Monthly Archives: December 2013

BP is a bully and we don’t have to take it

 Opinion By Rhon Jones, November 29, 2013 at 8:05 AM, updated November 29, 2013 at 8:22 AM

I am convinced that BP thinks they are smarter than everyone in our state, especially those who love our coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The definition of “bully” is a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people; or who is loudly arrogant and overbearing. The definition of a hypocrite is one who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude. These describe BP perfectly.

BP has spent millions of dollars on ads across the Gulf Coast and beyond telling us how great their company is and how committed they are to safety. I am sick and tired of their slick ad campaign taking the focus off of the facts and who they really are. Let’s take just a brief look at recent history.

BP was responsible for the Texas City Refinery Explosion in 2005 that killed 15 hard-working employees and injured 170 more. BP was cited for hundreds of safety violations and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said the explosion was “caused by organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of BP.”

In 2006 BP was involved in the worst oil spill ever on the North Slope of Alaska resulting in 267,000 gallons of oil released and pled guilty to negligent discharge of oil.

In 2010, BP was squarely in the middle of the largest blowout and oil spill in U.S. history, which led to some 100 to 200 million gallons of oil flowing into our Gulf. More importantly, 11 hard-working men were killed. Those men did not have to die. They left behind widows and children who live with the impact of BP’s conduct every single day.

BP pled guilty to 11 felonies as a result of those deaths, as well as pleading guilty to obstruction of justice. Let that sink in – a guilty plea to 11 felonies and obstruction of justice.

I noticed in one of BP’s recent ads they tout their creation of a state-of-the-art monitoring center to watch over all their drilling activity. Guess what, BP’s felony guilty plea required them to maintain this monitoring center! So BP pleads guilty and part of the plea is doing something they should have been doing all along, and on top of that they want to take credit for it in an advertisement!

The hypocrisy does not stop there. As a result of the 2010 disaster in the Gulf, BP agreed to a historic settlement that was not capped and they themselves said was fair and transparent. Once it became clear their estimates for the cost of the settlement would exceed their projections, BP became the very definition of a bully listed above using every resource available to them to try and attack the very settlement they wrote and agreed to.

I may not know much, but I know a giant corporate bully and a hypocrite when I see one. BP fits the bill on both counts. The lawyers at Beasley Allen, along with lawyers from other firms involved in the BP litigation in New Orleans, are fighting hard to make sure the oil giant is held accountable for their wrongdoing.

Rhon Jones is head of the Toxic Torts Section at Beasley Allen. He is one of the lead lawyers in the BP litigation, serving on the PSC, having been appointed by Judge Carl Barbier.


For those who say government can’t get anything right, try visiting another country

Opinion from Bob Nicholson on November 22, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Greetings from rural Udumalpet, India. Business gives me the opportunity to get to know people and cultures all over the world. It reinforces the importance of international cooperation and trade. What happens in other countries really does affect us in Alabama; we have an economic stake in their success. Travel also helps to remind me of how blessed I am to have been born in the USA. We take for granted things that many other people can only dream of. Sitting here, I fully understand the truth of the cliché “first world problems.”

It also helps me to appreciate the government that we have. Warts and all, our local, state and federal government somehow manages to be less wasteful, less corrupt and more effective than most. No one can deny our problems, but to the many who now think that government can’t get anything right, you are wrong. Continuing a theme from a previous column, you have bought the myth.

How many times did your power go out in the last hour? Here in India, we’ve had power drop at least a dozen times. TVA, an entity created by the federal government, provides most of the Tennessee Valley with reliable electricity. Alabama Power, regulated by state government (loosely) provides reliable power to most of the rest of the state. You drive on roads built and maintained by all levels of government working together. Did you drink any clean water from your tap or flush your toilet today? Most of our water and sewer services are provided by municipal utilities. These are things that are easy to take for granted until you don’t have them.

My father attended college thanks to GI bill, a program still helping veterans today. I’d be willing to bet that quite a few of NASA’s alumni here in Huntsville were World War II and Korean War veterans educated that way as well. Did you hear the news this week that the number of homeless veterans has dropped 24 percent over the last six years? That’s despite the recession and thanks to Rapid-Rehousing, a program managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Perhaps those of you who lean Libertarian would rather these veterans remain on the street waiting for a private-sector solution. I’d rather have veterans not be homeless.

