News & Politics

Leaked BP Memo Compares Employees to Three Little Piggies, Puts Monetary “Value” on Employees Lives

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Looks like BP’s pipelines aren’t their only parts putting bile out into the universe: their press lines aren’t exactly secure, either, given that a memo leaked today catches BP red-handedly grossly comparing their business to The Three Little Pigs.

Via Rick Outzen at The Daily Beast, BP’s Three Pigs metaphor actually originated with a lawyer actually suing BP over BP worker deaths in a 2005 Texas refinery explosion. The lawyer, Brent Coone, found BP internal notes about housing their employees in explosion-vulnerable structures during the working day. In court, he equated these structures with the pigs’ houses, which received objections by BP’s lawyers during the trial. Further down the road in discovery, though, he later found this:

What you’re looking at is a BP internal document that employs Outzen’s metaphor to horrific effect: a cost-benefit analysis made by BP factoring in the chance that a house would need to be blast-proof (small) and the limit they set on building their houses as “justified” by BP workers ($1,000). That’s called a profit margin. And the bottom line comes with the expense of an employees life, and the chance that they’ll lose it (but more importantly, the money they lose if that chance occurs). And how do you figure that out? You place a value on the worth of a human life. Like this:


Coon says that during the discovery process, he found another email from the BP Risk Management department that showed BP put a value on each worker when making its Three Little Pigs calculation: $10 million per life.

It’s basically what a life insurance policy does, except it’s a corporation equating a profit margin in the event they fail to keep you from getting killed, which is their responsibility when you’re working for them. And what does BP say of this?

A BP spokesman tells The Daily Beast that the company has “fundamentally changed the culture of BP” since the previous disaster, an explosion at a Texas refinery five years ago. But given that a $500,000 valve might have prevented the massive spill that is now threatening to devastate the Gulf of Mexico, one has to wonder.

Outzen nailed it, and not just with an enviable scoop that should be read far and wide: One has to wonder is right, about so many things, on so many levels, with the role BP plays in everyone’s lives, and hopefully from here on out, not just the ones they calculate into their controllable cost-to-bottom-line profit margins.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]

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