How Corrupt Bullies and Lawyers Ruined a Marine Geophysical Company (20 May 2018)

How Corrupt Bullies and Lawyers Ruined a Marine Geophysical Company (20 May 2018)

First Published 20 May 2018 on PGS ASA cited this article in their criminal defamation claim under Thai law, but not a breach of contract under the laws of England?

Lawyers have their duties as citizens, but they also have special duties as lawyers. Their obligations go far deeper than earning a living as specialists in corporation or tax law. They have a continuing responsibility to uphold the fundamental principles of justice from which the law cannot depart.

Robert Kennedy

The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference.

Bess Myerson

A blog campaign was initiated on 3 July 2015 against the management of Norwegian based marine seismic services company, Petroleum Geo-Services ASA, Lilleakerveien 4, 0283 Oslo, Norway (PGS), and their UK affiliate PGS Exploration (UK) Limited, 4 The Heights, Brooklands, Weybridge, England, KT13 0NY (PGSUK). On Christmas Eve 2013, I left England with my wife and two children after having signed a settlement contract agreement (SCA). What led to my untimely departure from both England and my PGSUK sponsored job on a Tier 2 visa, was my filing a workplace grievance citing gang-bullying, harassment, abuse of position and breaches in PGSUK written policies, as well as, UK contract and employment laws. In October 2014, citing the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and motivated by strange interactions encountered when I returned to Houston, TX, USA, I submitted a subject access request (SAR) to discover what personal data PGSUK was processing about me. When I received and viewed the contents of my PGS personnel file, I was flabbergasted to discover forged documents chronicling events which never occurred and excluding events which did. None of the official records were countersigned by me, and yet they were being processed unabashedly as if they were true and accurate records. I knew something very wrong had happened. After being repeatedly lied to and stonewalled by PGS personnel who processed the SAR, I decided to take the risk and go public with my concerns. Thus began my blog writing campaign. I have written over twenty-five (25) blog articles now which have been less than flattering of the management and directors of PGS/PGSUK. This is all in spite of the fact that the SCA contained a mutual non-disparagement clause whose inclusion into the SCA was specifically demanded and initially one-sided.

Therefore, how could such a fair and legal SCA ever decay into an anti-PGS/PGSUK tirade that has called for the resignation of the CEO and PGS company boycott last for over two-years? Publishing these articles certainly violated the very intention and inclusion of the non-disparagement clause. Over this time, I have only been threatened with legal action twice. The first time was through a letter from David Nicholson, who, at the time, was PGSUK Manager of Human Resources (HR). Nicholson threatened legal action in a letter if I continued my interrogatory about the contents received from my SAR. More recently, and actually ongoing, I have purportedly been contacted by Carl Richards, PGSUK Head of Legal and Company Secretary to end my publications that mention him only. Richards is threatening some defamation claim on foreign soil, Thailand, if I do not discontinue publishing such materials. This “Carl Richards”, has apparently has engaged a Thai law firm, and wants to be identified apart from his professional roles as a Head of Legal and Secretary for an English company. Richards is emphatic about his disassociation from PGS/PGSUK and his fiduciary responsibilities to PGS/PGSUK stakeholders in his personal claim. Also, Richards is not a resident of Thailand, nor does he have any business interests in Thailand, as far as I am aware. Richards seems to have very little faith in any legal solutions at his disposal based on the laws of England through a contract that he oversaw. It is my opinion that Richards wants the “whistleblowing” that connects him directly to what I construe to be an illegal fiasco to end, but does not want to engage or confront the particulars which gave rise to all of the blog post articles. Richards, as with all of those implicated PGS/PGSUK actors live in a mythology where their malfeasance and crimes were never detected. They are all running away from responsibility and accountability, and it is truly a disgusting thing to endure from the standpoint as the target in their ruse.

