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BP Says Halliburton Is as Slick as Its Oil Spill

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It’s entirely feasible that BP will emerge from the biggest offshore oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry -- one that belched nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days in 2010 -- as the lesser of two evils.

Eight months ago, BP made an unprecedented $1 billion voluntary agreement with the federal government and five Southeast states for restoration projects. Now, the oil giant has turned a litigious focus toward its partner in the Deepwater Horizon explosion to get help shouldering the culpability.

According to documents filed in a New Orleans’ federal court yesterday, Halliburton Energy Services Inc., a contractor for BP on the oil rig, was involved in a major safety cover-up of the Macondo well. BP alleges that Halliburton intentionally destroyed evidence proving that samples of the cement sealing the well were substandard.

Back in October 2010, Halliburton did admit it neglected a critical stability test on the final formulation of the cement but that an earlier test determined the mixture was stable. Halliburton also accused BP of making last-minute adjustments to the cement. Then, in September of this year, Halliburton filed claims against BP in Texas state court for negligent misrepresentation, business disparagement, defamation, and fraud.

BP reacted to that lawsuit in a public statement, referring to it as “the latest attempt by Halliburton to divert attention from its role in the Deepwater Horizon incident and its failure to meet its responsibilities, and to deflect all blame to BP.”

“BP will vigorously contest the claims should they come to court,” the company added.

It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that Halliburton could have engaged in underhanded dealings. In fact, the contractor has been implicated in cover-ups before. Take the $180 million pay off to Nigerian officials, in concert with its then-Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) subsidiary, for contracts valued at $6 billion to build a liquefied natural gas plant in the Niger Delta, that led to a $35 million bribery settlement.

There was also the matter of Jamie Leigh Jones, the KBR worker stationed in Iraq who charged her employer of trying to bury her drugging and gang rape by fellow employees by tampering with medical evidence and locking her in a shipping container after she reported the episode.

When that case was taken to trial however, a federal jury found in favor of KBR.

Given the history of both parties, neither has a record spotless enough for them to come out of this without oil on their hands.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.