Fixing America – Idea 30 – Media MUST Start Using “Perspective Reporting” for Corporate Fines and Judgments

By June 19th, 2023

Blog No. 168
June 20, 2023

 Fixing America – Idea 30

By Mack W. Borgen
2023 Listee – Who’s Who in America, University of California at Berkeley (Honors, Economics); Harvard Law School; National Award-Winning Author.

Call Me Anytime

General Business Planning

or Corporate, Business or Real Property Law Matters


Over the last three and one-half years, I have presented a wide range of ideas for “resetting” and “fixing” America. This blog presents Idea 30 in this his “Fixing America” series of articles. 

The Need for “Perspective Reporting”

The Way for the Media to Better Report Corporate Judgments, Fines, and Settlements

Background: Every few weeks the media reports what appear to be massive judgments, fines, and settlements (hereinafter referred to as “judgments and settlements”) relating to U.S. public corporations and to other entities and individuals. People read the headlines and respond in varying degrees of shock and awe at the dollar amounts these entities or persons must pay for their negligence or wrongdoing. Normally settlements, and especially large settlements involving public corporations, include disclaimers of any supposed guilt, wrongdoing, or liability. Corporate spin-masters, better known as public relations and damage control firms, oftentimes insist (a) that the underlying wrongdoing occurred “years ago” and has long since been fixed, and (b) with respect to negotiated settlements, any monies to be paid are just a means to avoid the cost, burden, and inconvenience of lengthy trials. Nevertheless, the hard reality is that large monetary amounts to be paid correctly imply wrongdoing and large settlements are usually (and correctly) viewed as at least implicit acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

But there is a serious, but easily correctable, problem in the manner in which the media these judgments and settlements. The easily-fixable problem is that these “large amounts” must be put into perspective by the media and for the understanding of the general public.

A multi-million dollar judgment or settlement too often seems like a serious monetary punishment. However, because of the sheer size of these entities and without an presentation of perspective, the judgment or settlement may, in actuality, be small, de minimus, and inconvenience payment for the corporation. It may, in reality, represent an insulting, cost-of-doing, business-annoyance amount which will be easily buried by the corporate defendant amidst next months’ revenues reports.

A couple of examples may be useful.

In April, 2023, the Dominion Voting System v. Fox News case dominated the news for more than a week after the supposedly staggering $787.5MM settlement was agreed to be paid by Fox News. Similarly, a few years ago, PGE agreed to pay $4.0MM in settlement of deferred maintenance claims with respect to the infamous, tragic Camp Fire. About the same time, General Motors agreed to pay what seemed to be an astounding $900.0MM in settlement of claims relating to its sales of vehicles with faulty ignition switches. Nobody reports a loser list, but keeping track of Wells Fargo’s wrongdoings is itself a full-time job, but the somewhat recent Wells Fargo settlements offer two more examples. In 2016, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185.0MM as the result of its “fake accounts” scheme. Then, just two years later, Wells Fargo agreed to remit another $1.0BB for shamelessly overcharging members of the military for their car loans and for wrongfully repossessing them while the borrowers were on active duty and stationed overseas.

Obviously, the nature and the steady repetition of these types of judgments and settlements by major corporations is disturbing — indeed, disgusting. However, the media has an important role to play as well, and the media could do much better in more “accurately” reporting to the public. Indeed, the media needs to report these judgment and settlement amounts so that the amounts can be heard or read about with perspective an understandable perspective; so that the true story can be better told and better understood; and so that the relative (i.e. indeed “real”) impact of these judgments and settlements – or lack thereof — can be better appreciated.

The “fix” is easy. All that is necessary is what I refer to as “perspective reporting.” By making this small change in the manner of media reporting, the public could be better informed about the real monetary impact and, thus, the true “fairness” of these judgment and settlement amounts.

Let us just consider the cases referenced above.

Fox News was required to pay to Dominion Voting Systems what seemed to be a large amount – $787.5MM. However, Fox News net profits for 2022 were an astounding $2.8BB. In other words, the supposedly massive Dominion Voting Systems settlement represented merely a couple of months of Fox News’ net income. To be precise, the entire Dominion Voting Systems “bill” could be paid by Fox News in a mere 3.4 months.