It should be obvious to all aware stakeholders, especially employees of PGS and its global affiliates, that the SCA, which is the combined product of three (3) legal teams, is not a piece of exemplary legal work. At the center of this peach of a contract, is former General Counsel and Legal Compliance lawyer, Rune Olav Pedersen. Pedersen is now the President and CEO for PGS. This clearly shows that PGS promotes their liabilities rather than deal with them responsibly. Pedersen’s cohort on the PGS Compliance Team was Terje Bjøseth, SVP Global HR. The manipulation of processes and records was a conspiratorial endeavor between PGS Legal and HR to rig a HR solution to protect corrupt bullies within both the HR and Marine Contract Sales – Africa business group. They say that organization culture is promoted through HR. When HR is corrupt, corruption spreads like a cancer throughout the organization. Corrupt and fear-based managed enterprises simply do not perform optimally. In a competitive market, demise over time is predictable. Promoting rogue incompetents into leadership roles only hastens the destruction of ethical value based decision making and professional competence in the workforce. Geoscientists rely on the constancy and understanding of physical laws, which can be examined and exploited to explore and delineate the earths subsurface. Corrupt lawyers and HR rely on the manipulation of civic laws and company policy to preserve an unstable enterprise top-hierarchy selfishly directed with arbitrary caprice.

We do not know what the rules of the game are; all we are allowed to do is to watch the playing. Of course, if we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules. The rules of the game are what we mean by fundamental physics.

Richard P. Feynman

Other than the laws of physics, rules have never really worked out for me.

Craig Ferguson

Geoscientist and engineers should not tolerate having their profession debased through the toxic machinations of lawyers and HR hacks that divorce themselves from playing by the rules. Our profession demands adherence to physical laws, but its value to customers is only derived through sound and ethical performance and presentation. The overseers of legal and policy compliance proclaim lofty professional standards, but in practice they are hypocritically ignored. The top-tiers of PGS enterprise hierarchy support a toxic, dangerous and corrupt workplace culture that supports the selfish interest of the PGS board of directors and top-management. The top-tier is driven by greed and status above all else. The PGS board of directors and top-management operate oblivious to the damage that they are causing through their recalcitrant posture with regard to health and safety, as well as truth and justice. Their irresponsible silence must be construed as general agreement to the public accusations of fraud and corruption and evidence of self-serving cover-up. Such direction and management is really very destructive to PGS corporate shareholders in the long run. Its impact has been hidden through the current difficult market. This inaction reveals a collective avarice and lack of concern in carrying out prescribed agency responsibilities. Such behaviors are truly disgraceful to intelligent and honorable professionals focused on using their skills to improve products, services, and delivery. Unethical business practices for personal advancement should be unacceptable to all stakeholders, and governing bodies need to do their jobs better.

The Black’s Law Dictionary definition of corruption is, Illegality; a vicious and fraudulent intention to evade the prohibitions of the law. The act of an official or fiduciary person who unlawfully and wrongfully uses his station or character to procure some benefit for himself or for another person, contrary to duty and the rights of others. The vital role for a company secretary is ensuring that the company complies with the law. If the secretary is complicit in a crime committed by the company, they could be disqualified or prosecuted. Confidence fraud involves the breach in a relationship of trust resulting in financial loss. It involves misrepresentation of the truth or the withholding of material facts in order to induce another to act to his detriment. Through the different blog post articles, substantive evidence has been provided which shows that the actions of PGS/PGSUK agents have not complied with either PGSUK company policy or employment law. This was, in fact, the core claim made within the formal grievance which I submitted to PGSUK over four years ago. The bullying and harassment were an abuse of power whereby individuals breached protocols, withheld information, and lied in order to limit my ability to realize my full rights under company policy and UK law. It was all fraud in order to pervert the course of justice. The lies and corruption by those holding fiduciary responsibility have persisted even longer. Why aren’t those with fiduciary duty ever held to account and compelled to answer fully to the numerous public accusations made? Corruption is the only answer.

The collective agents with entrusted responsibility and fiduciary duty bestowed upon them remain silent to the many queries and allegations regarding corrupt and non-compliant business practices. Their collective silence and inaction is a travesty, as well as an abrogation of their fiduciary duties of care and loyalty to all stakeholders. It demonstrates antipathy toward the fair market and its professionals. Simply, these individuals are not fulfilling the duties that they are entrusted to fulfill by agency and title. At the same time, they continue to receive the remuneration and veneration as if they are. They are misleading for personal interest and benefit above stakeholder interests, which is corruption. They are deceiving stakeholders through their lack of honesty and transparency. They are abusing their power categorically. And it matters to me and my family, professional geophysicists and geoscientists, as well as marine seismic market stakeholders at large. Those with entrusted power need to be investigated by a diligent neutral third-party and held to account. It is repugnant to the majority of honorable industry professionals, as well as stakeholders throughout the greater global oil and gas marketplace, that such miscreants have been allowed to damage the reputation and performance of PGS for too long.

