The Hocke Net

1.19.12 - Ken Hocke Blog photo BP executives deserve jail time

December 17, 2012

The explosion of the Macondo well beneath the Deepwater Horizon in 2010 led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Yet that’s nothing compared to the loss of 11 lives because of the accident. It would pale in comparison to the loss of one life. Just ask the victims' families.

As attorney Tim Akpinar details in his Legal Talk column in the forthcoming January issue of WorkBoat, BP, which owned the well at the time of the explosion, recently agreed to plead guilty to 11 counts of felony manslaughter, one count of obstruction of Congress and violations of the Clean Water and Migratory Bird acts as part of the Justice Department’s criminal case against the oil giant. Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said the explosion was a result of “BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence.”

Two of the supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon that day in April 2010 — Robert M. Kaluza and Donald J. Vidrine — were indicted on 23 counts of involuntary and Seaman’s manslaughter because, the Justice Department said, they ignored the warning signs of the blowout.

The problem is that the Justice Department didn’t go far enough. Did the two supervisors act according to “BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence?” If so, are we to believe that these two men are responsible for the oil company’s culture? Hardly. Those responsible can be found in BP’s executive suite and boardroom.

But haven’t they been punished, too? After all, BP agreed, as part of its guilty plea, to pay a record $4 billion in penalties and fines. That money is on top of the billions the company has already spent cleaning up its mess. And there will be more fines ahead. But what BP’s executives are sacrificing is the very thing they have the plenty of — money.

If, indeed, the Justice Department has proof that BP has a “culture of privileging profit over prudence,” how will fining them change that culture, particularly when the oil giant recorded a $25.7 billion profit in 2011?

Those who are responsible for that culture should be forced to put their freedom on the line in addition to their company’s money. That’s the way to change the culture and send a message to all the oil companies around the world that there are some things you just can’t buy your way out of, because no one has been able to put a price on a single human life, much less 11 of them.


Expand/View Comments -  6 Comments
12/19/2012 15:38:43 Paul Westcott says:

I agree with Mr Moosbrugger. I do not agree with mr Hocke, considering his article sensationalized journalism, unlike his normal style whioh I generally read with relish. Although I agree this incident was a terrible tragedy, this is a dangerous industry, albeit highly regulated, with a notable safety record. In my opinion, having spent a career as government regulator, some of it on the OCS Gulf of Mexico, having interfaced with BP management personnel,and many others,this incident should not have been subject to criminal sanctions.

12/19/2012 15:29:29 Paul Westcott says:

12/19/2012 05:06:32 Ian MacFarlane says:

No matter how you choose to coil your line, if it is left underfoot you're likely to take a header. Any comments excusing BP executives for their behavior indicates, a hand who can't coil the lines or a skipper with little regard for the men on deck. If this isn't the forum to discuss this matter, where Cap'n Sir do you think it should be discussed? As a retired deckhand who made it to the pilot house, just asking.

12/18/2012 22:02:42 MARK PHILLIPS says:

Wow! Well said and what a surprise! I used to work for the company acquired by BP. I was very disappointed to see how lightly they were treated; how they continue to operate with very little control to prevent another such disaster and how the public has been convinced the only way out of our dependence on foreign oil imports is to drill these tricky and environmentally risky wells.

12/18/2012 19:26:45 Tony Andrews says:

I have to agree with Mr. Moosbrugger, this is not the forum for this message. Besides, anything coming from Lanny Breuer and Anthony Holder comes suspect and if they want to hold someone accountible perhaps they should look inward since they were responsible for two US Border agents dying in the Fast & Furious program and that was politics over prudence...

12/18/2012 15:22:29 TOM MOOSBRUGGER says:

You are supposed to be a trade magazine for the Marine industry. BP is an integral part of our industry and needs our support, I think your opinions are best expressed in another venue. Tom Moosbrugger, President - Wabash Marine, Inc.


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