Schlumberger’s dodgy dealings
While Schlumberger presents its London, Paris, The Hague and Houston offices as "headquarters," its parent company (Schlumberger Limited) is registered in the offshore tax haven Curaçao. Its operating companies are then routed through a complex web of subsidiaries in other tax havens, such as the Netherlands, British Virgin Islands and Panama. This opaque structure allows Schlumberger to avoid paying taxes in the countries where it makes its profits, and hide its operations from legal and public accountability.
In 2015, Schlumberger pleaded guilty to violating US economic sanctions law by "willfully facilitating illegal transactions and engaging in trade with Iran and Sudan." Schlumberger was forced to undergo three years of corporate probation, forfeit $77.5m in earnings, and pay a $155m fine - breaking the record for the largest corporate criminal fine for sanctions violations in US history. However, this was still only a fraction of Schlumberger's $35.5bn revenue that year.
In 2021, Schlumberger paid $1.4m in fines due to breaking US sanctions relating to the Russian occupation of Crimea, after it was caught supplying equipment to Gazprom-Neft Shelf - the self-described "first and only oil company engaged in oil production on the Arctic shelf of Russia."
Profiting from crisis
In 2020, Schlumberger responded to the Covid pandemic by rewarding its shareholders with an estimated £135.2m in dividends, then laying off 21,000 workers - about one quarter of its global workforce - the very next day. In turn, the UK Government and Bank of England rewarded Schlumberger with a bailout of £415m in public funds through the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).
On November 18th, 2006, a 61kg "radioactive canister" owned by Schlumberger, which was being transported across Western Australia by freight, failed to arrive at its destination. Schlumberger immediately raised the alarm… almost an entire month later on December 15th. The canister, which reportedly contained enough radioactive material to make a dirty bomb, was eventually recovered safely by Australian authorities from beside a highway in the Outback - where it had fallen off the back of the lorry.
In April 2008, on a North Sea oil rig, Schlumberger put 14 workers at risk of radiation exposure when it left radioactive material lying on the drill floor for four hours. The Aberdeen Sheriff Court fined Schlumberger £300,000 in response to this incident.
In February 2014, Schlumberger exposed five workers to an unshielded radioactive source during a drilling operation in Queensland, Australia. One worker suffered a serious burn injury on his leg. After an investigation, Schlumberger was fined AU$162,500 by Brisbane Magistrates Court.
Toxic workplace culture
In 2020, Sara Saidman - a former Schlumberger oil rig worker from Texas - filed a class action lawsuit against the company. She told the court that the women Schlumberger employs on oil rigs face systemic harassment and abuse, and are not taken seriously if they complain to management. She was joined by Jessica Cheatham, who said, "Schlumberger took my voice away. They took a piece of me. And every day I’m trying to get it back."
When the Covid pandemic struck Ghana, the country's Schlumberger Workers' Union began negotiating with corporate management over redundancy packages. After three unsuccessful meetings, workers started being sent unlawful letters of suspended employment without pay for one year. Bright Kwabena Danquah, the union's chairman, said, "Some of the conditions in the letter are so appalling. … When we asked why they are trying to cut our benefits, they said COVID-19. But this company has been making millions of dollars, in fact, one particular department can make eight million dollars in revenue a month, and this same company is telling us they are broke because of COVID-19."
Undeterred, the union persevered until an agreement was reached and the letters were withdrawn.
We've barely scratched the surface of Schlumberger's harmful business practices. If there's a story that you think should be told, let us know at email@example.com