The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark search twitter facebook feed linkedin instagram google-plus avvo phone envelope checkmark mail-reply spinner error close
Skip to main content

While reading BP’s 2013 Annual Report issued a few weeks ago, in which the company’s Chairman of the Board, Carl-Henric Svanberg, proclaimed that BP “will fight through the courts … for however long it takes”  in its attempt to renege on the oft-stated “Commitment to the Gulf,” I came across a surprising discovery.

Buried on page 48 was a paragraph titled “The BP Code of Conduct.” Why … what is this?

Based on the company’s actions in the Deepwater Horizon affair, its recent purchase of a Houston refinery to allegedly skirt U.S. law, accusations of price-fixingsurprising complicity in the Exxon Valdez fiascoongoing safety breaches, and the hiring of online mercenaries to silence critics, (like me), I assumed BP had no such “Code of Conduct,” or at least not one that purported to require a higher level ethical behavior.

We are committed to respecting people’s privacy

On privacy, The Code reads as follows:

“We are committed to respecting people’s privacy and the confidentiality of personal information … [Employees should] use personal information that you are authorized to access only for the purposes known to, or expected by, the individuals concerned – that is, fairly and with absolute integrity.”

Tell that to Emeril, who the company publicly maligned for filing a legitimate business economic loss claim, which has been judicially-approved and certified by three appeal panelists as proper.

BP placed advertisements in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal attacking the iconic New Orleans chef for doing nothing but participating in the settlement program BP itself designed.


How was The Code violated in this instance? Let us count the ways. First, I doubt Emeril feels his confidential information was used “fairly and with absolute integrity” while “respecting his privacy.” But more important is this Federal Court Order issued nearly two years ago by Judge Barbier who oversees the BP litigation:

“BP … shall not have access to any individual Claim File for a Claim that is being processed and has not yet been resolved in the Settlement Program, except if the Claim File is needed by BP, a Claimant, or their counsel, to prosecute or defend an Appeal … All Claims Information shall be kept confidential and shall not be disclosed except as allowed by this Order or subsequent Order of the Court…” (emphasis added)

While BP can access confidential claim data in order to appeal an award, nowhere is it suggested that BP can access such information to run a smear campaign against an otherwise legitimate claimant. In fact, when Judge Barbier was informed last week of BP’s improper use of confidential claimant data, the Judge Ordered BP to immediately destroy any such information.

We expect all our contractors to follow our Code

Presumably this applies to contractors such as BP’s outside legal counsel? If so, there have been violations of numerous Code provisions.

Here is what Judge Barbier had to say in November 2013 of the company’s lawyers when they reversed their long held position on what qualifies one to receive compensation for economic loss associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill:

“BP accuses the Claims Administrator of ‘rewriting’ and ‘systematically disregarding’ the Settlement Agreement. To the contrary, when it talks about causation, if anyone is attempting to rewrite or disregard the unambiguous terms of the Settlement Agreement, it is counsel for BP.

“Frankly, it is surprising that the same counsel who represented BP during the settlement negotiations, participated in drafting the final Settlement Agreement, and then strenuously advocated for approval of the settlement before this Court, now come to this Court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and contradict everything they have previously done or said on this issue. Such actions are deeply disappointing.” (emphasis added) – Judge Carl Barbier, Order, November 22, 2013

Code provisions applicable here include these gems:

“Our approach is built on respect, being consistent and having the courage to do the right thing.” (emphasis added)

“We hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards and behave in ways that earn the trust of others.” (emphasis added)

“We work in good faith.” (emphasis added)

I suspect that Judge Barbier would not concur, and I know Claims Administrator Juneau would not, as just this week he called BP’s allegations “patently untrue.

