The Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Should Expel Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS) CEO Jon Erik Reinhardsen (11 October 2015)

Along with EVP Operations Per Arild Reksnes, Africa Regional President, Simon Cather, Vice President Contract Sales – Africa, Edward Von Abendorff, and SVP Marine Contract, John Greenway

The fact PGS takes corruption so seriously, and has invested so much in addressing the day-to-day risk, means I can feel more confident in running my part of the business.

Simon Cather, PGS Africa Regional President, PGS Responsibility Report 2014

Fraudsters have to surround themselves with colleagues who will not challenge any of their suspicious activity and who will make their lives of crime easier in the workplace.  We often see the fraudster as a dominant individual whom others fear.

Simon Padgett, Profiling The Fraudster: Removing the Mask to Prevent and Detect Fraud

Petroleum Geo-Services senior executives, the fore-mentioned and likely others, have breached several elements of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Code of Ethics.  The SEG publishes their Code of Ethics which establishes professional standards of conduct for members.  There is both formal as well as tacit recognition and acceptance that, at times, SEG member professionals may digress from upholding the established Code of Ethics to the extent that there is even an internal policy to report member transgressions.  And yet, there remains a discomfort in actually accepting and acting upon these known realities which exist within the professional landscape.  In the recent article Where were the whistleblowers in the Volkswagen emissions scandal?, it was pointed out that acting on one’s professional obligation to follow policy, procedures, and organizational or professional society values, especially when it involves revealing an employer’s unethical practices, is done at tremendous personal risk and cost.  As a consequence, examples of whistle blowing are very rare.  When we do read of revelations of white-collar crime and professional malfeasance it is in the aftermath when the by-product of such behaviors are revealed.  Well-minded professionals are infuriated with unethical executives advancing nefarious, often personal, agendas above the common good of their organizations and the greater professional business sector where such actions impact the fair market.  At the same time, those who suspect and reveal such violations are professionally chastised and marginalized.  Sectors will cooperate to blacklist and destroy the professional careers and livelihoods of such individuals to preserve a faux view of the sector, organization, and executive values at the expense of righteous individuals.  Case in point is the UK construction industry blacklisting scandal. This scandal spanned decades and ruined the careers and affected the livelihoods of countless honest and hard-working individuals and families. They were blacklisted often only because they revealed health and safety issues which likely would have benefited the industry.  These are not congruent practices.  One cannot excoriate corruption on the one hand, while shielding manipulative fraudsters from accountability on the other.  We need to accept that it is much more common than we would like to admit that people in power cooperate and conspire to misuse and abuse their power.  Geophysicists are not exempt from these human temptations.  Where there are multi-million dollar transactions in play, there is also fertile ground for breaches in the professional Code of Ethics.  Likewise, where there are insecure egos and professional reputation and position, there is incentive to escape accountability for all manner of ethical and professional breaches in duty.  For this reason, I would like to call upon SEG to investigate allegations made against the named individual’s independent from ongoing investigations more vested in National laws, rather than SEG’s Code of Ethics.

