All show, no go

The SE Texas Record Apr. 12, 2008, 3:54am

It was prefaced by a Brent Coon press release, and followed by a Brent Coon press conference.

But despite Coon's best efforts to spin and pose, the much anticipated deposition of ex-BP CEO Lord John Browne concerning his knowledge of the Texas City tragedy came and went last week without a fizz.

As it turned out, the great expectations were largely Mr. Coon's.

"15 people died at Texas City, and it is finally time for Lord Browne to stop hiding behind executive privilege and account for those deaths," Coon quoted himself as saying in his pre-deposition press release. "It is our hope that putting Lord Browne under oath today can finally provide some answers."

And after volunteering to submit to Coon questions via teleconference, Lord Browne did provide answers. But rather than shedding new light, Coon got a tutorial on the real day-to-day responsibilities of public company CEOs charged with building a company and improving shareholder value.

"They were looking (at) where do we grab the next oilfield, the next thing, where do they grow," Coon related after the deposition. Lord Browne "was not particularly involved or concerned with the routine operations of a refinery."

Is this a revelation?

That the CEO of a company with $292 billion in annual revenue would rely on his executives to focus on "routine operations"?

That the CEO of a corporate behemoth with 115,000 employees and operations spanning seven continents wouldn't know detailed particulars about one oil refinery in South Texas?

That the CEO of one of the largest companies in the world would concern himself with growth and fierce competition, not micromanaging distant engineering and technical staff?

It's our view that the drama surrounding Lord Browne's deposition was never about finding hard "truths" for the victims of Texas City.

It was never about unearthing the "smoking gun" that would bolster Coon's specious claim that an executive in London bears personal responsibility for an oil refinery explosion in Southeast Texas.

It was more about putting a major public figure under a hot media spotlight to gin up press attention for Brent Coon and his cases.

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