Greed On the High Seas: "Poop Cruise" & Concordia Cruise Executive Cashes $395,000,000 of Carnival Stock

Last week I wrote an article about Royal Caribbean CEO and President Adam Goldstein cashing in over $2,300,000 worth of Royal Caribbean stock, still leaving him with around $19,000,000 worth of his company's stock. 

It's difficult to justify the enormous wealth of the cruise executives given the fact that the cruise business is rigged to create gigantic profits free of U.S. taxes. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean (Liberia) and Carnival (Panama) incorporated in foreign countries in order to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and wage laws, and safety regulations. The cruise lines pay dirt cheap wages to laborers from India and the Caribbean islands. They provide no benefits at all to their loyal crew members.

Cruise executive compensation isn't tied to whether the line's ships sink or catch on fire. One of the Micky Arison Carnival CruiseRoyal Caribbean cruise ships, the Grandeur of the Seas, caught on fire for two hours last year yet cruise CEO Goldstein still raked in millions. Cruise executives are rewarded for squeezing blood out of the stone. 

Tax-fee Royal Caribbean pays a salary of only $50 a month to its waiters and cabin attendants who it works like dogs, relying on the tax-paying cruise passengers to pay tips so the employees can try and make a living.  Yet Royal Caribbean is stealing, some say, some of the passenger money intended for tips and using the "tips" to pay the salaries of the non-tip earning crew members. Last year Royal Caribbean fired over one-hundred employees in its corporate offices here in Miami because of "tough economic times." Yet the cruise line executives like CEO Goldstein and chairman Richard Fain still pocketed millions and millions and millions at the end of the year.

No doubt the cruise employees are getting the shaft. The crew is getting poorer while the fat cat executives are getting richer and richer.  

The greediest cruise executive in my opinion is, hands down, no doubt-about-it, by-far Micky Arison. He makes Goldstein look like chump change. Arison is the news this weekend after agreeing to sell up to 10 million shares of Carnival Corporation stock. At $39.50 per share, that's $395,000,000. 5 million shares were sold on Friday and the remaining shares will be sold over the next 15 months, After the sale is complete, the Arison family will still own 188,000,000 shares worth over $7,426,000,000.

What will multi-billionaire Arison do with the $395,000,000? Build medical clinics in Goa, India where most of his crew members come from? Fund the retirement benefits for his hard working Filipino crew members who have slaved away far-from-their-children for decades on his ships?  Create schools in Nicaragua where thousands of family members of Carnival crew members reside? No, no, no. The nearly $400 million in cash will be solely for his own tax and estate planning.

CEO Arison paid himself a $90,000,000 bonus in 2002 - the same year of the Costa Concordia disaster. In my assessment, he seems like a money hoarder without a social conscious. Here are some of the infamous incidents involving Carnival Corporation and its brands over the last few years:

It is an amazing spectacle to watch Arison enrich himself irrespective of the Concordia capsizing and the Triumph engine room fire. 

Just last week we commented on Carnival's press release, issued during the middle of the Triumph "poop cruise" trial here in Miami. Carnival characterized the cruise passengers, who endured four days in the Gulf of Mexico after the negligently maintained old ship caught fire, as greedy.

I suppose it's business as usual for Carnival to malign its Triumph cruise guests while chairman Arison is cashing in a fraction of his cruise stock during the middle of the Triumph trial for $395,000,000. 

 

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Triumph Trash Talk: Carnival Mocks Its "Poop Cruise" Guests

Lawyers involved in a trial are not suppose to make comments during trial which are likely to affect the jury or trier of fact. The theory is that trials are suppose to be decided based on the testimony and exhibits introduced into evidence, and not by PR statements which are not subject to the rules of evidence and which may be designed to sway the jury.     

Yesterday Carnival send a written statement to NBC News, Carnival said: "The current litigation by a handful of individuals is an opportunistic attempt to benefit financially . . . principally based on claims of alleged emotional distress."

A nasty statement no doubt. There is no indication that Carnival's trial lawyers made the statement. But Poop Cruise Carnival Triumphpress releases like this from the Carnival PR team are obviously not released to the public until after they are vetted by Carnival's in-house lawyers.

It's a statement designed to try and send a signal to the trier of fact. Carnival is trying to sway the trier of fact to believe that the Triumph cruise passengers are just a greedy bunch of people who are not to be believed and are just looking for a pay out. 

