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BP and Taking Responsibility

Mon, February 04, 2013 1:30 PM | Deleted user

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This week, BP settled criminal charges and agreed to pay 4 billion dollars. The Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 people and caused devastating environmental and economic damage was tragic. It has been said that success has many fathers but failure is always an orphan. This is often true with trust violations. Research tells us that in our heart of hearts, trustors know that perfection is not possible and we are willing to forgive, but it also tells us that we only forgive when the offending party has acknowledged the wrong doing and made a genuine effort at trust repair.  While BP failed to reform itself adequately after its 2005 Texas Oil refinery explosion, the company deserves great credit for what it has done since the April 20, 2010 Gulf Oil spill.


After failing at the outset due to Tony Hayward’s aloofness and rude comment about wanting his life back and misrepresenting the volume of oil that was spilling into the Gulf, BP’s record at taking responsibility has been excellent.


On June 16, 2010, BP created a 20 billion dollar compensation fund and stops paying dividends. According to a US district judge, BP began paying out claims before the law required it. On July 26, 2010, BP removed Tony Hayward. By August 9, 2010, BP had spent over 6 billion dollars to contain and fix the leak. On September 8, 2010, BP released a 193 page report and accepted responsibility in part of the disaster.  On September 19, 2010, BP finally sealed the well.  BP has settled charges, paid massive penalties and each time expressed its desire to take responsibility. It has also spent millions of dollars in advertising trying to restore tourism in the Gulf. In contrast, Halliburton, the expert cement contractor hired by BP, has accepted no responsibility and hidden behind the indemnity clause in its contract with BP. Transocean, BP’s other major partner, recently paid a major fine and accepted some responsibility.


The Deepwater Horizon spill was a tragedy and there remain over 20,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf, so we are not sure if the system as a whole has been made more trustworthy. We also do not yet know if BP has yet succeeded in the deeper reform of its safety culture and organizational processes. What we can say for sure is that BP is taking responsibility and seems to be on the road to doing the right thing. A part of real trustworthiness is admitting mistakes and taking responsibility. Let’s give BP some well deserved credit and let’s keep an eye on Halliburton. 

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