This is a problem for BP’s attorneys, as The Code obligates company employees who are aware of violations to report them:

“We expect all our contractors and their employees to act in a way that is consistent with our Code and follow its principles. We will consider terminating contracts where we believe they have not met our standards or their contractual obligations.” (emphasis added)

I submit that Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg must know full well what strategies his lawyers are employing since he proclaimed that BP “will fight through the courts … for however long it takes.” Thus, according to The Code, Mr. Svanberg is obligated to blow the whistle on his legal counsel:

“If you become aware of a breach or potential breach of our Code or other legal requirements, you must report it straightaway.”

I guess we’ll soon be seeing a new BP legal team then?

BP will make no political contributions

It says that, right on page 74. In fact it reads as follows:

“Wherever we do business, our approach to corporate political activity is clear and uncompromising. BP will not take part directly in party political activity. BP will make no political contributions – either in cash or in kind.” (emphasis added)

I was happy to see that the company took such a clear and uncompromising stance on purchasing democracy. By making no political contributions whatsoever, we can rest assured that our elected leaders have America’s best interests at heart, not simply BP’s.

But then I saw this on the web site

BP Contributions
The 473 elected officials who have received political contributions from BP. Well, kind of.

You see, even though The Code says that BP will be uncompromising in its rejection of pay-for-play politics, note the word “directly” in the provision quoted above. While the company itself has not donated $1,664,205 to politicians since 1999, BP employees, through their own, separate fund, have.

Kinda seems like a loophole to me that is anything but an “approach to corporate political activity that is clear and uncompromising.”

Some feel good parting thoughts

The following are some general Code provisions, that, given the above revelations and others (like the U.S. Department of Justice saying BP manipulated and obstructed Federal investigators, was less than forthright with officials, and provided false and misleading information to regulators), seem laughable:

“We say what is true. We do what is right.”

“Our Code represents our commitment to do the right thing.”

“We care about the consequences of our decisions, large and small, on those around us.”

“We always strive to do the right thing.”

“We are committed to our role in society and to meeting our obligations to the countries and communities in which we do business.”

As a citizen of the country of the United States and a resident of the Gulf community, I am far from comforted by those mere words. BP’s actions on the other hand, speak loud and clear.


  1. Gravatar for Rick Lacey

    Excellent, excellent article! It speaks to a key point I've made briefly here and extensively in my new novel, The BP Corollary. As a BP employee, I signed the code. Tom is correct in that it is full of deliberate loopholes, but reality is much worse. At BP, employees must surrender their integrity to be promoted to positions of responsibility. That frees them to disregard the code and gain competitive advantage. Anyone who doubts this is invited to otherwise explain the divergence between the code and BP actions.

  2. Gravatar for F. Guenther

    As a 35 year BP employee (Heritage Sohio) I can tell everyone that BP's code of Conduct, Ethics, Values and Behaviors has got to be the worlds biggest joke. In 1989 BP unilaterally changed our pension plan to a "new and improved" pension that was promised, in writing to be as good or better than the already existing competitive plan. Heritage Sohio employees are the ONLY heritage BP employees this was done to. We are now finding out that over half our pensions have disappeared (please see Truthout article by Dahr Jamil) and when we asked BP to explain where the money went we were given a BS excuse that it was unforseen interest rates. Back of the napkin math shows this to be a blatant lie. To date over 400 employees have filed concerns with the BP Ombudsman who's own investigation shows BP's claims to be bogus. For the last 3 years BP has stalled the investigation by withholding or providing false information to the OoO and it's employees. BP even went so far as to hire 2 of the OoO main investigators in the middle of the pension investigation. If BP will treat some of it's longest serving and most loyal employees this way is there any doubt how they will treat the public? BP's own investigators replied to a recent filing of a code of conduct and ethics violation over this that anything to do with money was not subject to "The Code" .....We're speechless.

  3. Gravatar for Mike Cowan

    I'm one of those 400, which BP shorted around $400,000.00! I trusted them then but they should be the most distrusted company out there! Please beware!

