Asleep at the Wheel: What BP, Goldman Sachs and Massey Have in Common

With an array of disasters occurring around the world as we speak, it is tempting to take a step back and think about how we have ended up in such a lovely state. Ah yes, the delight of disaster due to corporate greed. Robert Reich’s recent article “Bring Back Regulation” does a great job demonstrating how all of these problems are mainly due to the lack of regulation by big brother who was supposed to be keeping an eye on things. Well, it seems as if big brother was out on one too many smoke breaks recently.

BP’s dirty oil
Every 10 years we face a major oil spill of some kind. The current spill, courtesy of BP, could be the worst ever as thousands of barrels of oil continue to spill into the Gulf every day. The Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service was supposed to be the big brother in this case. Clearly it hasn’t done its job as there isn’t even a technology known that can stop oil from leaking at 5,000 feet below the surface (though in the last day we have learned quickly). Keep in mind this is the same federal service that takes in about $10 billion in royalties every year and is one of the government’s largest sources of revenue besides taxes.  With all of that said, BP will be slapped with a billion dollar bill on this one, but for a $160 billion dollar company, that’s hardly a drop in the bucket.

Massey’s dirty coal
The regulator in charge of this operation is the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. As Massey Energy Company’s revenues continued to skyrocket, their attention to safety seemed to have diminished. In fact, the MSHA has said it ordered parts or all of the Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine closed more than 60 times in 2009 and 2010. Wait, was that 60 times? Clearly, the MSHA was asleep at the wheel this time and was not reacting proactively in its positions, or else this mine would have never been reopened in the first place. Regardless, there is a grand movement movement against Massey and its operations at the moment with Greenpeace at the helm.

Goldman’s dirty money
And yes we cannot forget about the creepy monster that still sleeps under your bed every night. Goldman Sachs is not out of the woods yet. As Reich points out, the Securities and Exchange Commission seemed to be out on the golf course while the American public witnessed the largest financial meltdown in 75 years. Again we witness a regulator who was asleep at the wheel during a historical lack of regulation on the derivatives market.

Because of the power of corporations and their influence on high end regulators, cutting corners has become the norm. Executives have been bred to create quick quarterly profits. In order to do this they forget about things like leaky pipes 5,000 feet below the oceans surface. Clearly leaving the markets to act free of regulation only leads to disaster. It will be the public’s duty to be the whistleblower in most cases as long as regulators continue to be influenced by corporate interests.

Dale Wannen

Dale Wannen is President of Sustainvest Asset Management, an investment advisory firm focused on sustainable and responsible investing (SRI). Prior to Sustainvest, Dale was a portfolio manager at Harrington Investments and specialized in ESG investment strategies, securities analysis, and shareholder advocacy. Prior to this position, Dale was a financial advisor with UBS Wealth Management Services in San Francisco. He is often a guest speaker on the topic of ESG investing and shareholder advocacy.Dale has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He earned a B.A. in Economics from Rowan University and currently is a volunteer with Mentor Me Petaluma, Rebuilding Together Petaluma, and the founder of Green Drinks Petaluma.He also currently sits as Board of Director and Treasurer of San Francisco human rights organization, Global Exchange, teaches Economics for the Oakland non-profit Game Theory Academy and is a committee member for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in San Francisco. Previous volunteer work has included Treasurer and Board Member for bird conservation organization, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO), committee member of the Petaluma Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC), and President of the Social Venture Finance Club at Presidio Graduate School.Dale currently holds the Series 65 FINRA license and has previously held the Series 6, 7, 63, 66 and California Life and Health Insurance Certification. He is a member of National Association of Professional Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA).Dale lives in Petaluma, CA with his wife Lauri and their Malamute Shadow.

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