It’s lonely at the top

July 27, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More

Pity Tony Hayward, erstwhile boss of BP. He’s really had it rough. He’s been “demonized and vilified”, to use his own words. The poor CEO was so busy dealing with the massive oil spill perpetrated by his company that he almost missed watching his yacht race in a very important race!  Almost, but he was able to watch the race anyway. Because, you know, someone else was probably working on cleaning up the oil fouling the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not really the CEO’s job, you see. It’s more of a job for the “small people” of the world.

“Life isn’t fair. Sometimes you step off the pavement and get hit by a bus,” Hayward said recently.  Yes, that’s true.  And sometimes, you end up the CEO of one of the most powerful oil companies in the world.  A company that has a long history of criminal and ethical violations that should make them unfit to operate a lemonade stand, much less a major multinational corporation with power to contaminate the entire Gulf of Mexico– and perhaps, Beyond!

Origin unknown- retrieved from

Origin unknown- retrieved from

“Beyond Petroleum” was their catchy, greenwashing way of hinting that maybe, someday, they’d not be an oil company anymore. They would be “beyond” all that.  Until that impossible someday rolls around though, they are keeping their hands dirty in the oil business. Well, the oil business and the Washington power-lobbying business. There’s so much overlap these days though, who’s to say where one ends and the other begins?

But, back to the point-  we really should be feeling sorry for poor Mr. Hayward.  He’s retiring with a barely-adequate pension of £600,000 per year.  For you Americans, that’s a miserly $935,800 in dollars at current exchange rates.  Oh, and he gets his regular salary for a full year.  Also, he retains his rights to his stock and options, which “could be worth millions of pounds“.  Such a nasty, imprecise amount that is.  Let’s assume that it’s only worth a measly one million pounds ($1.97 million dollars).  Yes, poor Tony.

Oh, I almost forgot– he’s not really “retiring”, per se.  It’s more like a re-assignment.  He’s getting a cushy board position with another BP joint venture:

But BP’s decision to nominate Hayward for a board position at TNK-BP, the company’s 50-50 joint venture with Russian oligarchs, suggests that the company still holds more faith in its embattled CEO than much of the US public and political establishment.

Stories like this one make me want to rage.  I want to scream at the top of my lungs to everyone that this must not stand.  This is not right. This environmental disaster affects the “small people” in a very real way– people like William Allen Kruse.  Mr. Kruse was the captain of a charter fishing boat that had been re-tasked to help clean up the oil spill.  The things he saw affected him so deeply, he simply couldn’t go on.  Despondent over the damage he was witnessing, Mr. Kruse shot himself in the head.

I’m reminded of a set of riddles that environmentalist Derrick Jensen often tells.  Here, he is discussing how the magic word, “Corporation”, can provide immunity from even the most heinous of acts:

I’ve decided also that I’m going to join with politicians and corporate journalists and begin preaching the gospel of limited liability corporations everywhere I can. I even know where I’m going to begin my missionary work. I teach creative writing at a supermaximum security prison here in northern California. The men I teach are called by the corporate press “the worst of the worst”: robbers, thieves, murderers. But I now understand that these men are amateurs. If they really want to succeed at their chosen professions, they need to get themselves special “limited liability get out of jail free” cards. Because the truth is that all of the men in this prison have killed far fewer people, destroyed far fewer lives, stolen far less money, than the average CEO of the average limited liability corporation. Here are two riddles about this, neither of which are very funny. Question: What do you get when you cross a long drug habit, a quick temper, and a gun? Answer: Two life terms for murder, earliest release date 2026. Question: What do you get when you cross two nation states, a large limited liability corporation, forty tons of poison, and at least 8000 dead human beings? Answer: Retirement with full pay and benefits. If my students had robbed or killed people in the service of economic production, behind the legal fiction of a limited liability corporation, they could now be joining Warren Anderson, ex-CEO of Union Carbide, on the back nine, instead of spending the rest of their lives in tiny cells.

Jensen didn’t really provide the full context of the Bhopal disaster there, but it was in the news again lately and I found this snippet which adequately explains what happened: (or see also the Wikipedia article)

More than 15,000 people died and more than 500,000 people were sickened after plumes of methyl isocyanate gas leaked out of a Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal in December 1984. The company settled a civil lawsuit out of court in 1989 and paid the Indian government $470 million to compensate victims.

Warren Anderson, then-CEO of Union Carbide, was charged in the Indian courts with manslaughter. He returned to the US following his arrest but before his trial, and has since been declared a fugitive from justice in India.  The US is declining to extradite Anderson. Yes, it’s lonely at the top, but it’s also extremely profitable.


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Category: Current Events, Environment, greenwashing, law and order

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is a full-time wage slave and part-time philosopher, writing and living just outside Omaha with his lovely wife and two feline roommates.

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  1. Zoevinly says:

    Brynn: I wonder if the promise not to extradite Anderson was a private part of the US-BP deal to create an "escrow fund" for the settlement of civil claims.

    In any case, this article in the Atlantic:
    reveals something for Battlestar Galactic fans about the origin of the curse-word, "fracking."

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