Hundreds Of Crooks In The Oil Industry  

Posted by Big Gav

Crikey's daily email today had some interesting stats on corruption in the oil industry today. In some ways I'd prefer it if Woodside stayed out of Iraq and concentrated on developing their gas reserves - there seems to be no shortage of demand there and far less in the way of issues like corruption, morality, legality and security to worry about.

Just how crooked is the oil business? In its latest annual report, Royal Dutch/Shell has revealed that a drive to end bribery and corruption saw a whopping 203 staff and contractors sacked in 2004 alone. This related to 16 different bribery incidents and 123 fraud cases. That might sound like a lot, but BP is worse: it recently revealed that 252 staff and contractors were sacked in 2004, a 50% increase on the 2003 figures. At least the British multi-national oil giants are starting to reveal these figures, although Shell provided no comparisons with 2003.

The British oil majors have long been regarded as being less ruthless than their American rivals, so you can only wonder at the sort of behaviour that Dallas-based Exxon-Mobil, the world's most profitable and valuable company, and Chevron have been up to over the years. Maybe this explains why the likes of BHP Petroleum flopped so badly during its multi-billion hunt for oil around the world in the 1990s. Instead of drilling hundreds of dry wells across the globe, maybe it should have just been better at the bribery business.

But with Woodside Petroleum pushing hard to get into the Iraq oil game, it would be very interesting to know the sorts of tactics being deployed by the Perth-based company, now run by American Don Voelte, and its global rivals. Senator Ross Lightfoot's claims, since denied, of sewing cash donations from Woodside into his jacket certainly put the question of oil influence pedalling in Iraq on the map.

The oil industry has long had a reputation for crookedness when it comes to accessing reserves in corrupt third world countries. Shell's various antics in its huge Nigerian operation have long tainted the company. Controversy in Nigeria remains as Shell's annual environment report, also released late last week, admitted that the promise to end the damaging practice of flaring waste gas in Nigeria, had been extended from 2008 until 2009.

Of course, you shouldn't blame Shell for this, as the Financial Times on Saturday quoted the company saying the program was "behind schedule because of our past under-funding by our government partner." Of course!

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