By HARRY R. WEBER /Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Grilled by the Justice Department andplaintiffs suing the oil giant he once ran, former BP chief TonyHayward fought off accusations that he sought to prop up thecompany's falling share price through his subordinates' dailybriefings on the Gulf oil spill, and that the firm failed to keepits promise to share its data on how much crude was spewing intothe sea, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.
During a sworn deposition by Hayward last month in London, anattorney for the state of Louisiana pointed to an email Haywardsent to an aide asking him to arrange a media briefing to counterinformation that was hurting BP stock. The share price rose afterthe briefing.
The deposition was part of ongoing litigation against theBritish firm and other companies involved in the April 20, 2010,Deepwater Horizon disaster. The government is among the partiessuing BP, and is expected to impose fines for Clean Water Actviolations potentially totaling billions of dollars. Hayward isconsidered a critical witness, since he headed BP during and afterthe disaster until he was ousted in October.
The deposition, which has not been publicly released, was takenover several days in London beginning June 6.
During the deposition, attorneys raised questions aboutHayward's sincerity when he said he had the best interest at heartof all those hurt by the Gulf oil spill. Hayward famouslyinfuriated Gulf residents during the height of the spill with hiscomment, 'I'd like my life back.'
In the deposition, an attorney for the state of Louisiana, AllanKanner, asked Hayward about a June 25, 2010, email to BP's formerhead of exploration and production, Andy Inglis. According toKanner, it said, 'Andy, can you make sure we get the technicalbriefing on the relief well out today? There are all sorts ofridiculous stories going around. It's the main reason behind theshare price weakness.'
At the time, the well was still spewing oil into the sea. Itwasn't capped until three weeks later. And it wasn't untilSeptember that a relief well finally sealed what had become theworst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
The day of the email, BP's stock price closed at $26.53, a 6percent drop from the previous day's close. A BP executive, KentWells, held a media briefing three days later saying the reliefwell was only 20 feet away from the blown-out well. He also toldreporters that the company had a high degree of confidence in therelief well and a backup one it was drilling.
By June 30, 2010, BP's stock was back up to $28.35 -- slightlyhigher than what it closed at on June 24, the day before theHayward email.
Kanner asked Hayward if he remembered writing the email. He saidhe didn't.
'Was one of the goals of the technical briefings and the mediablitz, if you will, to keep the share price up?' the attorneyasked.
'No,' Hayward responded. 'The objective of the technicalbriefing was to provide clear, coherent factual information as towhat was and was not going on at any moment in time, and thenpeople could form their own view as to whether that was good or badfor the share price.'
'If it was informational, as you said earlier, why were youbuying ads in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, inCalifornia papers, in Connecticut papers, Ohio papers?' theattorney asked.
'So the American people knew what we were doing,' Haywardresponded.
A BP spokeswoman had no immediate comment on Hayward'sstatements.
During the deposition, Justice Department lawyer MichaelUnderhill questioned Hayward about why BP has not turned over keyflow rate data to the government even though it promised it wouldshare everything it had.
'As we sit here today, June 6, 2011, are you aware that BP hasstill not provided that data to the United States government,including but not limited to the flow rate technical group?'Underhill asked.'Well, I was not aware that that was the case,' Haywardresponded. 'I'll take your word for it, that it is the case. But Iwasn't aware of it.'
Hayward said he did not give much thought during the crisis tothe amount of oil that was flowing, and that the amount would nothave changed the way BP responded. Both BP and the government earlyon gave the public flow estimates, and those estimates turned outto be significantly lower than what was actually flowing. At somepoint, BP stopped discussing flow numbers, and more than a yearlater still has not provided its own total for the amount of oilspilled. The government has estimated that some 206 million gallonsof oil spewed from the well a mile beneath the sea.
'The bottom line was that I concluded early on that we had veryfew ways of coming up with any sort of credible flow rate,frankly,' Hayward said. 'So, it wasn't impacting what I wastrying to do day-to-day. I mean, it really wasn't ... I didn't havetime to worry about any curiosity of whether it was 5, 10, or20,000 barrels a day or even more.'
Underhill questioned Hayward extensively about the annual reportthat BP filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for 2010.
In it, BP estimated its total liability for the oil spill at $40.9billion, and it said it based that figure on cleanup costs,compensation to victims and on potential civil penalties. Thereport said BP projected the potential fines based partly on itsanalysis of how much oil was spewing.
The problem, Underhill said, was BP's failure to reveal how muchoil was spilled. He also questioned how BP could determinepotential fines when the issue of whether BP acted with grossnegligence had not been determined. If such a finding were made,fines would be significantly higher.
'Do you understand there are legal consequences if there arematerial misrepresentations in a document such as this?' Underhillasked Hayward.
'Yes,' Hayward responded.
Hayward was no longer CEO when the report was issued, but he wasCEO for three-quarters of the year covered by the report.
In another part of his deposition, Hayward was reminded of histestimony before Congress in which he talked about attending amemorial service for the 11 men who died aboard the DeepwaterHorizon rig. Asked during the deposition if he could remember themen's names, Hayward misidentified one man and could name only twoothers.
A plaintiffs attorney, Robert Cunningham, grilled Hayward aboutwhether he told the truth during the Congressional testimony.
'You proceeded to testify falsely under oath on multiplematerial issues, didn't you, Dr. Hayward?' Cunningham asked.
'I certainly did not,' Hayward responded.
'Did your PR people congratulate you on how you did after yourtestimony was concluded?' Cunningham asked.
'No one congratulated me after that day, thank you very much,'said Hayward, who is currently involved with a firm that is goingto invest in oil and gas opportunities in Eastern Europe, Asia andelsewhere.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)