Yesterday, I called Tony Hayward a mere git. And, until today, I have been skeptical about calls for criminal charges against BP. I had seen that as a way to isolate BP and treat it as a mere bad apple, all in an effort to deny that great ecological danger is inherent in deep-water oil drilling and the cars-first transportation schemes that make it necessary.
Well, while that will almost certainly still be the end result, it turns out that Tony Hayward probably is in fact a major corporate criminal, a personage who knowingly exceeded the legally permissible bounds of businesslike destruction-for-money.
Turns out Hayward cashed in a big chunk of his BP stock in late March of this year, and used the proceeds to pay off the mortgage on his mansion in Kent.
The Tory broadsheet that broke this story interjects, of course, that “There is no suggestion that he acted improperly or had prior knowledge that the company was to face the biggest setback in its history.”
Well, ahem, let me suggest exactly that:
Reporting its analysis of internal BP documents it obtained from “a Congressional investigator,” The New York Times said this on May 29:
Internal documents from BP show that there were serious problems and safety concerns with the Deepwater Horizon rig far earlier than those the company described to Congress last week.
On June 22 [of 2009], for example, BP engineers expressed concerns that the metal casing the company wanted to use might collapse under high pressure.
“This would certainly be a worst-case scenario,” Mark E. Hafle, a senior drilling engineer at BP, warned in an internal report. “However, I have seen it happen so know it can occur.”
The company went ahead with the casing, but only after getting special permission from BP colleagues because it violated the company’s safety policies and design standards. The internal reports do not explain why the company allowed for an exception. BP documents released last week to The Times revealed that company officials knew the casing was the riskier of two options.
And here’s the probable smoking gun:
The documents show that in March, after several weeks of problems on the rig, BP was struggling with a loss of “well control.”
The Times story doesn’t say when “in March” this struggle was on BP’s agenda.
But a criminal prosecutor might find a lead worth exploring there, no?
No wonder old Tony has been acting so squirrely and blurting about “wanting his life back.” Methinks the git doth protest too much.