  4. Gravatar for ICANDO

    Looks like the longer BP stalls on Gulf Oil Spill Settlements, the more dirt angry people are exposing about BP. Gonna cost them a lot more

    in the long scheme of things. BP's future is bleak. Pinch a penny (or a few Billion) and watch your Oil Business turn into a Trillion dollar loss. It's your own fault for ruining our planet and not making good on it.

  5. Gravatar for C. Wyatt

    As one of the many Sohio Heritage employees and current BP employees who were cheated out of over half of their retirement by BP the article by Mr. Young rings true to me and does not surprise me at all. BP's code of conduct is strictly for public consumption and has no bearing at all on the way BP conducts it's business as MR. Young so eloquently pointed out.

  6. Gravatar for KIP LEACH

    Maybe this lie of B.P. ranks right up there with barry's lie on Obamacare. I think B.P, know all along that it was a lie just like barry and his gang of thugs. The people on the North Slope has always been some of the best hands that believed and trusted in what B.P, said and just like barry's lie when it has proved otherwise they tend to try and paint it in a different light. I put in almost 30 yrs with a company that I thought was a company of it's word. Now I'm finding out that B.P. word is as good as barry's and all they are concerned with is how much money they can stuff in their own pockets.. The amount of money we are talking about is a drop in the bucket for B.P. to come up with but a whole lot of money for the average "Joe". If B.P. was a man of their word they would make this happen in a heart beat but without it making the news and maybe showing how B.P. doesn't really care about their people or doing what they said they had intended........ we are screwed..... Just like barry is doing to America. B.P. doesn't care about America or what they promise to the American workers that gave B.P. their trust......

  7. Gravatar for W. Nall

    For those who have to deal with BP for anything, watch them closely. If they will put the "shaft" to their own long term employees over their pension, what do you think they will do to the general public.

  8. Gravatar for Mike Gallagher

    Most of what I would say here has already been said. I am one of the 400+ Heritage Sohio employees who have contacted the OoO (Office of the Ombudsman) in an effort to recover my "missing" pension funds. The facts are simple: In 1989, we were told that we were being forced into a new pension plan. At the time we were not concerned because we did not think that our company would be lying to us when they told us, in writing, that the new plan would be "as good or better.." than the previous plan. As it turns out, that statement has been proven to have been a flat out lie. There is/was no mathematical possibility for that to have been a true statement. We have never asked for anything other than what was promised in 1989. When I compare my "as good or better" plan with my previous plan, the difference is staggering. When I compare my "as good or better" plan with the plans of other companies BP has engulfed (pun intended), ie: ARCO Amoco, Castro etc., I find the same discrepancy. I just don't understand why we "Heritage Sohio" (meaning we were hired by Sohio/SAPC prior to being bought by BP) are being treated differently than the rest of our workforce. The bottom line is that we will have to work much longer than our non Heritage Sohio Employees with the same age and years of service to acquire the same pension amounts. Had BP NOT changed our pension in 1989 and lied to us about it, we would have absolutely no reason at all to complain about this. But when first noticed and reported up the chain of command we were ignored and dismissed. Are we shocked at other examples of BP violating their much touted Code of Conduct and Ethics? Are we shocked at the fact that the U.S.Department of Justice insisted that BP's Code of Conduct be overseen by an independent "monitor" to ensure BP follows their own CoC? It's really not shocking at all given the attitude of this company towards some of their most loyal longest tenured employees' pension concerns. One more bit of information; when BP converted their UK employees to this "as good or better" plan some 20 years later, they gave their UK employees the choice to stay in their prior plan. Odd that a foreign company operating and profiting in the United States of America is allowed to treat their U.S. employees differently than their U.K. employees. We have been waiting over 2 years for a satisfactory resolution but I can only assume that the longer BP keeps these funds in their control, the better for their bottom line.

  9. Gravatar for Billy Forker

    I am one of the 400+ Sohio employee that was not treated by the so called Code of Conduct Bp is suppose to follow. Bp needs to do what is right for all employees? Treating people fairly and giving everyone equality is all I want to see from this company. Bp needs to do the right thing!

Comments are closed.

Of Interest