Judge grants AG Ferguson’s request for maximum $24.6M penalty against Facebook parent Meta

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

OLYMPIA — A King County Superior Court judge today issued the maximum penalty of $24.6 million against Facebook’s parent company, Meta, in Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s campaign finance transparency lawsuit. Ferguson had requested the maximum penalty be imposed.

Judge Douglass North ruled that Meta intentionally violated Washington law 822 times. Because the violations were intentional, the court had the option to triple the penalty, for a maximum of $30,000 per violation.

Today, Judge North ordered Facebook to pay the maximum penalty: $24,660,000. This represents the largest campaign finance penalty anywhere in the country — ever.

Judge North also ordered Facebook to reimburse the Attorney General’s costs and fees, and ordered that those attorneys’ fees should also be tripled “as punitive damages for Meta’s intentional violations of state law.” 

That amount will be determined at a later date, but Ferguson’s office is requesting a total of $10.5 million, which includes the treble damages. The court ruled that Meta must pay 12 percent interest per year on the total judgment, starting from when the payments are due. By law, campaign finance penalties go to the State Public Disclosure Transparency Account.

“I have one word for Facebook’s conduct in this case — arrogance,” Ferguson said. 
“It intentionally disregarded Washington’s election transparency laws. But that wasn’t enough. Facebook argued in court that those laws should be declared unconstitutional. 
"That’s breathtaking. Where’s the corporate responsibility? I urge Facebook to come to its senses, accept responsibility, apologize for its conduct, and comply with the law. If Facebook refuses to do this, we will beat them again in court.”

This law requires campaign advertisers, including entities such as Meta that host political ads, to make information about Washington political ads that run on their platforms available for public inspection in a timely manner. The state asserted that Meta violated the law repeatedly since December 2018 and committed hundreds of violations.

The Attorney General’s campaign finance enforcement has in recent years resulted in two other findings of intentional violations: One against the Consumer Brands Association, formerly known as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, totaling $9 million, the other against initiative promoter Tim Eyman for $2.6 million.

More information here


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