What Carnival doesn't say, however, is that the cruise line made a business decision last year not to pay a dime to any passengers who elected to file suit. Carnival was clearly negligent. Any other cruise line would have resolved this type of case on a reasonable basis long ago. But not Carnival. It would rather pay its defense lawyers a few million dollars to try and squash the Triumph passengers who decided to seek compensation.

Remember that Carnival Cruise Line's parent company is Carnival Corporation. This is the same company which owns the Costa Concordia which capsized with over 4,000 passengers and crew on board, killing 32 souls.  The passengers on the Concordia lost not only their vacations but all of their clothing, cameras, iPhones, and computers which they brought on board. They lost any jewelry or cash in the cabin safes. They were terrorized as the cruise ship tilted over and the coward captain abandoned ship.

Carnival offered the passengers 11,000 euros on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.  If that seems like a pittance to you, you're right. But remember that Carnival didn't offer the crew member anything.

To add salt into the wound, at the end of the year, Carnival Chairman Micky Arison (already worth close to $6,000,000,000) paid himself a $90,000,000 bonus.

In the same year, the CEO of the Carnival owned Costa cruise line, Pier Luigi Foschi, received $3,970.000 and later received a bonus of $1,700,000 when he retired. He also reportedly has shares of cruise stock worth $4,700,000.   

This is the way it works with the Carnival brands. They have tens of millions in salary and bonuses to reward their CEO's even when their ships catch fire or sink.  They have millions and millions to spend on defending lawsuits. But for the nice people who boarded the dangerously neglected and unseaworthy Triumph cruise ship last year, Carnival doesn't have a penny. It has only disdain. 

Miami-Dade Jury Hits Royal Caribbean with $6.2 Million Verdict

Today, a jury here in Miami, Florida returned a verdict over $6,200,000 on behalf of a seriously injured crew member.

The crew members is from Haiti and worked as a cleaner on the Jewel of the Seas

He sustained a serious back injury due to the repetitive nature of his work and the long hours which crew members are required to work.

After the crew member sustained injury, Royal Caribbean sent the crew member to Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic for medical treatment. There a surgeon performed a back fusion. The Brett Rivkindcrew member's lawyer alleged that the surgery was unnecessary and caused the crew member unnecessary and additional injuries. 

We have written about the medical facilities in Santo Dominican before. Rather than fly the injured crew members to Miami, where the cruise line in headquartered and the executives reside, the cruise line often sends their ship employees to the Dominican Republic where the medical expenses are substantially cheaper although the treatment is substantially inferior.

We have discussed the sub-standard medical facilities in Santo Domingo before. A jury in Miami previously returned a $1,000,000 verdict for a Celebrity crew member who underwent a crippling, unnecessary pacemaker surgery.   

Royal Caribbean tries to save money by keeping its ill and injured crew members out of Miami, and this is often the result. Read: Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft

Royal Caribbean reportedly made no settlement offer before trial.

The jury returned a verdict for the crew member finding that Royal Caribbean was negligent under the Jones Act, the vessel was unseaworthy, and the cruise line failed to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment. 

The crew member was represented by Miami maritime lawyer Brett Rivkind, photo above.

The total verdict was in the amount of $6,282,261.

The cruise lawyer was defended by defense lawyer David Horr.

CNN's New Day Reports: Costa Captain Says "Not My Fault"

Yesterday morning, CNN's New Day aired a short program about Captain Schettino's testimony at his criminal trial. He claims that he is not to blame for the deadly Concordia disaster.    

CNN's Erin McLaughlin reports on the story.

I was interviewed briefly in the program.

You can read about the story here.

You can also read about my thoughts about Captain Schettino's testimony here.  

 

 

Captain Schettino Blames Helmsman for Sinking the Concordia

Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker - Cruise LawIn yesterday's criminal trial against Captain Schettino, the disgraced captain of the doomed Costa Concordia testified that the disaster was not his fault, but was due to the error of the helmsman who failed to promptly follow his orders to turn the cruise ship away from the rocks.

Schettino testified that when he arrived in the bridge, he told the officer at the helm to turn the rudder to the left, which would have pulled the stern to the right and possibly avoided the rocks. But there was a delay of around 12 to 13 seconds, and the helmsman turned the rudder to the right.

The problem with Schettino's defense is that it was Captain Schettino who decided to divert the cruise ship from its scheduled route and head the ship directly toward Giglio in the first place.  The cruise ship then sailed four miles off course heading dangerously close to the rocky island.  

