By John Donovan
Updated 18 July 2010
Why all the talk of an American predator devouring a fatally wounded BP?
Royal Dutch Shell and BP have a shared corporate culture that makes for a perfect fit.
For many decades Shell and BP traded as a single entity in the UK under the name of Shell-Mex & BP Limited.
Both have made extravagant claims in multimillion dollar global greenwash advertising campaigns about their lofty business ethics and undying commitment to the environment.
Both companies in reality have flouted environmental laws and regulations and as a consequence, inflicted terrible pollution that has ruined the lives of ordinary people e.g. Shell’s notorious track record in Nigeria and BP’s in the USA.
Both give a higher priority to production and profits than the safety of their workers. Shell’s “TFA” safety culture on North Sea platforms speaks for itself, as does BP’s in the Texas City explosion and the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Both companies were closely involved in Hakluyt, the commercial espionage firm in London which both companies used to target perceived enemies, such as NGO’s. Undercover operations were mounted on an international basis. BP and Royal Dutch Shell titled directors were also directors and major shareholders in Hakluyt. Sir Peter Holmes and Sir William Purves were the ultimate spymasters at Hakluyt. Sunday Times: MI6 ‘firm’ spied on green groups: 17 June 2001
Both companies were also jointly involved (up to their necks) in the Al Yamamah oil for arms scandal.
Both are implicated in the Libya oil deals scandal associated with the release of the Lockerbie bomber. Tony Blair in his then capacity as UK PM, wrote a letter to Libyan dictator Gaddafi which had been drafted by Shell.
The BP/Royal Dutch Shell joint venture company, British Pipeline Agency, has just been fined £780,000 (over $1 million USD) for its involvement in the “blast at Buncefield five years ago – Europe’s largest ever fire outside a war zone. It caused £1bn of damage, injured 43 people and forced 2,000 residents to be evacuated from their homes near the site in Hertfordshire.” (Information from Daily Telegraph article 16 July 2010
Despite the incompetence and gaffs, combined with disregard of ethical norms, some senior management figures in these companies have been rewarded by titles and untold riches e.g. Lord Browne of BP and the disgraced former Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, the reserves fraudster, Sir Philip Watts. How long before Tony Hayward is knighted (or will it be a beheading).
Both companies “cull” thousands of experienced staff whenever there is an economic downturn, then end up having to hire high priced contractors to replace them when the economy revives.
Both companies have had some major problems with the Russians.
As can be seen, they already have so much in common. As I said, a perfect fit.
Comment by Wilt Staph 12 July 2010
Very good article. Not a lot to be added but you might also note the bias towards excessive top management remuneration and the malignant effect that has on transparency. Also the fact that both companies have useless and grossly over-rewarded non-executive directors. Note too that neither has a clue about, nor much interest in, their marketing segments (BP under Browne marginally better but Hayward wouldn’t know a customer if one landed on him from a great height). Shell and BP both once offered investors high yields and “safe” stocks. Ask institutional investors whether that applies any more?