Should We Blame The Gates Foundation for The BP Disaster?

The wetlands, birds, fish, aquatic mammals, and Louisiana economy are all highly publicized casualties of the recent oil spill. But as BP has dropped $60 Billion in market value, I started to wonder who exactly is getting hurt by this precipitous financial drop. Imagine my surprise in learning that The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation owns over 7 million shares of BP – equivalent to roughly 0.25% of the common stock.

The Gates Foundation has 7% of its portfolio in oil and gas – a sound part of a diversified portfolio, and probably a well placed bet on the future direction of oil prices. As BP’s stock has dropped by a third, the foundation has lost $140 million dollars. Other big losers include several banks and insurance companies.

I started to feel badly for them, but then realized “Hey wait a second, these guys own BP!” As the blame games moves into high gear, should we blame BP’s owners and hold them accountable? Is ‘the market’ already punishing them? And since many major mutual funds own shares, millions of us may also own BP shares in our 401ks, IRAs, and other investment accounts (plus, we also use the product.) Are we to blame?

These questions highlight the complexity of corporate accountability. Unfortunately, it seems more often than not that no one is accountable when things go badly. The buck stops…nowhere. Company executives move on with their bank accounts intact, investors lose a bit of money, and the public cleans up the mess. Even Ayn Rand – who was the ultimate proponent of unbound capitalism – would be baffled by our current system.

The Gates Foundation is one of the most amazing institutions on the planet, making huge investments and fostering innovation in global health, education, and food security. Without question, they are the good guys. And prior to the spill, BP has spent a decade marketing themselves as a responsible company.

So should we lament the foundation’s investment loss, when they do so much good in the world? Or is it “shame on them” for owning a company that has become such an eco-scourge?

I honestly don’t know. What do you think? 

Photo : World Economic Forum CC license via Flickr

144 comments

Philippa P.
Philippa P7 years ago

Food thought.

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Stephen T.
Past Member 7 years ago

What were they doing investing in a careless, polluting carbon belching fossil fuel monster like BP... one thing they were after profit without caring ...

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Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS7 years ago

The world is rarely made up of true black-and-white issues. BP ownership and responsibility (as with the question this article poses) is just another example of the shades of grey that make up our world and why simplistic answers will neveer work however emotionally we may wish them to do.

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Vanessa S.
Vanessa S7 years ago

I wish I knew the answers to all of the tough questions, but unfortunately I do not.

Maybe I can start to make more of a difference by adding solar panels to my house, and doing the same for others in place of gifts.

BP definitely should be held accountable for the damage being done by this oil spill. And unless BP can put a cap on the amount of damages caused by the oil spill, the government should not allow a cap on restitution payments they are required to make.

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Scott Mc
Its wonderful e7 years ago

BP has a terrible safety record, instead of tending to their business they have been spending money on enviromental issues and to tell us how green they are. They should have focused on their business, it is a difficult, expensive, and very technical business. Mistakes are costly and can be catastrofic. This platform accident is not the first time they have killed US workers in recent years.

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carole a.
.7 years ago

Bill Gates is also a member of Bilderberg. They are the bad guys. He was at their annual meeting this month.

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Moertl M.
Martha M7 years ago

I quite agree with Pat L'.s comment. Only when you think about those cheap synthetical garments that fill our cupboards and we throw so easily away because OUT OF FASHION... And than the plastic wrappings of food or water supply... and and and. WE not THEY destroy the earth;
Concerning Gates foundation as long as the shares are not sold below their acquisition price, there is no real loss. Gates can way until the shares go up again. And anyway why should I be sorry for someone who gambles. We were are not informed when gamblers win a lot of money.

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Pat L.
Pat L.7 years ago

Perhaps we should take this opportunity to consider that each one of us should be accountable for the petroleum products we use. If we could walk to an appointment and do not allow enough time when booking our schedules then surely we are responsible for the excess gas and oil we consume. If we insist on throw away cleaning products because they are easier and faster then surely we are responsible for the petroleum products involved in producing them. The argument that we are the victims of advertising is really not applicable as we all have the choice to use the product or not. Can I make decisions based on convenience throw stones at someone that is trying to make a profit? It matters not whether they need the money any more that it matters whether I have a few minutes more free time. What matters is what we as individuals do to waste our resources and cause the multi-national companies to try to meet our insatiable appetite. I agree we should do what we can in terms of volunteering to get the message out, and praying that somehow we will be more contentious consumers or savers. But lets put legs under those actions and prayers and start our actions in our own lives.

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Gwendolyn Krupa
Gwendolyn Krupa7 years ago

While many of us may not like The Gates Foundation, I don't see how we can hold them accountable for this disaster. They probably don't have much say in any decisions made with BP's drilling operations. I hope the investigations, both civil and criminal being made into this catastrophe turn up what really happened and most importantly who is to blame. But, nothing that is revealed can "fix" this or go back and stop it from happening. I'm as livid and angry as any of you, but we need to take a common sense look at this thing and see if there is anything we can do to improve the situation, like maybe donating; volunteering; even prayer.

Thanks Dave R.for this post. I hope to see posts in the future that show us how we can make a difference. Pointing fingers may make us feel better, but we need to pull together as a country and roll up our sleeves and get involved or help support and thank those who do!

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Charles Eminizer
Charles Eminizer7 years ago

Help me out here i was under the impression that these billionaire/millionaire foundations were in existence to help poor helpless in need people.

i did NOT know that they were in existence to give money to other billionaire/millionaires to make more money.

It makes me wonder about all of the rest of them. What about red cross and the american cancer society or the united way or the salvation army. How much money are these institutions make bringing in by giving their moneys to other wealthy people (giant corporations that are too big to fail)?

Being poor myself i think i will stop donating to all of them!!!!!~~

Dr. Charles

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