Halliburton Corp., the oil field services company once headed by US Vice President Dick Cheney, told the New York City Comptroller’s office Monday that it won’t scale back its business dealings in Iran, despite concerns from the City’s Comptroller William Thompson about “corporate ties to states sponsoring terrorist activity,” which could force the New York City’s Police and Fire Departments to pull its $23 million investment in the company.
The Comptroller’s office, on behalf of the New York City Police and Fire Department pension funds, in a resolution last March urged the boards of directors of Halliburton and General Electric and ConocoPhillips to set up committees to review its operations in terror-linked countries, specifically Iran. Halliburton helps build drilling rigs in Iran's southern oil field.
Thompson accused the firms of setting up offshore and United Kingdom subsidiaries to sidestep US laws against doing business with Iran and Syria, countries that Washington says sponsor "terrorism". Shareholder value is threatened by possible negative publicity, public protests and a loss of consumer confidence, he said.
Halliburton spokesperson Wendy Hall said in an interview Monday that Halliburton set up an in-house committee to study whether the company’s business dealings in Iran has helped fund terrorist activities. Hall said Halliburton finalised a report and sent it to its board of directors and to the Comptroller’s office, which oversees the police and fire departments’ pension funds.
"The report details the company’s limited work in Iran," Hall said. "We believe that decisions as to the nature of such governments and their actions are better made by governmental authorities and international entities such as the United Nations as opposed to individual persons or companies. Putting politics aside, we and our affiliates operate in countries, to the extent it is legally permissible, where our customers are active as they expect us to provide oilfield services support to their international operations."
"We do not always agree with policies or actions of governments in every place that we do business and make no excuses for their behaviors. Due to the long-term nature of our business and the inevitability of political and social change, it is neither prudent nor appropriate for our company to establish our own country-by-country foreign policy."
A spokesman for the Comptroller’s office said Monday that the Halliburton report was received from the company but officials haven’t looked it over yet. It’s unclear whether the pension funds will remove their investments in Halliburton because the company does business in Iran. However, the spokesman said Thompson hasn’t changed his stance on the issue and is unsure whether the pension funds will continue to invest with Halliburton.
Halliburton has been a lightning rod for criticism by Democrats in Congress ever since it won a multibillion no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure after the war started there in March. Last week, Congressman Henry Waxman, D-California, accused Halliburton of gouging US taxpayers by charging inflated prices to import gasoline into Iraq. Hall vehemently denied the accusation and Halliburton’s Chief Executive, David Lesar, sent an email to the company’s employees urging them to write to their local newspapers to tout Halliburton in a favorable light as a result of the negative publicity.
Shortly after major combat in Iraq ended in April, President Bush accused Iran of giving safe-haven to al Qa’ida terrorists linked to Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9-11 terrorist attacks, as well as remnants of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime. Many hardliners in the White House view Iran as the next target on the war on terrorism. The White House has also given financial support to Iranians seeking to overthrow Iran’s government.
If the war in the Middle East were to spread to Iran, Halliburton stands to earn billions of dollars in reconstruction efforts there because it already has a presence in the country and its expertise in rebuilding war-torn countries which dates back more than 40 years.
Halliburton first started doing business in Iran as early as 1995, while Vice President Cheney was chief executive of the company and in possible violation of US sanctions.
According to a February 2001 report in the Wall Street Journal:
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