For individuals and organizations alike, a reputation is far easier to destroy than it is to build.

Andrew Griffin

A critical ingredient which binds customers to a brand is trust.

Bernard Kelvin Clive

Because the PGS board and top-management take unauthorized agency license and exempt themselves from following enterprise policy and the rules of employment and contract law, the path to a legal and just outcome has become perverted. Through fraudulent and evil practices, corruption and illegality is promoted – to CEO! The processes of legal compliance are being thwarted, in large part, by those in the legal profession who manage over dysfunctional and corrupted enterprise governance practices. Additionally, the corrupt PGS board and management refuse to answer and clarify simple questions regarding legal and policy compliance. Their silence is legal dodge ball, because truthful answers would implicate those with key fiduciary responsibilities directly. The corrupt PGS board and management refuse to fulfill their entrusted fiduciary duties to seek the truth to root out corruption and advance PGS stakeholder interests on a fair and legal playing field. They refuse to take responsibility and answer for decisions made. Most notably, this includes current PGS CEO and President, as well as former General Counsel overseeing legal compliance, Rune Olav Pedersen. Of course, it also includes the former CEO and President of PGS, and sadly, current Statoil Board of Directors Chairman, Jon Erik Reinhardsen, whose irresponsible and corrupt decisions were a product of a toxic, arrogant, and hypocritical management style which defined a debased and opportunistic workplace culture.

The PGS board remains unaccountable, and refuse to clarify points brought-up within the blog posting, Open Letter to the Petroleum Geo-Services ASA Board of Directors (18-Jun-2017), These same base questions were also asked months before within the blog post articles, Petroleum Geo-Services and the Veneer of Governance (8-May-2016), Within the latest post article, Carl Richards’, Secretary, PGS Exploration UK Limited, Silence Implies Agreement and the Abrogation of Fiduciary Duty (20-Apr-2018), the argument is made that the silence and inaction by those with entrusted fiduciary duty implies that the accusations made throughout these blog post articles are indeed true, and argues that the silence is self-serving and meant to protect those implicated ill-deserved status and remuneration from scrutiny and discussion. The allegations of fraud, bribery and embezzlement are backed with evidence. It should be easy to respond to such black and white content and spare the accused any professional embarrassment, as well as quall any doubts that stakeholders might have about the character and values of those leading and managing PGS/PGSUK. It is a failure of the fiduciary duty of loyalty not to defend the reputation of the Company and its agents. Therefore, those with entrusted power are abrogating their fiduciary duties of both care and loyalty to all stakeholders through their continued silence on these matters made public. Industry professionals should pony-up for a classaction suit and demand proof and accountability of legal and compliant behavior. Corrupt organizations weaponize their HR departments to protect corrupt incompetence. The decision for honorable professionals is to demand a fair playing field and to beat the corrupt, rather than join them!

Wherever there is interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done.

James Madison

When whistleblowers come forward, we need to fight for them, so others will be encouraged. When they are gagged, we must be their voice. When they are hunted, we must be their shield. When they are locked away, we must free them. Giving us the truth is not a crime. This is our data, our information, our history. We must fight to own it.

Sara Harrison

PGS/PGSUK has a vested interest in maintaining a false narrative that a disgruntled employee agreed to an SCA to terminate his employment, rather than undergo a performance improvement plan (PIP). But, this is a completely false narrative which is only supported by the illegal forged documents created and being processed by the same persons who, within the pages of a well-documented workplace grievance, pointed out were liars producing defamatory materials and misusing the performance management system! Further, I was a vulnerable foreign worker, a USA citizen being sponsored on a Tier 2 visa by PGSUK in Weybridge, England. I was reliant on the enterprise governance processes of redress to function. I knew it was not functioning within PGSUK, and that was the basis of the formal grievance in the first place. This is why the grievance was to the PGS executives stationed in Norway. In hindsight, I do not believe that any action with regard to my being a target of workplace gang-bullying was handled legally or according to policy. A performance based termination means that PGS/PGSUK misled the UK Border Agency on the application for my Tier 2 visa and dependents. But, there never was a performance problem. This was fabricated to protect corrupt bullies and company directors from accountability for multiple contract and employment law breaches.

