Monday 7 June 2010


To be fair there are many instances of corporate leaders getting it wrong when their companies are in the news for all the wrong reasons. Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein, for example, thought for some weird reason that his company’s contribution to the recent financial crisis was “doing God's work." Right! Weird god he has.

But BP’s Tony Hayward has outshone even Blankfein with his tactlessness since the company's Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up on April 20, killing 11 people and sending oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, destroying natural habitats and devastating the economy for fishermen and tourist related industries, possibly for decades into the future.

BP initially estimated that between 1,000 and 5,000 barrels of oil were escaping into the Gulf each day. However the current consensus is that it's between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels per day. After 44 days, it is the biggest spill in America and there are no signs of a end to the disaster.

According to MSN, here are some of the idiot Hayward's bizarre statements since the accident:

On April 29, The New York Times reported that Hayward, apparently exasperated, turned to fellow executives in his London office and asked, “What the hell did we do to deserve this?" A possible answer might be the company's 760 safety violations over the last three years.

On May 14, Hayward attempted to persuade The Guardian that "the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume."

Only a few days later, he told Sky News that "the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest." Tell that to the birds as they say. Many scientists consider it to be an environmental disaster the full extent of which remains unknown for
the moment.

On May 30, Hayward was less bullish and decided to play the sympathy card. He told the Today show that "there’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back." Bless... If he wasn’t his life back, I’d suggest that all he needs to do is resign. The 11 people his accident killed don’t now have that option.

On May 31, he told the world that ecosystem-threatening underwater oil plumes—consisting of droplets of partially dissolved oil suspended in water that many scientists have observed—do not exist. He said simply, "There aren't any plumes."

On June 1, Hayward responded to claims that cleanup workers were being sickened by the fumes from the oil they were exposed to by suggesting another possible, non-oil-spill cause. When nine workers fell ill, according to Yahoo News, he told CNN that "food poisoning is clearly a big issue."

But Hayward is not alone in his manful struggle to spin the news in the face of daunting factual evidence. His colleague Bob Dudley, managing director of BP, told NBC's Meet the Press on May 30 that "I think Tony's doing a fantastic job." To paraphrase President George W. Bush during another poorly managed Gulf Coast disaster: heckuva job, Tony.


  1. To be fair BP are in the firing line due to US laws surrounding legal responsibility.

    The cock-up was down to the equipment failure and working practicies of the contractor [Transocean] who has escaped blame all too easily.

    Could it not be more a case of political expediency in the demonisation of BP by a presidential figure under pressure from all sides? Foreign company is easier to blame than acknowldging the disasterous de-regulatory legacy of the previous presidency.

  2. Hey there Dean,

    Yeah, quite possibly, and my mate Danny, who sometimes does guest articles on this blog, reckons the American Press has hyped the story up a good deal.... but let's be honest about Hayward: he is a tactless muppet and a sorry excuse for a man...

    I mean, he wants his life back? For heaven's sake, he's having to work 24/7 on this one, and I expect he's not seen his wife and kids, or had a game of golf or been shooting in Scotland or had a weekend on the yacht at Monte Carlo or whatever the super rich do with their time. But in a few months he'll get his life back.

    Eleven people who worked farther down the food chain on this rig REALLY want their lives back, but they'll never get them in any sense at all.

    He could at least have chosen his words a little more carefully.

  3. May have chosen better wording granted. But I honestly think that BP aren't really the main culprets in town.

    de-regulation legacy,
    Obamas falling ratings,
    US liability laws,

    They are perhaps more at issue here, or ought to be. But your right, his choice of wording could have been better.

  4. Oh - and the contractors!! Transocean have heck-o-a-lot to answer for- the loss of life especially!

  5. I don't disagree, but this man is probably paid millions.

    I ould ahve done a better job of handling this.

    Come to that my pet penguin could have done a better job of it.

  6. Pet Penguin

    No I Couldn't!

  7. There is surely blame to go around.....and the lawyers will likely be sorting out the legal liabilities under US law for decades. But Tris's point about Tony Hayward is very well taken. At the very least, he is a BP public relations nightmare, and he heads a corporation with a very bad history of US operations. Tris pointed out BP's record of safety violations. There have been high-profile oil spills in Alaska due to poorly maintained BP pipelines, and an explosion at a Texas refinery in 2005 that killed 15 workers. For the refinery disaster, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration assessed the largest fine in its history ($87 million) for gross negligence, and a federal inquiry found "organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels" of BP.

