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Harry C. Alford NNPA Columnist
Published: 19 July 2010

(NNPA) - Yes, we have experienced such a cocky, greedy and arrogant bunch of business raiders before. Remember Enron and how about that old MCI? Business circles called them "cowboys" as they were wild and appeared to be racing to a particular end. They thought that end would be big pots of gold and treasures beyond belief. However, the end would be their demise. The companies would spiral down like a big boulder descending from the Rocky Mountains. Like the two aforementioned pariahs I pray that BP meets a similar fate as its recent activities certainly mimic them all too well.
BP originally was a product of the British Empire. It was formed in colonial Iran back in 1908 as a fledgling company and partly owned by the British government. As the British Empire started to wane it sought a new business model for itself. In 1995, the British government sold its last stake in the company and the very flamboyant John Browne, a politically connected wheeler dealer, became the CEO. Within a decade this fledging oil company has become a giant, second only to Exxon. They did it the dirty way: winning the favor of the British politicians and then lately "buying" up key American elected officials. They bought the once fine company Amoco and then Atlantic Richfield. BP quickly developed a reputation by skirting the rules.
Under Browne, BP ignored small projects and slow steady growth. It went after the riskiest, most expensive and potentially most lucrative ventures – known as "elephants" in the oil industry. Safety and regard for human capital just never seem to play a role in the rise of BP as its stock and dividends rose exponentially. Caught up in a homosexual scandal John Browne eventually resigned and the now infamous Tony Hayward took control in 2007. Mr. Hayward proved to be of the same ilk and the reckless, greedy ways continued.
The Deepwater Horizon rig which is spilling oil by the millions of gallons into our once pristine Gulf of Mexico is just the latest in a long line of dangerous safety gaffes. In fact, over the last three years BP has been fined for "egregious safety violations" by our government 760 times. The second worst company is Conoco with 8 violations. The largest oil company, Exxon, had just one violation during the same period. It is quite clear that BP doesn't give a damn about safety or its employees who have died by the dozens as a result of these violations.
BP dodged a big "bullet" in 2005 when Hurricane Dennis came through the Gulf. Its 15 story rig, Thunder Horse, nearly sank. Not because of the Hurricane but due to a valve that was installed backwards plus a welding job so shoddy that it left cracks in underwater pipelines. Somehow they repaired it before major leakage. Thank God for that because if we had a spill like we are having now it would have been there waiting as the massive Hurricane Katrina came through. That's a scary thought: Will another event such as Katrina, Rita or Ike be waiting for us in the near future as we try to figure this mess out?
BP cheats on safety, clips its contractors trying to clean up the Gulf and reneges on thousands of claims by damaged citizens. They are evil and that isn't the worst of it. It is now becoming apparent that in order to win rights to new offshore oil finds off of Libya, BP meddled with justice. It seems that through its manipulation of politics in England it was able to get one of the Lockerbie bombers (terrorist bombing of a passenger plane) out of jail to win favor with Libya. What a slap in the face to the families of the 270 passengers who were murdered from that act of terrorism. What a message to send to other terrorists – get the money, gold, oil, etc. and you can get out of prison. It appears that they swapped justice, human life and peace for a chance to make more quick money. It is evil by any other name.
Despite this deplorable history and methodology, BP struts around like the "Big Willie" of business. Right now this foreign company of ill repute is enjoying over $1 billion in US military contracts. That should be going to our own companies who play by the rules and honor safety and our environment. It gets worse! Somehow this foreign company is enjoying big loan guarantees by our own EXIM Bank. How can they queue up in front of American companies to get royal treatment from our own government bank and procurement offices? Simple, they have bought off certain politicians and get preferential treatment just like the old Enron and MCI.
I look forward to their eventual and certain demise. Good riddance!

Harry Alford is the president/CEO, co-founder of the National Black Chamber of Commerce

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