Sailing a ship off course like this, at high speed, in the night is ill conceived. Its not much different than altering the scheduled course of a 747 aircraft and flying it toward a mountain to show off. It's hardly a defense to Captain Schettinothe captain's malfeasance by returning to the cockpit at the last second and telling a subordinate officer to try and make a last ditch emergency maneuver to avoid crashing the plane. Thar's just additional evidence of the captain's recklessness.

Captain Schettino also complained that Costa should shoulder some of the blame because the Costa nautical maps did not accurately depict the rocky shoals which the Concordia struck.  I say hogwash to that, because the cruise ship should not have been anywhere near Giglio. The granite rocks around Giglio are part of the geological structure of the earth and have existed for over a million years. If the maps on the ship are not perfect and miss a rock or two, Schettino nonetheless planned to head the ship directly on what essentially was a collision course with the island of Giglio.

The 32 deaths are due in large part due to the captain's delay in ordering the evacuation of the passengers and crew. The helmsman had nothing to do with that. My opinion is that the Italian court will find Schettino guilty of all counts: causing the shipwreck, manslaughter and abandoning ship.

Schettino's game of blaming everyone except himself must be particularly painful to the families of the Captan Schettino - Costa Concordia32 dead passengers and crew who are trying to heal from the horror of losing their loved ones on Captain Schettino's ship. It also reveals a lack of remorse and a continuing arrogance which hopefully the court will consider in sentencing the cowardly captain.

CNN interviewed me about Schettino's testimony this morning on its program "New Day." The images are from the CNN program this morning.

Shameful: Costa Concordia Plea Deals Pervert Justice & Disrespect Victims

The big news this weekend in the on-again off-again Costa Concordia trial was the announcement that five Costa employees were sentenced to jail time for manslaughter in the death of 32 Concordia cruise passengers and crew members.

But you will see no photographs of the five men in court in handcuffs because there will be no actual jail time to be served, according to most news accounts. They will be serving suspended sentences. There appears to be no fines levied against the men in question:

Helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin:

Captain Schettino Costa ConcordaHotel Director Manrico Giampedroni:

Bridge Officer Ciro Ambrosio:

Crisis Coordinator Roberto Ferrarini; and 

Bridge Officer Silvia Coronica.

The bridge officers and the helmsman were sentenced to between 20 and 23 months in prison, while the hotel director received a two-year sentence, The crisis coordinator received a 34-month sentence.

Lawyers for the victims expressed their disgust with the sentences:

"The plea bargains are unacceptable, they shouldn't have been proposed or accepted. These sentences are ridiculous in the face of 32 dead,' said Gabriele dalle Luche in the Daily Mail, who represents a group of Russian passengers.

The BBC reports that Massimiliano Gabrielli, lawyer for the group Justice for Concordia, compared the "shameful" short length of the sentences to the seven years given to Emilio Fede, who was convicted of procuring prostitutes for former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The plea bargains leave disgraced cruise ship captain Schettino as the sole defendant. 

Many have criticized the legal proceeding, saying that Costa itself should also be on trial.  The cruise line previously agreed to a fine of $1.3 million to avoid all criminal charges. 

Domnica Cemortan Costa ConcordiaAs soon as the trial began, it was interrupted by a national strike by Italian lawyers. The trial has been again delayed after the lawyers for Schettino requested an opportunity to conduct tests on the cruise ship which remains capsized in the port of Giglio.

The trial itself has been a bizarre spectacle.  It is taking place in a large theater which may be an appropriate venue for such drama.

Captain Schettino has appeared in his sporty blue coat and sunglasses.  His alleged paramour, Moldovan dancer and former Costa hostess Domnica Cemortan, made an appearance to support Schettino. She was wearing attire suitable to a cocktail party and disrespectful to the dead passengers and crew members, while posing for the cameras. Her appearance added to the scandalous nature of the proceedings, given the fact that she is suing Costa for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to newspapers, "for the damage to her reputation after it became known that Mr Schettino, who is married with young children, had wined and dined her aboard the Concordia." 

The soap opera is expected to resume in September.

 

Phorto Credits:

Schettino: The Independent

Ms.Cemortan: news.au

Captain Schettino Changes Course While Costa Concordia Trial Starts & Stops

The criminal trial against Captain Schettino finally started this week but, believe it or not, was suspended due to a national strike of lawyers in Italy.