I eventually engaged legal advice from Philip Landau and Holly Rushton, who were with Landau, Zeffert, and Weir (LZW). Through the past several months of uncertainty, it now appears clear to me that my legal advisors were compromised (bribed). How is it possible that LZW legal advisors refuse to explain how forged instruments became part of my true and accurate personnel file records under his watch? During the discussions, LZW was provided with a detailed account of events, beyond my grievance document. Yet, only the false narrative supporting the bullies and directors (secretary) narrative reside in my personnel file. They never have communicated that I should stop my publications or provided any comment whatsoever with regard to my many queries. Landau created a new company the month following my signing of the SCA, Landau Law. Rushton followed him there. When I contacted Landau and informed him that I was submitting an SAR ten months later, he never mentioned his new company or queried as to why I was submitting an SAR. I assume that for PGSUK agents to avoid direct communications, PGSUK enlisted employment lawyer, Rhodri Thomas, with Watson, Farley, and Williams (WFW) at the time. I believe that this made it easier for PGS/PGSUK to portray the negotiations and discussion as normal and avoid direct and simple conversation. All the lawyers directly involved in the SCA discussions were playing to the same false narrative. This is gas lighting.

There are some facts that I am certain of, and then there is some speculation. I know, without a doubt, that the contents of my personnel file are neither true nor accurate. I have known this for a long time. The SCA is a legal instrument formed out of data, mostly from personnel files for personnel actions. This means personnel records. My records are incorrect and incomplete. This instrument was crafted for the purpose of advancing a false narrative to support a false claim and subvert the real facts and nature that the grievance brought forth. The SCA discussions lasted from 11-Oct-2013 to 4-Dec-2013. (LZW legal advisers were not officially engaged until 22-Oct2013.) Nicholson, who was deeply implicated in the mismanagement of the performance management system, and also accused of defamation, was actually allowed to proffer the initial SCA. The documents held within my personnel file are the uncorroborated documents created and even signed by Nicholson. My personnel file does not include the Tier 2 visa status documentation. (UK Border Agency data was provided though the SAR.) It should be noted that a different team of WFW lawyers had reviewed and oversaw the processing of the applications for the Tier 2 visa and my dependents. LZW were made aware of an Occupational Health report and diagnosis, which was performed while SCA discussions were underway. However, the final report was withheld from me and removed from my personnel records. Wouldn’t this data be significant for a bullying and harassment claim? Further, these were real true and accurate data. My counter-signature, nor the signature of first line supervisor, von Abendorff, is not on any of the pertinent documents. They are the creation of Nicholson, whom I never worked under directly and who had no first-hand knowledge of my work product or work group contribution. Nicholson oversaw HR staff that processed such glaringly illegal and non-compliant records. Of course, all lawyers and HR personnel directly involved in this conspiracy are now tight-lipped. They are all perverting the course of justice, in my view.

The truth is, one who seeks to achieve freedom by petitioning those in power to give it to him has already failed regardless of the response. To beg for the blessing of “authority” is to accept that the choice is the master’s alone to make, which means that the person is already, by definition, a slave.

Larken Rose

The best way to learn if you can trust somebody is to trust them.

