BP Cleared By Presidential Inquiry


Right! The President covered for the oil company for months. They restricted press access to the affected waters. The declined the recommendations of their own scientists. They underestimated the amount of oil leaking from the disaster.

We already know that BP was drilling deeper than they were supposed to. We know they had accumulated an awesome number of violations of regulations and had violated the regulations on a regular basis. We know their conduct in the 2002 gas explosion and their maintenance of the Alaska pipeline were disastrous. We know that they had good reason to believe their cement was substandard, this cement being one of the causes of the incident.

In short, the White House has a strong interest in giving British Petroleum a clean bill of health.

We also know that considering BP’s conduct that such a clean bill of health is not credible.

I am far more interested in the outcome of the lawsuits by the states and individuals harmed by this disaster.

The tragedy is that these findings may not be public for at least seven years. By that time, the heat on the government and that corporation will have long dissipated.

Whatever, you may think of the finding, in the long term it will be effective in blunting criticism and, more important, buying time.

Cynicism is merited.

James Pilant

The Impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (via James’ MBA Executive Learning Blog)

This is an excellent thorough analysis of what happened and is happening. I’m delighted to have come across this kind of work. If you have any kind of interest in the gulf disaster or want to keep a link to where you can get ready information, I strongly recommend this article. It shows a lot of work and its cites demonstrates considerable effort.

James Pilant

The Impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Introduction On the 20th April 2010 an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig off the Gulf of Mexico caused the rig to sink. The tragedy that unfolded involved the death of 11 rig workers and an estimated release of 206 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, (Webber 2010) and is the largest marine oil spill in history. (Robertson & Krauss 2010) This gigantic oil spill, until its capping on the 20th of September 2010, h … Read More

via James' MBA Executive Learning Blog

Newspaper Columnists – Business Ethics Roundup 8/24/2010

David Moon at Knoxvillebiz decries reliance on the federal government. He is particularly incensed by the money provided to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, (Mortgage giants). I disagree with his position but I agree this whole bailout business has been a boon to the banks and little has been asked in return. I worry about the mortgage holders, not the villains who preyed on them like deranged vultures.

Edward Lotterman at TwinCities.com explains the difference between cyclical and structural problems in the economy. He explains that the problems besetting us are structural and take a long time to sort out. Lotterman is excellent teacher of economics. If you follow his columns you will pick up the jargon and understand the key terms.

Tell me I’m awesome every day — I’ll pay you. is the intriguing name of Jay Hancock’s current column. It seems there is a company that will call you up once a day for a month for $10 and tell you how awesome you are. I will now quote the quote Mr. Hancock uses from the company’s advertisement (Do you suppose I will ever get the opportunity to quote the quote from another quote?) –

With AwesomenessReminders, a real person will call you every day to tell you how much you rock. If you’re not around, we will leave you a voicemail. Our founder, Zack Burt, has studied psychology in-depth at the university level and found that social reinforcement is critical to maintaining our “frames”, also known as our “point of view”. Getting positive social feedback, via a daily reminder call, is instrumental to progress. Experts agree. This study from Wake Forest University also shows that social feedback has clear effects on self-esteem, even if individuals claim that they are unaffected by social feedback.

Keith Chrostowski from the Kansas City Star quotes Milton Friedman, “The social responsibility of business is to increase profits.” (This, of course, is a magnificent philosophy if the destruction of your nation is your intent.) Chrostowski is urging the formation of “B” corporations. This kind of corporation is designed to make a profit and do good, socially useful good. This turns Mr. Friedman’s insane prediliction for Utopian abstractions on its head. There is a web site where the “B” corporation idea is being pushed. You might give it a look.

Jon Talton in his column, Sound Economy, writes about the demise of “Shareholder Nation.” This was the idea that the great majority of Americans would realize the sound investment qualities of the stock market and invest their money. These Americans were taken to the cleaners in the last two years and are fleeing the stock market and its pseudo security. The idea of shareholder nation has fallen victim to the cold, naked greed and incompetence of our banking class.

Loren Steffy, writing for the Houston Chronicle, explains the game that British Petroleum is playing with those injured by its gross incompetence. It seems that if you accept payment now before you have any real concept of the continuing damage you sign away your right to sue. If you refrain from accepting the settlement offer, you face years of litigation. It is difficult to find any column by Steffy to be anything but a good read, very consistent high quality.

It is difficult decision for me to make, but I have decided to talk about the government response to the spill and here is my opinion.

