Chris MacDonald, in his business ethics blog, pointed out an article highlighting how BP was approaching the university research community and effectively “buying up” their support and silence for their upcoming legal battles. The blog entry (and link to original article) is here. My comments on the article and blog posting (posted to Chris’s blog comments) are:
“Chris — thanks for pointing out the article. I have to say that this is not surprising in the least. Any company that is in the situation BP is in now would operate in exactly the same fashion (although they might be a little bit more savvy at managing the public relations part of things…).
BP knows their liabilities run into the billions of dollars and a strong legal defense will be necessary to minimize those liabilities. As I pointed out in an earlier post in my “Business Detox Project” blog, “It is instructional to note that after 19 years of ongoing legal activities the fines imposed on Exxon after the Valdez incident have been reduced from $2.5B to around $500M. It cost Exxon about $188M in legal fees to achieve this outcome — which from a business perspective is money well spent.”
From BP’s perspective, I would think a few million thrown around in the research community to secure expert positions and limit data from being more publicly available than it otherwise would be is money well-spent.
I’m not arguing that we might question how ethical this all is — the real issue is that businesses don’t have an overriding ethical/social responsibility mission and we should probably quit being “surprised and outraged” when they prove that to us over and over again.”
Any comments or observations about this? Am I being overly cynical about how business actually works, or just painfully realistic? Your thoughts and feedback are most welcome…