The evidence and reasons to support the allegations of breaches in the Code of Ethics have been written about in previous LinkedIn posts, but are grounded in conspiracy and the abuse of position used to discredit and distort my professional standing in retaliation for revealing a number of internal organization policy transgressions as well as violations in the base constructs of the Law of Contract as it pertains to employment.  However, in this effort, individuals have also falsified and forged personnel file documents and deceived government compliance organizations as to their authenticity and content accuracy.  The extent of these transgressions have been reported and are being investigated in accordance to the National compliance laws of the accused.  It should be noted that I was an expatriate working outside my country of citizenship (USA) when these transgressions occurred in England and Norway.  This has encumbered the process of revelation.  I have little knowledge or experience with such issues and how they are addressed within foreign countries.  As a professional society, SEG global members need to make a stand and stop protecting and enabling professionals who abuse their positions.  It’s important to recognize that Volkswagen’s deception will affect more than just its balance sheet.  Many people will likely lose their jobs as a result of unethical employees and poor corporate governance.  It will impact the entire automotive sector, as well as trust in black-box computer programs used to support product marketability.  Something in common with proprietary algorithms used in seismic data processing.  The outputs are accepted based on trust.  Such is the nature of corruption.  For these reasons and more, SEG needs to ensure and uphold the requirement of ethical and professional conduct proclaimed in the Code of Ethics.  More importantly, however, is that as a professional society, SEG members need to embrace and respond to the realities of the modern workplace where workplace bullying and harassment issues often go hand-in-hand with professional malfeasance and breaches in the Code of Ethics to deter any subsequent whistle blowing .  As a professional society, SEG affiliation needs to be a conduit which supports targets against organizations and individuals who breach the SEG’s Code of Ethics both within and outside the borders of the organization.  The reason that SEG events are recognized as being such ideal places for promoting technologies and business opportunities is because of the umbrella of trust which the Code of Ethics brings to such events.  Those who breach the Code of Ethics will not volunteer to stop their unprofessional and unethical behaviors.  Most breaches in the Code of Ethics are leadership and management issues far removed from the understanding of the wave equation.  They are issues of practices which violate global business and professional norms.  Top-level executives generally have the financial and administrative support to respond to allegations made against them.  Substantially more support than targets of workplace bullying and harassment are provided, as they most often lose their positions. So, let us not feel sorry for the named individuals.  These individuals are well resourced and compensated to responsibly address such allegations and be held accountable. 

A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody. 

Thomas Paine

Nothing more completely baffles one who is full of trick and duplicity, than straightforward and simple integrity in another.

Charles Caleb Colton

I am a lone professional and family man equipped with only a laptop, wi-fi, and a penchant for justice challenging a corrupt corporate leadership structure intent on harming me.  I never wanted the fight.  I wanted to promote Ramform vessels equipped with GeoStreamer™ and other acquisition and data processing projects.  I really did.  The “war” was started behind my back and in the most cowardly, dishonest, and unprofessional manner.  Now that I acknowledge that my former employer was indeed compromising me, these executives acknowledge nothing.  How is it, that top-level executives are allowed such concessions when they are supposed to represent and preserve the reputations and value of the companies which employ them?  Toward the end of 2013, PGS Marine Contract Division Africa Regional President, Simon Cather, through the prescribed company grievance process, was accused of workplace bullying and not following organization policy and values, along with other deliberate actions.  PGS VP Contract Sales – Africa, Edward Von Abendorff, my boss, was included in the grievance, along with EAME HR Manager, David Nicholson.  There were numerous intentional attempts to delay and obstruct the grievance process.  Because of the high level of those implicated, the grievance was heard by PGS Marine Contract EVP (at the time) Per Arild Reksnes and PGS HR Senior Vice President, Terje Bjølseth.  After witnessing the dismissive attitude with regard to the serious health and safety related allegations and not receiving any feedback from the grievance hearing, I decided to go forward with the separation agreement.  The grievance process had never been settled and concluded.  The numerous false allegations made about me and addressed within the grievance were never substantiated and were obviously not conceded nor agreed to. 