The federal government’s response to the catastrophe in the gulf was ill conceived, strongly favorable to BP, a failure of leadership and grossly incompetent. The government failed in its most basic responsibility to protect its citizens and threw its lot in with the perpetrators of a vast economic disaster. It is difficult to conceive of any possible decision making worse than what the government has done. It calls into question the basic competence of the current administration.

BP Gets Ten Billion Dollars From You!

That’s right! British Petroleum has found a new way to make money. They have taken a perfectly legal tax deduction for their losses caused by the oil spill enabling them to evade $10,000,000,000 of taxes.

That’s ten billion dollars the federal government has to get somewhere else. Goodness Gracious, who might the burden of taxes fall on without BP paying its share? I wonder.

Loren Steffy writing for the Houston Chronicle is all over this. Steffy points out that considering these kinds of tax benefits, claiming that corporations pay too much taxes is disingenuous, since very often they pay none at all.

The feds could have figured this into their 20 billion dollar escrow fund but didn’t, so essentially BP is only on the hook for ten billion of it. The rest we pay for.

James Pilant

The Gulf Spill Lesson!

Don’t give the fox the keys to the henhouse. Government oversight was spotty, at best, and that led to a situation where BP was allowed to override the good judgment of its own engineers. Enforce the rules we’ve enacted to protect our people and our planet.

This is a quote from Shel Horowitz at his web site, Principled Profit. He has a list of six gulf spill lessons. I like this one.

Ethics Blog Roundup – 07/24/10

David Gebler writing on the blog, Business Ethics, discusses safety violations, codes of silence and what not to do when advancing safety practices.

Shel Horowitz begins his latest blog post (Principled Profit) with these words: As my Boomer generation ages, and as our parents move well into the elder category, I reflect often on something I learned as a young organizer with the Gray Panthers (1979-80): the idea that society had best learn how to incorporate people with disabilities into active daily life, because most of us were going to grow into that category sooner or later.

Horowitz writes that today, his entry is part of an event, Worldwide BloggersUnite, Empowering People with Disabilities. I’d give it a read and take a look at the idea behind the event.

I would like to call attention to two Chris MacDonald postings. A few days ago, Professor MacDonald posted an interview with the author of the “The Authenticity Hoax.” Since then the posting has had some comments (skip past mine) and they have been interesting. Chris gets pretty tough there in that last one. So, I recommend a read of the comments section.

The second MacDonald posting concerns British Petroleum’s faked photographs. MacDonald implies that he has been willing to give BP the benefit of the doubt in the past (I firmly believe this is true. I thought he was too fair) but he is increasingly doubtful of their motives and honesty.

A new business ethics blog has appeared. I give it a warm welcome and a hope of many postings!

British Petroleum Discards Justice And Patriotism.

The Lockerbie bombing was a traumatic event in Western history. A plane called the Clipper Maid of the Sea was destroyed by a bomb. The deaths included 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 on the ground for a total of 270. One man was convicted for the bombing. His name is Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi. He was sentenced to life in prison with a recommendation that he serve at least twenty years. He was released by the Scottish government after serving less than ten years on the grounds that he had terminal prostate cancer with less than three months to live. Only the one unnamed doctor supported this diagnosis. It is alleged that there were four specialists on cancer who did not agree and whose advice was ignored. Nevertheless, he was released on compassionate ground to “die” in homeland of Libya.

Let me quote wikipedia concerning his triumphal return to Libya: Megrahi landed in Libya to national celebrations and acclaim.[71] As he left the plane, a crowd of several hundred young people were gathered at Tripoli Airport to welcome him, some waving Libyan or Scottish flags, others throwing flower petals. Many had been ushered away by Libyan officials in an attempt to play down the arrival in accordance with British and US wishes.[72] Megrahi was accompanied by Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, who was dressed in a traditional white robe and golden embroidered vest. It was he who had pledged in 2008 to bring al-Megrahi home, and so he raised his arm in victorious salute to the crowd.[73] Megrahi was then joined on the aircraft steps by Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, dressed smartly in a white boubou with a tan waistcoat and waving a small Libyan flag at the gathered crowd. This was the first time the pair had met since they had stood side by side during their eight-month trial at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands 8½ years earlier.[74]

Thus, one of the greatest mass murderers of history was returned to his country. Of course, he did not die. Reports indicate that he could live another ten years.

Why was this man released? There is an allegation that British Petroleum wished a lucrative deal with Libya and the imprisonment of their “national hero,” was a roadblock in the negotiation. The negotiations occurred at the same time and were concluded at roughly the same time. The Libyan government has denied any connection between the two sets of negotiations.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that the allegations are true. The convicted killer of 270 people is released so that British Petroleum and the British government can reap enormous profits.

