No question government criticism convinced executives at Transocean to forgo bonus money awarded for the company’s safety record. The company behind the faulty rig in last year’s BP Gulf spill had to change course with the head of the cabinet department that regulates many of its activities taking it to task.
After being given the money for what Transocean claimed was the company’s best year ever in terms of safety, five executives decided to donate $250,000 to a memorial fund for the 11 people killed when its rig exploded. But, this kind of reversal can take place quietly in Washington and escape those not reading the business pages.
This type of unnoticed absurdity heightens the importance of Jon Stewart and the “Daily Show” when it gets involved. No joke.
If Transocean’s best safety year ever includes -- as a government official has alleged -- failing to conduct proper maintenance on a rig that killed so many and sent oil gushing into the Gulf, then what kind of operation is this? Without Stewart’s skewering of Transocean, many Americans wouldn’t have noticed the latest example of corporate irresponsibility and questionable executive compensation.
Wall Street may not care, but the public should, lest the incongruity prove to be a warning sign of another recession or persuade them to take their business elsewhere (in this case that would be avoiding BP).
“I guess the American people are getting used to this,” Stewart said on the “Daily Show” Monday, according to a transcript. “Whenever these monster corporations fail, their executives always seem to find a way to justify their giant bonuses.”
Stewart is a comedian and wouldn’t say he’s looking to influence public opinion. He would acknowledge it would be better if Transocean-like activity came to people’s attention through more traditional news outlets.
But lacking that, Stewart’s wit and biting analysis is an important backstop. And if young people are news-averse, at least Stewart can point out some of the hypocrisy in their government and businesses they enrich.
That’s if Stewart doesn’t actually influence public debate. Last December, Stewart blasted Republicans blocking a bill that would provide health benefits to 9/11 first-responders. He devoted an entire show to the issue. And the benefits ultimately came through, with New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg tossing some credit Stewart’s way.
Back to the Gulf disaster, remember last year that as the oil gushed, BP’s CEO took in an upper-crust yacht race. Let’s hope the Transocean farce is the last ludicrous episode from executives involved. Stewart needs to take on other causes.