The separation agreement was intended to bury the issues brought-up within the grievance and put them behind us all so we could go our separate ways without interference or denunciation from either party.  Within the terms of my separation agreement, retaining inaccurate personal data would be a violation of the agreement terms.  In fact, so would all of the articles which I have written, if the allegations were false.  (This explains the lack of response and accountability of PGS executives up to this point in time.)  Ten months after my leaving employment with PGS, in October 2014, I found out about and filed a subject access request (SAR) citing the UK Data Protection Act 1998.  I had sensed misinformation had been shared into the Houston professional community.  What I discovered from my personal data received through the SAR was that material information which would have affected the separation agreement had been withheld and personnel file documentation had also been falsified and forged by the fore-mentioned individuals.  So, the utter hypocrisy and intentional deception of citing and quoting Simon Cather as a proponent against corruption within the PGS Responsibility Report 2014 is noteworthy.  Is Simon Cather really the best model executive PGS can cite on matters such as corruption, given actual circumstances and history?  All SEG needs is for PGS to establish the authenticity of the documents in question held within my professional personnel file.  If PGS cannot substantiate and provide evidence that the documents in my professional personnel file are indeed factually accurate and authentic then there clearly have been breaches in the Code of Ethics that I believe warrant expulsion of those directly involved in the deception.  However, I will pardon my bias for SEG recommended review and action.  The standard, processes, and penalty for DPA compliance violations are fundamentally different than establishing breaches and penalties for the SEG Code of Ethics.  Obviously, any false allegations by me would similarly need to be dealt with.  False accusations made to police carry penalty.  However, I have stated confidence in the fidelity of my allegations and have not taken my actions lightly, even if they seem brash. 

The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.

Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.

Mahatma Gandhi

The “brand war” which was started by PGS is about my personal and professional record and narrative.  I refuse to yield to the idea that defending my professional record with the truth is “unprofessional”.  Challenging wrong-doing according to prescribed policy is not unprofessional.  Fraud, however, clearly is unprofessional.  So, we must all be very clear on what the issues at stake truly are.  PGS has not officially responded to any of the allegations made in my posts during the past three months (or before).  Some of those named or implicated have actually “liked” these posts.  Once a position is built on falsehoods, the only options become accountability or silence.  PGS has chosen silence in an effort to shield executives.  I personally find this repugnant and a disgrace for the majority of honest and hard-working PGS employees.  In a recent communication, a senior executive from another marine seismic service company related that while my posts regarding the marine seismic market sector were interesting reads, the other pieces – rants, as they were referred – about my former employer left the reader “cold” and should more appropriately be addressed through the court process rather than in social media.  On the other hand, thousands of people have viewed my LinkedIn posts focused on PGS management.  They all have the opportunity to share their opinions as well.  So, in the context of forwarding my position, I do not really agree that marginalized victims of abusive and corrupt organization management should feel the only recourse is through $300 USD per hour attorney’s – a lot of money to an individual – trying to wrestle out the truth from an organization which has demonstrated no compunction against obstructing the process and lying to government compliance entities.  If this were to be a marketing exercise, then PGS needs to respond, if for no other reason than to suppress continued publications reiterating the same issues, but from different vantage points.  

How do professionals and their societies challenge and stop professional malfeasance?  Corporate wrong-doing is not isolated to one individual.  The deception is multi-tiered and interwoven into the culture which top management most often allows, not the culture which is vocally advocated or promoted.  The buck stops at the top.  Core values matter for companies, just as the Code of Ethics matter to professional societies like SEG.  Shared values and codes are promises of a level playing field along with a commitment to service within a competitive business environment.  It’s about fair play.  But, such promises mean little if breaking them has no consequence.  There needs to be accountability.  I have been a member of the SEG for a number of years.  In fact, I was vice-president of the student chapter while in college for a term or two several years ago.  I remained a member even while working outside the exploration sector.  I have been a member while working on seismic vessels and living overseas.  Most recently, I volunteered time to support the Houston Geophysical Society during the past 20 months.  I have a vested interest in how professionals honor the SEG Code of Ethics.  I am asking that the SEG seriously consider issues of great concern to the geophysical industry and profession.  I am ready to forward and defend all of my allegations and align them with the Code of Ethics violations.  It is incumbent upon PGS CEO Jon Erik Reinhardsen, on behalf of himself and his executives, that they respond to SEG accordingly.  Silence is the opposite of accountability.  It is about a commitment to establishing a geophysical community of trust.  And trust is built with accountability.

Trust, honesty, humility, transparency and accountability are the building blocks of a positive reputation.

Mike Paul

Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.

William J. Clinton