Let’s do an ethical analysis. We are not confronted here with an iffy, unclear, difficult analysis. Releasing convicted murderers on compassionate grounds when the evidence appears to have been flimsy at best is not ethical. Releasing him for money is not ethical to put it kindly.

What conclusions can we draw from this? First, both BP and the British government’s concept of justice is that it is a matter of convenience. Second, money outweighs all other interests.

I call into question the patriotism of British Petroleum in that providing release of a convicted international criminal who performed essentially an act of war is not the action of a group devoted to the interests of any country or any civilized society but motivated only by a concern for profit.

Now, the big question, can we count on international corporations in a time of war? If the United States were to go to war with a large and powerful enemy with considerable economic resources, would international corporations (even nominally based in the United States) offered enormous profits to remain neutral side with this country and decline to sell trade, patent and other secrets to our enemies? Would these corporations refuse to support the United States if such support cost profits particularly in the areas of trade disruption or mineral rights?

Does the regularly delivered evidence of corporate malfeasance indicate a willingness to abandon national interests in time of war if such would cost profits? Could an enemy of the United States purchase military secrets held by corporations if they name the right price?

I believe that currently with the enormous financial resources of the United States that we can outbid other countries for the continued favor of international corporations. Since this country is squandering its manufacturing base and descending into an ear of corporate ethical darkness, it is doubtful that such a financial advantage can long continue.

James Pilant

Chris MacDonald’s Latest Post: Boycotting BP Is Futile and Unethical

Professor MacDonald has an interesting post today (It’s dated June 9th.).

Here is an excerpt –

Professor Chris MacDonald

… there’s the fact that a boycott of BP gas stations won’t actually hurt the organization you’re trying to hurt. In practice, “boycotting BP” means boycotting BP-branded retail outlets. And as an editorial in the LA Times pointed out, “BP stations are independently owned, so a boycott hurts individual retailers more than London-based BP.” So, sure, boycott BP stations — that is, if your goal is to hurt a bunch of small businesses already operating on razor-thin profit margins. Put a few minimum-wage gas jockeys and cashiers out of work. The difference simply will not be felt at BP’s head office. (The same naturally goes for vandalism of BP stations, which is both unethical and criminal.)

I wanted to do something to hurt the company’s profits. But MacDonald is quite right. A boycott would be ineffective.

His reasoned argument is better than my emotional response but isn’t that the way it always is, reason defeats emotion if given time?

I can add to his argument, that Loren Steffy of the Houston Chronicle business page has been suggesting in his last three blog posts that British Petroleum is likely to wind up in bankruptcy or acquired by another company. What effect will a boycott have on that situation? None as far as I can tell. Not to mention that the enormous losses arising out of the current disaster are far more economically damaging then anything a boycott could approach. It seems likely that the company will perish on its own.

James Pilant


That’s the number of comments that have been lodged on Yahoo News on the story entitled, Anger grows as disaster reaches Panhandle beaches. That’s a very large amount of anger. Now, I freely confess I can’t read more than a hundred thousand comments (not without considerable monetary incentive), but I believe that there is considerable frustration with the federal government on this issue. And by federal government, I mean the President of the United States who appears increasingly angry but still doesn’t seem interested in taking any action.

Blow Out Preventer On BP Rig Would Have Cost 1/2 Million

Blow Out Preventer On BP Rig Would Have Cost 1/2 Million

That’s right folks. According to the Houston Chronicle, a blow out preventer on the rig would half cost an astronomical 1/2 million dollars. Oh the horror! I can see the giant multi national corporation British Petroleum teetering into bankruptcy and, God knows, what do you think?, $300 dollars a barrel for oil and gasoline so precious we have to trade pure gold for it?

A half mil doesn’t even come close to an executive bonus. A half million is chicken feed, chump change, pocket money, etc. and they wouldn’t spend it.

In 2003, the Department of Interior’s Mineral Managements Service reversed a Clinton era decision to require the preventers. All Hail! Hosanna to the free market. We all know that companies confronted by the real world will do what’s best for the public because it’s in their interest.Isn’t that the Friedman doctrine? A perfect world run by perfectly coordinated self interest. Don’t you love it? It works perfectly. In the financial world, in coal mines, with baby cribs and now with off shore drilling we find that impersonal market forces drive the highly intelligent, hard working corporate boardroom elites toward the best possible decisions.

Or it could be such total blithering nonsense that only a self interested business buffoon could take it seriously. Just maybe?

Now, a fairly large proportion of America’s sea coast is being or about to be struck by an oil slick larger than an average European nation. I’m thrilled.

I don’t know if a half million dollar preventer would have averted the crisis, but I do wish someone had tried it.

James Pilant