Sent any emails lately or surfed the Internet? No private company would have taken the risk of creating the Internet, but our government saw value where there was none. Although it was originally a Defense Department project, the US government had the wisdom to allow the public to have access. The Centers for Disease Control, NASA, and the National Weather Service are all federal agencies. On the whole, they do a good job. If you expect perfection in government, go find some agency that humans are not involved in.

When someone says they can’t fix health care, what they really mean is that they choose not to.

Which brings us, of course, to the terrible rollout of Let’s back up a bit and remember why the bill was passed. Millions of your fellow citizens live one illness away from bankruptcy, and medical bills, not lavish lifestyles, are the biggest cause of individual bankruptcies in the country. Insurance companies abused pre-existing condition rules, gorged on excess profits and sold many policies in the individual market that had so many exclusions they were essentially worthless. When Democrats wrote the Affordable Care Act, they based it on a plan created by the conservative Heritage Foundation (published in 1989) to try to attract Republican votes. They were naïve to believe that Republicans would continue to support this plan if the president embraced it; the plan passed with no Republican support.

The plan contains several provisions that Republicans should embrace. The Independent Patient Advisory Board exists to find cost-savings and to determine which treatments are effective and which are not. Cutting waste like this used to be a bipartisan objective, but that was before Obama became president. The individual mandate exists to prevent people from delaying coverage until they are already sick, thus freeloading off of the system. This requirement to accept individual responsibility for your own care was also a Republican rally cry – but now these same people call it government tyranny.

Yes, the rollout was botched. But I have a response to those who say it can’t be fixed, who say that the bill is unworkable. I grew up in Huntsville. I grew up in a town where the impossible became reality when a man landed on the moon. The space program experienced failure and setbacks, but no one ever seriously talked about quitting. They assessed the situation, planned and tested solutions and made it right. When someone says they can’t fix health care, what they really mean is that they choose not to. When they say we can’t afford it, what they mean is that they are not motivated to try; their priorities do not lie in making people’s lives better. We are smart enough to figure this out, and this was a common goal before politics intervened.

If you still complain about government tyranny, please, take a vacation in Somalia or Haiti. There, you’ll find out what it means to live without big brother; you’ll find what it is to be truly free. Once you get home, perhaps we can start to work together to find common ground. We can make things better together, but you have to want to try.

Bob Nicholson is a certified public accountant who lives in Huntsville and works in corporate finance.

BP safety commercials betray the oil company’s arrogance

Opinion from Bobo Cunningham on November 13, 2013 at 5:43 AM, updated November 13, 2013 at 5:55 AM


Have you ever witnessed the incredible spectacle of a convicted felon bragging about the fact that he is complying with the terms of his probation?

And doing it on television in a series of multi-million dollar ads?

You may think you have never witnessed such unmitigated arrogance. But, if you have seen the never ending onslaught of BP television ads, then you have seen just that.

BP has saturated the airways for months with ads bragging that it has now created “a state of the art monitoring center where experts watch over all our drilling activity…”

Well, guess what. On January 29, 2013, BP pled guilty to eleven felonies as a result of the deaths of the eleven men who died in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. BP also pled guilty to obstruction of justice. The terms of its guilty plea mandated, among other things, that “the defendant shall maintain a real-time drilling operations monitoring center at its Houston office or other appropriate location.”

If BP’s ads told the complete truth, they would inform the public that as a result of their felony guilty plea they have been forced to do what they should have been doing long before the Deepwater Horizon explosion and environmental disaster ever occurred.

Instead, we are continually inundated with these self-laudatory ads while on other fronts BP attacks the settlement it agreed to, the claimants who are participating, the claims administrator appointed with BP’s agreement, and the judicial system working nonstop to deal with the gigantic legal mess created by BP.

Some felons express genuine remorse for their crimes. Some felons quietly serve their time, pay their debt to society and move on. Not BP.

So, the next time a BP ad pops up on the screen, just enjoy it for its comedic value while at the same time wishing you could watch video of BP reporting to its probation officer as it is required to do for the next 5 years.

(Robert “Bobo” Cunningham is a senior partner with the Mobile lawfirm Cunningham Bounds, LLC, and was one of the lead plaintiff’s attorneys in the litigation that resulted in the BP settlement.)