    That said, the American media has taken a very tragic event and hyped it to the stars. And of course, the politicians are falling all over themselves posturing for the cameras. The White House response to the disaster was quick. It was lost on no one that it was a disaster in Louisiana that finally made the roof fall in on the George W. Bush administration. But Obama's famously cool, professorial approach to things ("No-Drama Obama") has not served him well. Last week, the wall-to-wall media story was that Obama was insufficiently angry about the whole thing. A White House reporter asked the press secretary if he had seen "rage" from the president. Well sure, Robert Gibbs one point, Obama had said something like "just plug the damn hole"....and he had had a clearly "clenched jaw" at a White House meeting.

    Well his clenched jaw clearly underwhelmed everyone who was calling for rage. (But it DID produce a lot of chuckles at the press secretary's expense.) Anyway, Obama has been trying to be more properly enraged. I see that the BBC News website is now reporting on an interview where he says that he would fire Tony. Furthermore, he says that he is remaining on top of the situation so that he will know "whose ass to kick." Not "rage" exactly, but probably as close to it as Obama can manage....LOL.

  8. Yes you could Anon. What's wrong with a pet penguin?

  9. A typically balanced and reasonable approach from our American correspondent.

    Thanks Danny. I could never manage your cool objectiviny. In my humble opinion BP is, like most big corporations: utterly, completely, totally devoted to turning in a profit for its shareholders. How it does that is a matter of precious little interest.

    I don't imagine the board is in the least bit interested who gets hurt, or their livelihoods ruined, their areas blighted for decades, their wildlife obliterated... Not in the least... UNLESS and until it bites into the profit.

    When Mr Hayseed says that he is sorry, you can believe that he is sorry that he's had to cancel dinner, or his round of golf or his vacation. And that's likely to be the start and the finish of it.

    Of courese I could be wrong. It could be that he's the most caring man you could hope to meet and it's just that he is a person of very little brain and that his mouth runs off with him...

    Yeah, right.

  10. Danny,

    BP are liable for the financial cost of the damage, my point is however that that doesn't necessarily mean they are the chief culprets in this case.

    Transocean was the one running the site, with their equipment, men and management style. If anyone ought to be held accountable it is them, though BP is liable under US law, granted.

  11. I take your point Dean. And of course the actual allocation of legal liability will have to be sorted out after the fury subsides. As a practical matter, I can't imagine how all the damage claims that might ultimately be made on BP, Transocean, Halliburton, et al will be handled by the courts. But no doubt a generation or so of lawyers will sort it all out.

    In the meantime we have the comfort (or comic relief) of a concerned citizenry with all sorts of good ideas on how to stop the leak. One of the more dramatic has been the suggestion that a thermonuclear bomb exploded at the wellhead should seal it quite nicely. Now what could possibly go wrong with that?

  12. A biscuit as a pet? You're as mad as a hatter!

  13. Tris....on this pet've told me that it sometimes gets cold in Scotland......but you keep a PENGUIN??!! I had no idea. Actually, for this problem, a pelican might be more appropriate.

    In any event, surely your granny's cat could handle it nicely. That animal can do almost anything it seems.

    BTW, I learned today that it can take several hours to properly clean oil from a pelican. Nice that people are doing that actually, and many of the birds are apparently doing quite nicely.

  14. Ah yes Danny. My granny's cat. An animal of not inconsiderable talent. He could do a better job than most of running the UN, the world banks and of course catching that pesky mouse that lives under sink in the scullery. There are few of whom that could be said. But to add sorting out BP to that list? Hump... I think that's a bit much to ask of a wee cat, don't you?

    But yes, seriously....the people who work on the birds out there in Louisiana and Mississippi represent the other side of human nature from "give me my life back" Haybag.

    I bet they are volunteers, under the supervision of vets. People who give up their spare time, or their vacation to ensure that a bird, whose life has been ruined by human misadventure, has a wee bit more of a chance of survival.

    Now THEY are the people of this world who deserve knighthoods and seats in the House of Lords (You could chuck all your up-their-own-butt senators out Danny, and replace them with 100 of these people, and I'm pretty sure we'd start to see a better America.)

    And if there are any left mate send them over to us. It seems that under the new politics we are to have another 200 Lords... ARGHHHHHH

  15. Ah yes, Anon. Well, next time you pop round for a coffee, you be careful NOT to eat my pet penguin. He means the world to me.

  16. Only kidding!


  17. He he Billy... I'm not... if you eat my penguin, you're a dead man walking!!