James Baker, the former US Secretary of State has been busy writing recently. He was involved in the Iraq report, written for the President. And, in just the last two days, he handed British energy giant BP his report on safety at its US refining operations. The reports was several hundred pages long, so he may have had some help.
The content of the document was ugly. As quoted in the FT, the reports states that “BP has not always ensured that it identified and provided the resources required for strong process safety performance at its US refineries.’’
Aside from the embarrassment for BP management, the assessment will throw gas on the fire of a number of civil suits filed against the company. There is also a criminal investigation into a fire at a BP refinery in Texas that killed 15 people.
BP may want to consult the firms that handled the litigation for Altria’s Philip Morris unit or Merck’s management in the Vioxx suits that have cropped up by the dozens.
The company’s stock traded for over $76 in May. Falling oil prices and management turmoil pushed it below $62 last week. The shares have staged a brief rally as a new CEO has been named and oil prices have become more stable.
The little rally may not last for long.
Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at email@example.com. He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.