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BP, Transocean and Halliburton don’t like America very much


All three companies involved in the absolutely horrific and tragic Gulf of Mexico oil disaster have either taken recent steps to legally leave America or routinely violate U.S. laws.

Let’s start with Transocean, the company that owned the floating rig that BP hired for $500,000/day. Transocean, which was a U.S. company since 1926, decided in April 1999 that paying U.S. corporate income taxes was simply too burdensome and decided to flee to the tax haven that is the Cayman Islands, citing in its SEC filing that “there is no Cayman Islands income or profits tax, withholding tax, capital gains tax, capital transfer tax, estate duty or inheritance tax payable by a Cayman Islands corporation…[and] that no new Cayman Islands taxes will be applied to Transocean-Cayman for 20 years.” But even the Cayman Islands’ zero tax rate became too oppressive, because in October 2008, Transocean – “by way of schemes” (their words, not mine!) – changed its incorporation again, this time to Switzerland, noting that “Switzerland offers a more stable long-term tax environment for Transocean. Switzerland has numerous tax treaties with many taxing jurisdictions throughout the world, while the Cayman Islands has no tax treaties. Switzerland has a developed and stable tax regime, while the Cayman Islands generally has no system of direct taxation. We believe that the redomestication to Switzerland … will lower our tax risks over the long-term.”

Transocean has enjoyed $13.3 billion in profits since 2004. Not only can’t it be bothered paying its fair share of U.S. taxes, but the company doesn’t want to be held liable for damages related to the ongoing disaster in the Gulf. On May 13, Transocean made a legal motion to limit the company’s liability to $26,764,083 under the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, where, according to The Wall Street Journal (sub. req’d.) “a vessel owner is liable only for the post-accident value of the vessel and cargo, so long as the owner can show he or she had no knowledge of negligence in the accident.” That case is before Judge Keith P. Ellison in the U.S. District Court in Houston in case #4:10-cv-01721. That’s after The Wall Street Journal reported that “nearly three of every four incidents that triggered federal investigations into safety and other problems on deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico since 2008 have been on rigs operated by Transocean.” Indeed, on April 1, the company announced that executives wouldn’t receive any bonuses after 4 employees died in the workplace in 2009.

Not to be outdone, Halliburton moved its CEO and corporate headquarters to Dubai in 2007. Halliburton has a shady corporate record of ripping off taxpayers that is literally too extensive to list here, but one of my favorites was the federal government finding that the company engaged in illegal accounting during the tenure of CEO Dick Cheney.

And of course, don’t forget BP, the British company that has paid $730 million in penalties and settlements related to violations of workplace safety, environmental and anti-market manipulation laws – not to mention that the company is still under criminal probation after pleading guilty to two felonies in 2007.

I’m sure executives of all three companies start each morning reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Tyson Slocum is the Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. gaetano marano permalink
    05/15/2010 4:16 pm

    As direct derivative of the latest BP idea (but much better) in my oil spill article’s update, I propose a NEW, SAFER, CHEAPER, FASTER IDEA that could close the hole and stop the oil spill IN A MATTER OF HOURS!
    It uses a balloon with a strong metal core to be inserted in the riser, then inflated with compressed air or a mix of water and concrete:
    Or, adopt my (just added) THIRD (and simplest!) IDEA that uses a giant and heavy 200+ tons cube of concrete to “squeeze” the riser and stop the oil leak in a few minutes!!!

  2. 05/27/2010 7:54 pm

    Transocean drilled in Burmese waters linked to drug lord
    Thursday, 27 May 2010 19:49 Thomas Maung Shwe

    Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Swiss-American firm Transocean, presently embroiled in the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster, did exploratory drilling last autumn in Burmese waters owned by a partnership between a Chinese state-run energy company and a firm owned by Stephen Law, a junta crony alleged by the US to be a major drug-money launderer, according to corporate filings with the US stock market regulator.

    Stephen Law, (a.k.a. Tun Myint Naing), his Singaporean wife and his “narco warlord” father are on the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) blacklist, officially called the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. All three are also on a similar European travel ban and sanctions lists.

    The SDN blacklist targets the Burmese junta’s senior leadership, its cronies and the financial networks that continue to support the military dictatorship. The US Treasury website states that when an individual, firm or other entity is added to the sanctions list “any assets the designees may have subject to US jurisdiction are frozen, and all financial and commercial transactions by any US person with the designated companies and individuals are prohibited”.

    Transocean International’s corporate 8-K filing to the US Securities and Exchance Commission on November 2 last year shows that Chinese state-run energy company CNOOC hired Transocean’s semi-submersible Actinia, a Panamanian registered drilling rig, to operate in Burma from last October to December. An 8-K form is the “current report” companies must file with the US market regulator to announce major events that shareholders should know about. The 82-metre-long, 78-metre-wide rig was hired at a daily rate of US$206,000. Transocean could not be reached for comment.

    According to the CNOOC website, all of the firm’s stakes in Burma’s gas industry are held in partnership with China Focus Development (formerly known as Golden Aaron) and China Global Construction, with CNOOC as the operator. China Focus Development is a privately owned Singapore-registered firm whose sole shareholders are Stephen Law and his wife Ng Sor Hong (a.k.a. Cynthia Ng). The US and EU sanctions list show Ng Sor Hong to be chief executive of the firm, which is also among more than a dozen companies controlled by Law on the OFAC blacklist of banned Burma-related entities.

    Industry journal International Oil Daily reported last February that the CNOOC-China Focus Development partnership held onshore blocks C-1, C-2 and M and offshore blocks A-4, M-2 and M-10. It also said CNOOC’s attempt in 2008 to swap its stake in two of its blocks with the Thai national oil firm PTEEP was vetoed by the Burmese regime.

