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Financial Times: BP blast probe calls for sackings

By Sheila McNulty in Houston
Published: February 14 2007 02:00 | Last updated: February 14 2007 02:00

BP’s internal investigation into management accountability for the oil company’s fatal Texas refinery explosion calls for the sacking of four senior executives, the Financial Times has learnt.

They include Mike Hoffman, who recently retired as the UK company’s group vice-president for refining and marketing; Pat Gower, US refining vice-president; Don Parus, the Texas City refinery manager who has been on leave since the accident; and Willie Willis, a plant employee who had apparently been in the process of being groomed to succeed Mr Parus.

The four were among a dozen or so senior managers investigated by Wilhelm Bonse-Geuking, group vice-president of BP, after the explosion at the Texas City refinery in 2005, which killed 15 people and injured 500. They were identified in the report, a copy of which was seen by the FT, as “Tier 1”, which was defined as those with direct responsibility for substantial management activities.

“The team believes that each of the individuals identified in Tier 1 failed to perform their management accountability in significant ways, and recommends that BP seek ways to conclude their employment relationships on fair and just terms, in a timely manner,” the report concluded. It said Mr Hoffman “has not performed his duties effectively”, and added that his departure was consistent with what the investigation team would have wanted.

Mr Gower, the report said, “failed to actively control and supervise the performance of the most complex and difficult facility, even in the face of alarming reports and findings and the severe precursor incidents in 2004”. Two BP workers were scalded to death by boiling water after a pipe ruptured on September 2, 2004.

The report said that whereas Mr Parus, who red-flagged deficiencies at the plant to senior management in the run-up to the accident, took clear accountability for the tragedy, he, nonetheless “failed to adequately carry out his accountability from a management perspective”. It noted that Mr Willis “did not properly carry out his management accountability”.

The FT called all four executives named in the report for comment yesterday. By the time the paper went to press, only the lawyer acting for Mr Parus had responded.

Judson Starr, lawyer for Mr Parus, said: “We have received the report. We are examining it and no official action has been taken against Don Parus.”

BP said: “The team found no evidence that anyone acted in bad faith or violated BP’s code of conduct. The team did determine there were shortcomings in the management performance of some members of the refining management team. As a matter of policy BP does not comment on personnel matters.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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