The story of the goose that laid the golden eggs is one of Aesop's best-loved fables. The farmer blessed with the amazing goose grows rich, but is gripped by greed.
Anxious to have all the golden eggs at once, he kills the goose and cuts her open, finding none inside.
Killing the goose that lays the golden egg is an incredibly stupid thing to do, but we see examples of it all the time.
Family members who inherit thriving businesses and run them into the ground kill the golden goose. Workers who demand higher wages and force the employer into bankruptcy likewise kill the golden goose. So too, do local, state, and federal officials who raise taxes so high that productive enterprises move out.
A person who kills a golden goose often regrets his greediness and resolves not to be so foolhardy the next time. Of course, if the golden goose belonged to someone else and there was no penalty for killing it, why not do so if the price is right?
That seems to be the philosophy, such as it is, of St. Louis attorney Stephen Tillery in his current suit against Surrey Vacations Resorts of Branson, Mo.
Whether he's targeting IBM, AT&T, Ameritech, Xerox, MCI, GlaxoSmithKline, Allstate, SBC, Philip Morris, Pfizer, or Syngenta, Tillery's apparent goal is simply to try to extract as much gold as he can -- whatever the cost to the proverbial goose.
Tillery claims Surrey violated federal law when it faxed out 800,000 advertisements for its time-share properties in 2003. Having identified about 500 recipients, he nevertheless claims 800,000 violations, with a $500 penalty for each, for a grand total of $400 million in alleged damages.
Tillery shrugs off his inability to identify 799,500 class members -- and the fact that his suit could bankrupt Surrey.
Why not? It's not his goose.