Wednesday, April 28, 2010

BP is not Beyond Petroleum

Our friends at BP who claim to be Beyond Petroleum have struck once more. This gigantic corporation that blew up a refinery in Texas City has now managed to blow up an oil rig in the Gulf Of Mexico. The Texas City refinery explosion killed 15 workers, injured 170 workers, and BP paid a fine of 373 million dollars for that “accident”. The oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico caused 11 deaths and is creating an environmental disaster of gigantic proportion. The US Coast Guard is considering setting the slick alight to burn off the more volatile components in the slick. The problem is that some of the oil that is leaking from a mile below the surface of the gulf is heavy oil and will pollute the Gulf for years to come. There is little doubt that some oil will end up in the onshore marshes and will cause significant environmental harm to these marshes.

The company should change its name from Beyond Petroleum to Bloody Pathetic. BP is not bloody pathetic at making money it is just bloody pathetic at safety and when a company earns over $6 billion in a quarter they can afford to pay fines to buy their way out of trouble. Paying fines to BP is like me paying for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. The problem with fines is that it really does not reflect the severity of the “crime” relative to the net worth of the corporation that violates the law. On Tuesday we had Goldman Sachs executives testify in the Senate hearing. Their “crime” was to sell financial instruments they knew were destined for failure and that Goldman Sachs profited from in their failure. It was pretty amazing to hear bleeps in the questioning that Senator Levin posed to Goldman executives. Of course he was bleeped because he was reading verbatim from emails that Goldman employees wrote about how “sh---y” the deals were for investors.

Today on the evening news I saw that AstraZeneca agreed to a Federal fine of over $500 million for off label marketing of Sorequel a drug that was not approved for the indications AstraZeneca’s salespeople were promoting. AstroZeneca is a British and Swedish company. I guess the management of AstraZeneca is singing “who is Sorequel now”. For British Petroleum and British Pharmaceuticals it has been a bad week for the British. The list of drug companies fined by the FDA for off label promotion include Eli Lilly 1.4 billion dollars for Xyprexa, and Pfizer 2.3 billion dollars for Bextra. Merck was fined 671 million dollars for overcharging for Vioxx and Pepcid. All these unlawful activities must have given the shareholders of Merck very painful heartburn.

The question to be asked is the following: are there any honest and caring companies out there? I have to admit that most companies are honest and their management does care about their employees and customers. These companies will continue to thrive if they continue to market quality products and services at a reasonable price. A new company just went public with an initial stock offering this week. This company is Codexis and they claim to manufacture bio-fuels and have the big oil firm Royal Dutch Shell as an early investor. I bet they do not make it big but at least they will hemorrhage on land rather than out in the Gulf of Mexico. I wonder if my “gangrene friends” at the University of California in Bezerkley are questioning the wisdom of having partnered with BP for bio-fuels. Perhaps BP will stand for Bezerkley Petroleum and the fuel will have a deep red glow when burned.