David Lesar, Halliburton Chairman and CEO

Written for FedUpNewYorkers.org

Sociopath

A person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

Halliburton

A corporate “person” who distributes kickbacks, overcharges American taxpayers for fuel and meals that are never served to American troops in the Mideast, substitutes contaminated drinking water for purified water, sells defective equipment that costs the lives of American soldiers, Iraqi civilians, and its own employees.

David J. Lesar, the Chairman and CEO of Halliburton, is our Corporate Bad Boy of the Month. 

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Lesar’s career includes a 16-year partnership at Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm that helped Enron steal billions of dollars from its customers, shareholders, and employees – thousands of whom lost their life savings.

Though he has never been convicted or even formally charged with a crime, as an Arthur Andersen senior partner, he was never far from the culture of criminality and corruption that enabled Arthur Andersen’s notorious clients like WorldCom, Sunbeam, Waste Management, and others to fleece their investors and wreck the lives of their employees. Lesar’s corporate biography omits his Arthur Andersen partnership.

The Enron scandal resulted in a rare felony conviction for the firm (later overturned on technical grounds), and rarer still, the death of what was then one of the “Big Five” accounting firms. Arthur Andersen was forced to surrender its CPA licenses.

Lesar was Arthur Andersen’s supervising partner on the Halliburton account. In 1995, he left the accounting firm to join Halliburton as a Vice President. A few months later, Dick Cheney, Halliburton’s then CEO, named him CEO of Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a Halliburton subsidiary and Halliburton’s chief financial officer. In 1997, Cheney moved him up to President and chief operating officer.  During that period Halliburton secretly changed its accounting practices, which enabled it to report annual earnings in 1998 that were 46 percent higher than they would have been had the change not been made. Cooking the corporate books led to an SEC fine of $7.5 million. Lesar: “We are pleased to bring closure to this matter.” 

 

The Money Keeps Flowing While the Soldiers and Civilians Keep Dying

When Cheney left Halliburton for the vice presidency, he chose Lesar to succeed him. Shortly thereafter, Halliburton became the largest financial beneficiary of the Iraq invasion and occupation. It received billions of dollars in “no-bid”  “cost-plus” contracts to service U.S. troops with food, water, laundry, housing, security, intelligence and interrogation. Halliburton also received major contracts to rebuild the country’s oil industry.

Officially, with the sole exception of Exxon-Mobile, it was Lukoil and other foreign corporations that won the rights to expand and rebuild Iraq’s oil industry. Few Americans knew that Halliburton and other U.S. oil services firms were subcontracted to do much of the work. 

Many Americans bought into the narrative that only “conspiracy theorists” claim that the U.S. invaded Iraq for the oil. We did it because Saddam was involved in 9/11, we did because we didn’t want to see the mushroom clouds over the Homeland, and perhaps most laughable, we invaded Iraq because George W. Bush and Dick Cheney wanted to give Democracy to the Iraqi people. Oil had nothing to do with it. 

Cheney continued to receive Halliburton checks during his Vice Presidency. The payments were said to have been obligated by contract before Cheney left the company. Cheney claimed he had nothing to do with the phenomenal growth of Halliburton’s government contracting or energy business during the Bush-Cheney administration.

Halliburton overcharged for fuel and meals that were never served to the troops, substituted contaminated drinking water for purified water, and sold the military defective equipment that cost the lives of American soldiers. At least 18 soldiers were electrocuted in their showers due to improper grounding of electrical devices for which Halliburton subsidiary KBR was responsible. 

Under Lesar’s leadership, Halliburton engaged in war profiteering that dwarfed anything the country has ever known. And yet Lesar remains a respected business leader among his peers and virtually unknown to the public.   

In 2005, he even told Fortune Magazine writer Peter Elkind, “What we’ve done in Iraq is good – to the third power!”   And for all we know, he believes it. Nobody wants to think of himself as living an ignoble life.

Recently, Halliburton agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle lawsuits brought over its role in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and caused millions of barrels of oil to spill into the Gulf. Spill victims accused it of defective cementing work on the Macondo well. Halliburton blamed British Petroleum, which owned the well.

And Now David Lesar and his oil and gas industry colleagues are going after our drinking water—invading and occupying large swaths of America, not for corporate profits—heaven forfend—but in the name of job creation, energy independence, and anything else that a pollster or focus group consultant can dream up.


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