Gaddafi’s Corporate Quislings

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Things are looking increasingly bleak for Muammar Gaddafi, as the West and its allies continue to pressure those in his inner circle to abandon him. But Gaddafi isn’t the only uncomfortable one, as revelations continue to emerge about the massive, immoral suck-up western companies undertook during the dictator’s brief period of acceptability.

After Gaddafi agreed to give up his pursuit of nuclear weapons in 2003, a long list of powerful companies with a deep moral commitment to increased profit beat a path to Gaddafi’s tent, hoping to cash in on everything from the country’s oil to its massive sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority, which Gaddafi controlled. Now details of their coddling of the dictator are slowly dribbling out.

On Tuesday, the Financial Times uncovered the latest example of Goldman Sachs’ relationship with Gaddafi’s government. After losing 98% of the LIA’s $1.3 billion investment, Goldman discussed paying $50 million fee to the sovereign wealth fund, a discussion the SEC is investigating as a possible violation of anti-bribery laws. The FT found that while Goldman was losing the $1.3 billion, it gave a paid internship to the brother of the Libyan Investment Authority’s deputy head, Mustafa Zarti. Goldman and Zarti told the FT the internship had nothing to do with the bank’s relationship with the LIA and say there was nothing improper about his employment.

Bloomberg, meanwhile, reports that after Congress passed a bill allowing the victims of terrorism to seize assets of those responsible, several major oil companies organized a successful lobbying effort to exempt Libya from the bill. Occidental Petroleum Corp. hired law firm Hogan and Hartson to push for a waiver for Libya, Bloomberg reports. Other oil majors, including  ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp., Marathon Oil Corp., Hess Corp., Chevron Corp. and the U.S. subsidiaries of BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc — used their in-house lobbyists to push for the exemption, Bloomberg says lobbying records show.

The best part of the Bloomberg story comes with the accounts of top oil executives getting “browbeaten” by Gaddafi and other Libyan officials on the issue:

Qaddafi “threatened to dramatically reduce Libya’s oil production and/or expel” U.S. oil companies, and told [ConocoPhillips Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James] Mulva to “engage members of the U.S. Congress and The Administration” on the issue, Stevens wrote.

On Feb. 25, Shokri Ghanem, chairman of Libya’s state-owned oil company, “chastised” Phil Goss, Exxon Mobil’s country manager, for almost an hour, Stevens wrote. U.S. companies had to “‘tell Washington’” that “Libya was serious,” about slashing production in retaliation, according to the Stevens cable, which is among thousands of State Department documents published since January by WikiLeaks.