Last Updated May 11, 2010 6:15 PM EDT
This is not a way to build loyalty in a company's most dire hour. And it's not even sound legal strategy. Experts believe the statements, which were collected after workers had narrowly escaped the rig explosion that killed 11 men, wouldn't even hold up in court. So what did the company gain with this circling of the legal wagons? In management's rush to protect itself, it succeeded in eroding any trust among employees. Lawmakers and the public are also on guard.
Transocean CEO Steven Newman tried to deflect suspicion surrounding the statements and told senators at a congressional hearing Tuesday that these weren't liability waivers. Instead, he said, Transocean was merely trying to find out what happened and then help workers receive medical care and provide them with clothing, food and water. Transocean also helped with travel arrangements since most workers didn't have any identification on them, Newman said during the Q&A portion of the hearing.
Transocean may have done all of those things. But they also asked workers to sign a form letter, which confirms they were on board the Deepwater Horizon and were forced to evacuate. After stating these obvious facts, workers were asked to initial two statements (provided by the Houston Chronicle):
I was not a witness to the incident requiring the evacuation and have no first hand or personal knowledge regarding the incident;At least one attorney, who is representing three Transocean workers and the family of another who died, has said he expects these statements or disclaimers to be followed by requests to sign a legal waiver they won't sue.
I was not injured as a result of the incident or evacuation.
Transocean's claims that this was merely a fact-finding mission are shady at best. Their response to lawsuits filed by survivors is enough to show the company put its legal protection efforts at the top of the to-do list. After receiving notice of one lawsuit, Transocean's lawyers reportedly feigned surprise and immediately mentioned the signed statement.
Transocean management had to consider liability from the get-go. Their rig had just exploded and sank. Workers were missing and survivors were injured. But in their haste, management didn't properly consider the fallout from herding up survivors -- before they had seen family -- and getting them to sign a form letter that probably has no real legal standing.
Photo of Deepwater Horizon oil rig from the U.S. Coast Guard See additional BNET coverage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill:
- BP's history of Oil Spills and Accidents: Same Strategy, Different Day
- Gulf Oil Spill Fallout continues: Virginia's Offshore Drilling Dream Delayed
- Seven Technologies Used to Clean the Gulf Oil Spill
- Gulf Oil Spill: One More Way to Kill a Climate Bill
- Gulf Oil Spill Picture Gallery: The Last Four Minutes of the Deepwater Horizon (Exclusive)
- Gulf Oil Spill: Who's to Blame? BP, Halliburton and the Feds Are All Implicated
- Peak Oil Era: Why the Cost and Risk of Oil Exploration Will Keep Rising