Ernest Hemingway

I never had faith in the grievance process, nor the people controlling it. I did everything within my rights to ensure the process would be as fair as possible. For instance, I made sure that a witness, and UK citizen and worker, was involved. The SCA could have never lasted so long if there were trust. No, the process was intended to drag-out until I capitulated to the lies and torment of an illegally carried-out farce. Unfortunately, my co-worker, John Barnard, turned out to be a stooge who never raised his voice or questioned the process on my behalf. He simply witnessed the destruction of rules and a fellow employee. Barnard should forever be ashamed, and perhaps go to jail, for his cowardice and complicity in the robbery and assault of me and my family. Backstabber Barnard should have never agreed to be my witness. Barnard is a man without honor, as are all who were instrumentally involved in the attempted execution of the character and reputation of a former co-worker. Had the shoe been on the other foot, John, you would have won. Because, I am never intimidated, nor scared, of rule-breaking authority, bullies and liars like Nicholson, Cather and von Abendorff. I never will be. The reason PGS, had to cheat is it was the only way for them to escape accountability and liability. And so the PGS/PGSUK directors remain silent as their executives, as well as the Company’s reputation is tarnished. This is a dereliction of fiduciary duty that damages every aspect of the market, especially its professionals. Shareholders need to care.

So, a person purporting to be Carl Richards, PGSUK Head of Legal and Secretary, is threatening legal action for defamation in Thailand, where I currently reside as a USA citizen with my Thai wife and children. This Carl Richards has never confirmed his identity. The legal firm will not confirm their credentials nor the identity of their client. That’s where we are now. But, the claims made within my blog posts articles have also been shared with UK ActionFraud and the UK Serious Fraud Office. I would like nothing more than for UK legal officials to investigate my claims. There are consequences within the UK legal system for making malicious false claims. Further, and as I have stated previously, the SCA contains clauses to protect from published derogatory statements. As PGSUK secretary, Richards is in charge of making certain that business is carried out legally. So, PGSUK needs to simply show definitive proof that they are processing legal documents as my personnel records. This would be the easiest avenue to ending the online publications. However, this would require Richards wearing his professional hat. But, “Richards” is pursuing his claim on a personal basis, divorced from PGS/PGSUK. He must realize that I am not writing about cross-dressing weekends and drug-laden parties. The published blog articles are written very clearly about Richards professional performance in carrying out his fiduciary responsibilities. I could not care less, nor have I written anything about Richards’ personal life.

None of the published blog articles would have ever been written if the bodies overseeing PGS/PGSUK enterprise governance and legal compliance actually performed the duties which they are legally
entrusted to carry out. Why would lawyers spend weeks parsing out the language of a mutual non-disparagement clause included within an SCA if they were indifferent to having board members, the CEO, and key executives being called liars, cheaters, fraudsters, and assholes? Like my hapless witness, Barnard, even if you do not mind being called such things yourself, what about the majority of stakeholders who prefer not to be associated with these attributes? Whether or not the complainer threatening legal action is the real Carl Richards is almost beside the point. Somebody aligned to Carl Richards’ interests does care. This should be more than enough reason for an attentive board and executive team to be compelled to take action and contract out a thorough and neutral third-party investigation, in lieu of a police investigation. On the central claims made within my blog articles, I have no doubt. I have always invited comment and clarification from those with fiduciary duty with PGS. However, when PGS/PGSUK does not respond to e-mail or online social media, and rather get your means of communication cut-off, it is evident that things are clear enough – too clear! PGS/PGSUK have been naughty, and I have been writing about it. As for Richards, my writing about him is a professional performance appraisal. And it is grounded in substantially more evidence and real data than the one contrived by Nicholson on behalf of PGS/PGSUK. The job of PGS/PGSUK agents is to point out blatant untruths and act on such matters. Their job is to not allow such matters to become personal. That’s what true professionals would do, Carl Richards.

I had requested that defamatory content by von Abendorff, Cather, and Nicholson be expunged. PGS/WFW/LZW lawyers all assured me that it was on 4 December 2013, the day before the SCA was signed:

6) This amendment is not acceptable. PGS’ personnel records are its property and must naturally give an accurate record of all employees’ employment history. It will not agree to redact or amend in anyway.

Why can’t they prove it is true and accurate today?

My original employment contract also states that I CAN amend records that are incorrect. Why was I never allowed to, and why didn’t LZW lawyers request that I inspect and verify the data? LZW lawyers had also been provided the data to be able to conclude that the contents in my personnel file was false.

Professional is not a label you give yourself – it’s a description you hope others will apply to you.

David Maiter

He who threatens us will find us deaf to his threats. We are willing to listen only to rational arguments.

Menachem Begin