Speaking of laughable fines...
I somehow managed to stir up a firestorm at TortDeform by suggesting that a $3,000 fine to the Las Vegas Hepatitis doctors didn't have much of a deterrent effect. You might agree with me, but other individuals accused me of ignorance and intellectual dishonesty.
Coincidentally, here's another $3,000 fine that won't deter bad conduct:
Private investigators, be warned: if you spy on journalists on behalf of Hewlett-Packard, knowing state and federal laws prohibit you from obtaining their phone records through dubious means, you may end up paying a whopping penalty of $3,000.
That's the message the Federal Trade Commission delivered on Wednesday when announcing the $3,000 settlement with Joseph Depante and Matthew Depante of Action Research Group. The settlement (PDF) reached before a Florida judge and approved by the FTC commissioners allows the Depantes to admit no wrongdoing and characterizes the $3,000 payment as "equitable monetary relief" and not a fine.
You'll pardon me if I call it a fine anyway.
Maybe I'm just a cynic, but I suspect the fine would have been quite a bit bigger if journalists had been spying on HP.