PGE’s fines and settlements might seem big, but they are laughable. The $4.0MM settlement amount as described above is ridiculously small when compared with PGE’s annual profit of about $16.86BB!!! This is another example why some form of “perspective reporting” must be offered by the media.

The same is true with respect to General Motors. After years of fraud, concealment, and deceit, GM was allowed to settle for a mere $900.0MM. Without the media’s presentation of perspective, this amount seems massive. However, the more complete truth is that it is a mere smidge when compared with GM’s $9.9BB annual income – a mere 9% of just one year’s annual net income.

The same is true for Wells Fargo’s settlements. Once again, $185.0MM and $1.0BB seem like a lot of money to you, me, and nearly all listeners and readers. But “perspective reporting” could easily show that Wells Fargo’s supposedly large settlement amounts wither in the shade of Wells Fargo’s approximately $75.0BB in annual profits. Both the insulting “fake accounts” schemes and the military veterans’ car loan schemes got paid off with “nothing.” Although Wells Fargo’s scams went on for years, they got “paid off” with a de facto forfeiture of a mere 2.5% of Wells Fargo’s annual profits.

Also, it is here argued that the public’s perspective and understanding of these judgments and settlements are not of mere curiosity-driven interest. To the contrary, the steady implementation of perspective reporting can, albeit slowly and almost indirectly, influence judges to impose more appropriate fines and for juries to award more appropriate judgments. Possibly of even more importance, government attorneys may start to demand larger, more meaningful and impactful settlement amounts.

Idea: The media should modify its reporting of judgments and settlements so as to include “perspective reporting.” This is especially necessary in the context of publicly-traded, large corporations. The media should be expected not only to report the monetary amounts (together with other material terms of the judgments and settlements, if any) but also to provide its readers and listeners with some perspective with respect to such amounts. One of the simplest ways of doing this would be for the media to quickly note and compare the judgment and settlement amounts to the corporation’s annual net income or net worth. Parallel types of such “perspective reporting” should also be made, if possible, whenever reporting on judgments and settlements with respect to other entities (e.g., privately-held corporations or even individuals). Sometimes this may not be possible, but if and to the extent that publicly-available data exists about such entities or parties’ net income or net worth, the same style of perspective reporting should be used.

Implementation: Solid financial data is readily available with respect to publicly-traded corporations, and thus the implementation of perspective reporting should not be difficult. However, incentivizing members of the media to modify its reporting will take time because such changes in reporting practices cannot – or at least should not – be governmentally-mandated. As noted above, such reporting with respect to privately-held corporations and individuals would oftentimes be more challenging since such parties’ net income or net worth usually not readily available. Nevertheless, the media (and the public in general) are already obsessed with the net worth of many individuals, and there are numerous net worth postings and listings. Thus, even with respect to individuals and privately-held corporations, “perspective reporting” should be achievable in many instances.


1. The focus of this article is clearly upon judgments, fines, awards, and settlement amounts. In a much larger context, I have written about the confusing, numbing impact of numbers when they are presented without some form or manner of perspective. See my Blog No. 59 entitled “The Challenge of Perspective and The Burden of (So Many) Numbers (June 16, 2015) at .

2. For even more precise “perspective reporting,” when the media compares imposed judgments and fines with the defendant/corporation’s net profits, it should use the average of the last three (3) years of such net profits in order to more accurately compare the subject judgment or settlement with the corporation’s annual profits.    

My Most Recent Publication


The White Binder (2022)

A Million Little Details – Tons of Names, Addresses, and Reminders

 Even with the Most Thorough Estate Plans and the Use of Estate and Tax Counsels


Get Your Personal and Estate Planning in Order

Detailed Personal Asset and Liability Management,

Estate Organization, and Disposition Planning 

–Order Today–

Just email me at (Mailing Address and Number of Copies)

(Personalized Binder Format, $49.95 plus $6.95 Shipping, Pay After Delivery)   

Copyright 2023 by Mack W. Borgen. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews, without prior written permission by the author.




This entry was posted on Monday, June 19th, 2023 at 10:38 am and is filed under Latest News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.