But even as he became the toast of Britain’s business world and was made a knight and member of the House of Lords, Mr. Browne was ruthlessly slashing costs. He outsourced many operations and fired tens of thousands of employees, including many engineers.
Tom Kirchmaier, a lecturer in strategy at the Manchester Business School, said that Mr. Browne tried to run BP like a financial company, rotating managers into new jobs with tough profit targets and then moving them before they had to deal with the consequences. The troubled Texas City refinery, for example, had five managers in six years.
This New York Times article on BP’s safety disasters highlights the need for enforceable regulation. Instead, we continue to believe the myth of laissez faire excellence. As we’ve seen with the oil school in the Gulf, it’s disastrous when companies attempt to profit at the margins of recklessness.