CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER
Challenges Alaska Speaker John Harris – You Calling Us
21 Corporate Crime Reporter 7, February 6, 2007
In London, BP CEO Lord Browne was clearly concerned.
The Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, John Harris, was accusing BP of misleading the Alaska legislature.
Harris wrote the accusatory letter August 31, 2006 to BP.
"We now know and have indisputable evidence that your Alaska managers have been less than forthright and honest when meeting with us and during the times of their testimony before our legislative body," Harris wrote. "In short, we know that your BP Alaska managers. . .have given us misleading information at the best and lied to us at worst."
BP’s top people – including BP Alaska President Steve Marshall – appeared before the Alaska Senate and House Resources Committee on August 18, 2006.
The committee called the hearing after BP discovered leaks and corrosion in the North Slope pipeline system that threatened to take 400,000 barrels a day out of production.
But something in BP’s testimony ticked off Harris.
And Harris being upset didn’t sit well with Lord Browne.
“You have raised a number of charges which both our US subsidiary and I, as Group Chief Executive, take most seriously,” Lord Browne wrote in a letter obtained by Corporate Crime Reporter. “Whilst your letter does not provide specific detail, our Alaska managers are accused of being less than forthright and honest when meeting with you and during their testimony before your legislative body. They are claimed to have provided misleading information or actually to have lied.”
“Steve Marshall is accused of making such misleading statements,” Lord Browne wrote.
Lord Browne said that he was turning the matter over to BP Ombudsman Stanley Sporkin to “conduct a full and immediate investigation into the allegations made.”
“If the allegations are found to be substantiated we will take the necessary and appropriate action,” Lord Browne wrote. “I ask that you share with this investigation all of the information that you have which forms the basis of the assertions contained in your letter.” (See Harris and Browne letters.)
Sporkin it turns out hired a law firm – Clifford & Garde – with direct ties to BP America chair Robert Malone. Clifford & Garde actually work for Malone and BP.
But that didn’t stop the ombudsman from hiring Clifford & Garde to track down the Harris allegations.
The firm’s John Clifford contacted Susan Harvey, a former state official who has had her own run-ins with BP, to check into the allegations.
Clifford sent Harvey a transcript of the testimony, and a copy of Lord Browne’s letter to Harris.
“If you have information that is relevant – one way or the other – about the allegation that BP managers . . .have provided false or misleading testimony to the Alaska legislature, I am requesting you to share it with the ombudsman,” Clifford wrote in an e-mail to Harvey. “If not, then maybe this ‘lead’ was mistaken and I will not bother you again.”
closing, let me reiterate the assurance I gave you yesterday,” Clifford
wrote to Harvey. “Judge Sporkin's only objective is to provide a complete
and accurate response to the allegations presented by Speaker Harris. I have
known Judge Sporkin for many years and even tried cases in his court. His reputation
for complete integrity is unchallenged and well earned. If you have relevant
evidence on this allegation, you can rest assured that Judge Sporkin will deal
appropriately. He is a guy who lets the chips fall where they may, without fear or favor.”
Harvey said that Clifford wanted her to volunteer her efforts.
“Sporkin is not working for free, Clifford is not working for free, Billie Garde is not working for free,” Harvey told Corporate Crime Reporter. “But they want us to work for them so they can get a judgment to get them out of the ditch – for free. It wasn’t a very serious approach.”
As for Ombudsman Sporkin’s reputation for letting the chips fall where they may, worker advocate Charles Hamel now has his doubts.
For months now, Sporkin and federal criminal investigators have been pursuing parallel investigations into whether BP told the truth to federal authorities when it said that a critical valve at its North Slope oil operations was reconditioned and hydrotested.
Hamel says that the valve was never reconditioned and hydrotested.
In fact, Hamel says, the valve was taken from the scrap yard and installed directly into a new process water flow line.
That valve ruptured on December 4, 2004 – spilling 500 barrels of toxic water onto the tundra.
“How can the workers complain to Judge Sporkin, and then he turns around and hires Clifford & Garde to investigate BP?” Hamel asked. “He’s done it for the valve investigation. And now he’s done it for the Harris investigation. An ombudsman is supposed to have a degree of independence. Clifford & Garde is working for BP. I’m troubled by Judge Sporkin’s lack of independence. He conducts an investigation with Clifford & Garde as lawyers, and then he doesn’t release the results of the investigation? I’m troubled by this, because I am involved in the valve matter and I have been made out be a liar by BP. And I’ve been waiting for Judge Sporkin to vindicate me. He’s completed his report and turned it over to Bob Malone. But it hasn’t been made public. I’m looking forward to being vindicated.”
Harris did not return repeated calls to his office. (Updated 02.07.07 9 a.m.)
1209 National Press Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20045