Apr 10 2009

Pious Mouse Wash 2

From the very beginning of its alleged investigation, Spectra Energy had what it considered a strict protocol for ensuring an “independent” investigation into complaints about unethical behavior toward landowners – never mind they were investigating themselves.

The key to independence, they said, was that no employee involved in the Steckman Ridge Project would work on this investigation.

Richard Kruse, Spectra Energy’s VP of Rates & Regulatory Affairs & Chief Compliance Officer, was scrupulous about this in a conference telephone call back on June 20, 2008.

Spectra Energy would set up an independent group to investigate with an objective set of eyes.  None of the people involved in this alleged investigation would have any involvement with the Steckman Ridge Project, he declared.

While that is hardly a high hurdle for ensuring integrity, it turned out to be untrue.  In other words, Spectra Energy could not even meet its own standard for “independence and objectivity.”

The unnamed player in this corporate morality drama is Susan Waller, Spectra Energy’s VP of Stakeholder Outreach, who was part of the investigation and who interviewed two of the landowners in violation of the company’s strict protocol for ensuring “independence.”

Hired by Spectra Energy in May 2008, Waller quickly moved into an advocacy role for the Steckman Ridge Project.  In news coverage, for example, Ms. Waller dismissed property owners as folks who simply want to be paid more money than their damages are worth.

This from an executive whose total compensation is likely 6 figures; and whose former CEO (Fred Fowler) received nearly $5 million dollars last year in compensation.

To compound its problem, Spectra Energy does not even acknowledge its ethical failure in its final report – though I had a conversation with two of its executives about this issue back on September 24, 2008, during our interview as part of the alleged “investigation” in Rochester, NY.

During that Sept. 24th interview, Group VP Joe Ramsey and Human Resource VP Jim Haynes acknowledged that Susan Waller had conducted two of the interviews with landowners but she wouldn’t be doing anymore; and they realized her actions violated the protocol set down by Chief Compliance Officer Richard Kruse.  In fact, they appeared to be embarrassed when I told them I was aware that she had conducted interviews.

Perhaps that is why the legal theologians at Spectra Energy spent so much time on p. 27 of the “Inquiry Report” parsing the definition of a lie.  (See post for April 8, “Pious Mouse Wash 1.”)  [See also p. 27 of document titled, “Inquiry Report – Response to Benard Allegations,” p. 30 of pdf, “Allegation #4, Finding 9”] spectra-energy-inquiry-report-1-092

In my recent telephone conversation with Group VP Joe Ramsey (see April 3rd  post “Words vs. Deeds”), he said, “The fact that we did not disclose this is an act of omission, not commission.”   Hmmm, I’m flipping through my 32-page Inquiry Report but cannot find a definition for “omission.”

I thought it might be under “lie” on p. 27; but nothing further is there.

More to come next week about the Pious Mouse Wash – stay tuned.

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