Captain Schettino showed up for the first day at the theater in Grosseto where the trial will be held. The paparazzi photographed him wearing a snappy blue sports coat. No tie. An open collar shirt. Cool sunglasses. Tan. With his I'll-say-anything-attitude. This guy is too much. On trial for abandoning ship and manslaughter with 32 dead on his watch and he appears like a playboy vacationing on a yacht in Monaco.

All he needed to complete his image was his blonde former cruise ship dancer Moldovan paramour at his side.   

The Telegraph newspaper reports Captain Schettino's story changed. His lawyers stated that he really didn't abandon ship. He was "inadvertently thrown from the ship" is the latest excuse.

From "I-slipped-and-fell-into-a-lifeboat" whopper to "I-was-inadvertently thrown-off-the-cruise-ship" tall tale. Oh boy.

What a soap opera will unfold when the lawyers come back to work from their strike.

Captain Schettino - Costa Concordia Cruise Ship

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Photo Credit: AP / Giacomo Aprili via Telegraph

News Channel 7 Investigates "Captain of Controversy" Francesco Schettino - Coward or Scapegoat?

Miami news station WSVN - 7 aired an interesting interview with Francesco Schettino last night and asked: Is he a coward who caused 32 people to die the night his ship the Costa Concordia capsized? Or is he is a professional who did all that he could to avert disaster due to mistakes by his crew? 

An Italian judge is in the process of considering evidence whether criminal charges should be filed against him and other Costa employees. 

Schettino blames his bridge team for navigating off-course towards the island and then failing to properly conduct the course change he ordered. He calls the incident an accident and questions why the prosecutors are trying to turn the incident into a crime.

The helmsman, from Indonesia, left the jurisdiction and will not return to Italy for trial if one is ordered.

Channel 7's investigation does not address the events which followed the cruise ship striking the rocks.

WSVN-TV -

Criminal Case Continues Against Captain Schettino - Island of Giglio Requests Compensation of 80,000,000 Euros

Giglio Costa ConcordiaA court in Italy is proceeding with preliminary hearings to consider evidence whether Captain Francesco Schettino will face trial for criminal charges for his involvement in the Costa Concordia disaster. 

Schettino, labelled "Captain Calamity" in the press, appeared at the proceedings yesterday, faces a trial on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. 

The Italian prosecutors requested the indictment of four crew members in the case, including the ship's helmsman, as well as Costa employee Roberto Ferrarini, the head of Costa Crociere's "crisis unit" who is accused of delaying the evacuation of the cruise ships.

The island of Giglio, which is the site of the stricken vessel, has requested permission to sue Captain Schettino, alleging that the island's image as a beautiful tourist spot has been irreparably damaged by the disaster. The island's lawyers are seeking damages of 80 million euros.

The Costa Concordia remains in the water at the entrance to the island's harbor.  Image courtesy of Giglio News.

Who's to Blame? Costa Concordia Criminal Hearing Begins in Italy

Today the hearing begins in Grosseto, Italy to determine who should be named as defendants in the criminal trial involving the deadly Costa Concordia disaster.

The potential defendants from the cruise ship include infamous Captain Schettino who was at the helm when he maneuvered the ship into the rocks, as well as the ship’s second-in-command, three officers who were on the bridge, and a safety official who falsely told the Italian Coast Guard the cruise ship merely experienced an electrical failure.  

Executives of Costa are also being investigated for their roles in the accident.

The international press is closely covering the hearing. Maritime and scientific experts are expected to Costa Concordia Cruise Shiptestify based on their review of "black box" data and other information. The Italian judge will review the expert's' findings and opinions to determine who should stand trial. 

Hundreds of survivors and their counsel are expected to attend, 

Costa's plan has been to dump all of the blame on its captain, which is easy to do given his conduct. But there remains concerns that the cruise line supplied out of date maps and poorly trained the crew. How all of this plays out should be interesting.

The fact that hearings like this and a trial will take place are rather remarkable events. Most maritime casualties involving cruise ships do not end up with trials like this. Lots of information has already been "leaked."  If the disaster involved a cruise ship flagged in places like the Bahamas or Panama, there would be no hearings or trials whatsoever. Those countries would certainly exonerate their cruise line masters who choose to register their ships in and pay fees to third world flag states for friendly treatment.

Italy - where the Concordia was flagged and Costa is based - should be applauded for the efficiency and professionalism demonstrated by the Italian court system so far.

 

Photo credit: CNN