What's in a name? Answer: $26,000

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A few weeks ago, we told you the story of Kevin Scott Noah, a carpenter who fell to his death while working on the Golden Gate Bridge in 2002. Occupational safety officials fined his employer, a joint venture known as Shimmick-Obayashi, $26,000 for a handful of alleged violations.

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But four years later on appeal, an administrative judge tossed every single one of the fines arguing that a bizarre technicality meant Shimmick-Obayashi wasn’t responsible for the accident. Cal/OSHA, the judge concluded, hadn’t printed the full legal name of the company on the citations, so the contractor didn’t have to pay a dime.

Apparently, however, state auditors don’t give a lick what the company’s full legal name is – they know that using the shorter but clearly decipherable “Shimmick-Obayashi” should be enough, according to the report linked above. So while one bureaucracy can waste thousands completing an investigation that’s dismissed on a single flimsy claim four years after the fact, another can summarize what that same firm is earning in contract change orders and simply refer to them as “Shimmick-Obayashi” without anyone declaring the audit invalid.

By the way, between April and June alone, the Shimmick-Obayashi joint venture (not their full legal name, your honor) earned $212,000 in contract change orders. Earlier we reported that Shimmick-Obayashi would likely earn a total of $30 million more to help retrofit the Golden Gate Bridge than authorities originally anticipated. The initial contract was for $122 million.

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