:
Defendant has agreed to pay a settlement amount of Twenty Thousand and 00/100 Dollars ($20,000.00) (“Settlement Payment”) within thirty (30) days from the Effective Date.
The Settlement Payment is comprised of Six Thousand Six Hundred Sixty-One and 76/100 Dollars ($6,661.76) in civil penalties, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 56:8-13, as well as Five Thousand Four Hundred and Three and 99/100 Dollars ($5,403.99) in reimbursement of Plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and Seven Thousand and Nine Hundred and Thirty-Four and 25/100 Dollars ($7,934.25) in reimbursement of Plaintiff’s investigative costs, pursuant to N.J.S.A 56:8-11 and N.J.S.A. 56:8-19.
The comparable paragraphs from the C.S. George & Sons settlement are similar except paying $26,000 overall, divided as $20,489.50 for civil penalties; $5,062.50 for reimbursement of Plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees; and $448.00 for reimbursement of Plaintiff’s investigative costs.
Notice Shiv Shivram is charged almost $8,000 in Plaintiff’s investigative costs, while C.S. George & Sons is charged less than $450 for similar services. Do you wonder whether it actually cost the Office of the Attorney General nearly eighteen times as much to investigate the one case as the other?
Is the New Jersey Attorney General taking advantage of the gasoline retailer’s duress at being targeted by the state to collect unconscionably excessive investigative costs?