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Washington's Record $18M Fine Stands Against Corporate Foodmakers

A record-shattering fine levied against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for concealing the identities of the food and beverage companies that spent $11 million to defeat a GMO-labeling initiative in 2013 was upheld Thursday by the Washington Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 decision, justices overruled an appeals court and reinstated an $18 million fine against the industry trade group, now known as the Consumer Brands Association.

The majority said a Thurston County judge was justified in tripling a $6 million base penalty because the association intentionally shielded its members from public disclosure by making the contributions under its name.

Justice Mary Yu, in the majority opinion, said that it was enough that the trade association intentionally did the acts that led to the violation, even if it didn't know the acts were illegal. "The violator is not required to subjectively know that its conduct is illegal," Yu wrote.

Justice Charles Johnson, in a dissenting opinion, criticized the majority's reasoning. "Under the majority's interpretation, essentially any violation is now subject to trebling," he wrote.