    Law’s Sino-Burmese father Lao Sit Han (a.k.a. Lo Hsing Han) is believed by US drug-trafficking analysts to have controlled Southeast Asia’s best-armed narcotics militias during the 1970’s.

    According to the US Treasury in February, 2008: “In addition to their support for the Burmese regime, Steven Law and Lo Hsing Han have a history of involvement in illicit activities.”

    “Lo Hsing Han, known as the ‘Godfather of Heroin’, has been one of the world’s key heroin traffickers dating back to the early 1970s. Steven Law joined his father’s drug empire in the 1990s and has since become one of the wealthiest individuals in Burma,” the Treasury statement said.

    Calls for a US government investigation

    In an interview with Mizzima, Wong Aung of the Shwe Gas movement called on the US government to immediately probe the links between Transocean and Stephen Law.

    “Transocean’s drilling for Stephen Law’s natural gas consortium appears to be a serious breach of American sanctions on Burma,” he said. “The US government must investigate Transocean’s Burmese operations as soon as possible and send a clear message that it is not acceptable for multinational firms such as Transocean to do business with Burma’s most notorious narco-oligarch.”

    Last month Transocean was involved in what has been described as one of the worst environmental disasters in US history. On April 20, 2010, Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico while it was drilling under contract for oil giant BP. The explosion killed 11 workers.

    Early this month at a special US congressional hearing convened to investigate the disaster, senior executives from BP, Transocean and contractor Halliburton all testified the other firms were responsible for the blast and subsequent unprecedented oil spill.

    Following the hearing, a furious US President Barack Obama chided the executives for their refusal to accept responsibility saying, “I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle”. He added that the millionaire executives were “falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. The American people could not have been impressed with that display and I certainly wasn’t”.

  3. James permalink
    05/28/2010 4:50 am

    Tyson, we need to have people boycott B.P. with a comprehensive list of companies owned by B.P. I just finished reading 30 or so websites and read a lot to include B.P.’s own website. Might want to have a tab on your main website page of a list of companies owned by B.P. that indivudual people could boycott.

    So far I have found this:

    B.P. gas stations (some are owned, some not, but still owned by “jobbers” that buy BP gas
    B.P.’s 4 types of credit cards (Chase provides their Visa)
    ARCO gas stations in 6 western states (WA/OR/CA/Utah/Nevada/AZ
    AM/PM Roadside Convienance stores
    BP Solar Panels/Products built by Jabil Circuit in Mexico (if your installer company is selling BP panels and credentialed thru Ameresco or Solar Depot go with another builder)
    ALL “Castol” oil products (let Nascar drivers know in the south not to use Castor products as B.P. is killing the gulf and texas). Next time people get a lube done, no Castor!!
    Amaco gas stations

    B.P.’s main intentions until 2015 are to bring on board 10 additional oil platforms in the gulf (2 in 2011 and 8 from 2012-2015) within U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (why the heck have we not ratified UNCLOS III promised by Mrs. Clinton in early 2009?). They also want to open up 2 large oil sand depositories called Sunrise and Kirby in Alberta, Canada (note: this is the 2nd largest oil depository, Saudi Arabia being the largest). Lastly, they have deployed 50 percent of their physical assets of production to Russia as they lack the environmental laws. So as Americans we can 1) boycott smartly and pass the word, 2) BLOCK ALL OF B.P.’s AMBITIONS IN THE GULF (the addition of 10 more oil platforms (see their website), 3) block Canada’s approval of taping into the oil sand deposits in Alberta. We must email the Alberta Legislator, and Ottawa, as well as put pressure on the U.S. to ratify UNCLOS III.

    If anyone can find additional companies and products that we as Americans can boycott, please let me know and hopefully we can create a tab on the main page so we can be educated. Thank you…. James

  4. James permalink
    05/28/2010 4:57 am

    FORGOT TO MENTION THE U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE has approved B.P. to be an official sponsor for the passed Winter Games in Vancouver (was there myself as a volunteer pharmacist :), BUT they also got approved for the 2012 Olympics in London.

    EVERYONE, contact the U.S. Olympic Committee and tell them to reverse their decision for 2012.

  5. Jim Barch permalink
    06/02/2010 7:05 am

    I propose that the following five basic rules be enacted into U.S. law:

    1) U.S. corporations have a moral obligation and a legal requirement to be good citizens to the U.S. Such corporations are not permitted to exist only for the financial benefit of their top management, employees, and shareholders, but must also be respectful of, and beneficial to, the U.S. national interest and the public good, both in the corporation’s business conduct and in the full payment of U.S. taxes.

    2) Therefore, all U.S. corporations doing business with, or within, the U.S. are required by law to be headquartered within the U.S. and to pay true and full taxes to the U.S. government.

    3) Any U.S. corporation which outsources U.S. jobs and plants to foreign countries, or leaves the U.S. to be based in foreign countries, is to be considered a traitor to the U.S., and as such shall be forever and completely banned from doing business in any way (selling to, buying from, or interacting with) any and all U.S. customers, government, other businesses, etc.

    4) If the above permanent and total ban from doing business in the U.S. is not legally or politically possible, then at the very least, such treasonous ex-U.S. corporations must be visibly labeled, for all to see permanently, as having left and betrayed the U.S. , and must pay an onerous penalty and prohibitive tariff whenever such a corporation attempts to do business in, and to benefit from, the U.S. after the corporation has left the U.S. or has sent jobs or equipment away from the U.S.

    5) In sum, U.S. corporations must face financially painful consequences and disincentives for betraying the U.S. Such corporations must no longer be permitted to enjoy all the benefits of doing business in the U.S. if they choose to abandon and evade their moral and legal obligations to the U.S. government and the American people.


  1. 1 Month Later: 5 Things We Know About the BP Gulf Disaster « Citizen Energy

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