Thursday, June 17, 2010

BP's Hayward Pulls a Browne

A House committee grilled BP CEO Tony Hayward. Tony's risk management coaching was in full display. Hayward apologized profusely but gave no data, claiming he played no role in his company's disaster.

On the issue of well design arose, where BP chose a riskier, cheaper blueprint, AP reported:

Hayward repeatedly said that he didn't make those design choices as CEO. "I'm not stonewalling. I simply was not involved in the decision-making process," Hayward told Waxman, adding that the well's engineering team clearly grappled with such issues.

"What's clear to me," Waxman interrupted, "is that you don't want to answer our questions."

"You're not taking responsibility," the congressman added. "You're kicking the can down the road and acting like you have nothing to do with ... this company. I find that irresponsible."

Irresponsible, but not novel. Lord John Browne, Hayward's predecessor, would be proud of Tony's performance. Lord Browne was CEO when BP's Texas City refinery exploded, killing 15.

Both men made budgetary decisions that framed choices for their employees. Lord Browne said the following in his testimony:

Q. Were you ever made aware of what BP Texas City did in response to the budget reduction requests out of London?

A. Not -- not to my knowledge.

Q. Were you ever made aware that they reduced the maintenance spend at BP Texas City as a result of that request?

A. No, I wasn't aware of that.

BP has aloof chief executives. Lord John Browne's deposition is worth the read. It's amazing what he can't remember or never knew.

Update: Tony Hayward was happy to discuss Cameron's blowout preventer, while passing on the opportunity to discuss well design or the myriad of operational problems prior to the blowout. BP's partner in the well, Anadarko Petroleum, wasn't so charitable.

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