Apr 22 2009

Spectra Family Tree

Spectra Energy – Who’s Your Daddy?

Duke Energy: Legacy of Spectra Energy’s Past – What Kind of Corporate Culture Would Create This Level of Animosity Among Its Own Employees?

Family trees often reveal character traits – and that’s as true of companies as it is for individuals.

Spectra Energy’s family tree shows a significant link with Duke Energy. As the Spectra Energy website reveals, its U.S. roots began with Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company in 1929. See link:http://www.spectraenergy.com/who_we_are/history/

After a series of corporate “begats,” the company’s name was changed to PanEnergy in 1996. The following year, Duke Power and PanEnergy merged to form Duke Energy. Ten years later, in 2007, Spectra Energy was spun off from Duke Energy.

This family tree offers insight into the behavior and corporate culture we are dealing with at Spectra Energy – especially when one considers that at least 7 former Duke Energy executives are running the show at Spectra Energy.

At least four members of the current executive leadership team at Spectra Energy came from Duke Energy, including Gregory Ebel, Spectra Energy’s current CEO. See link: http://www.spectraenergy.com/who_we_are/leadership/

At least three members of Spectra Energy’s Board of Directors came from Duke Energy, including Fred Fowler “who led the successful spin-off of Spectra Energy from Duke Energy in 2007,” according to the Spectra Energy website. Mr. Fowler was Spectra Energy’s first CEO. See link:http://www.spectraenergy.com/who_we_are/board/

The point? Check out a very unusual website called the Duke Energy Employee Advocate at: http://www.dukeemployees.com/

This independent-from-the-company website accuses the Duke Energy management team of lying to employees. There are references in the website to current executives at Spectra Energy – from their Duke Energy days. And they are not flattering references.

Hmmm. Could there be a family resemblance?

The site is a bulletin board of issues, commentary, reproductions of news articles, letters to politicians and so on. It is exceedingly negative about its employer, Duke Energy, its leadership team and the company’s ethics.

The stated purpose of the site is centered around “improving benefits and equitable treatment,” including (and perhaps especially): “The restoration of retirement-pension benefits lost to the cash balance conversion.”

Judging from dates used on the website, the Employee Advocate might have started in the year 2000. If that is correct, we have an employee-controlled website that for approximately 9 years has slammed Duke Energy for its lack of integrity.

What kind of corporate culture would drive this level of animosity among its own employees? If a company cannot persuade its own employees that it is ethical and acting in their best interests – how can it possibly be credible with external stakeholders and audiences (including property owners)?

For example, following is an excerpt from commentary on Fred Fowler, Spectra Energy’s first CEO and former Duke Energy exec. The setting appears to have been a talk to employees about safety. This excerpt begins with the headline:

Fast Freddie Fowler Flounders

Employee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – September 27, 2004

http://www.dukeemployees.com/duke2.shtml#flounders

“Fred Fowler came on like a storm trooper, declaring all the great things that he was going to push through. He formed a committee. Management was going to be held accountable for safety. There were going to be zero accidents on the job. There were going to be zero deaths on the job. In fact, no one was even going to get sick on the job!

….

“Mr. Fowler is not much on admitting mistakes. This may be a holdover from serving in the old management regime for so long.

.…

“He will probable [sic] never be referred to as an inspirational executive.”

I contacted the Duke Energy Employee Advocate website to see if someone would be willing to share more insight into the gene pool that begat these two corporate cultures. No response has been received yet, perhaps because they want to maintain anonymity.

In the meantime, landowners who wonder whether they can trust energy companies might want to visit this employee-controlled website and learn what employees think.

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