Company Makes Vow in Response to Shareholder Pressure
By Henry Goldman - Bloomberg News
Halliburton Co., the world's largest oil-field services company, has pledged not to seek new work in Iran, a country accused by the State Department of state-sponsored terrorism, said New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, a steward of pension funds holding company stock worth about $42 million.
Halliburton's vice president and corporate counsel, Margaret E. Carriere, wrote in a letter faxed to Thompson's office from the company's Houston headquarters yesterday, "Halliburton will take appropriate corporate action to cause its subsidiaries to not bid for any new work in Iran," while continuing on work previously undertaken.
The company -- whose chief executive from 1995 until August 2000 was Vice President Cheney -- used an offshore subsidiary to skirt U.S. law and conduct business in Iran, Thompson said. The comptroller had used the city's pension fund holdings in Halliburton stock to pursue a shareholders' resolution demanding the company get out of Iran.
"Over the last two years, the New York City Pension Funds have aggressively targeted five companies that have used loopholes in the law to conduct business with terrorist-sponsoring nations," Thompson said in a statement. "I am hopeful that Halliburton's decision will prompt other companies to thoroughly examine their relationships with nations that sponsor terrorism."
Wendy Hall, a Halliburton spokeswoman, declined to comment on the company's written pledge to forgo new work in Iran. Instead, in an e-mail, she sent a Jan. 28, 2004, statement in which Halliburton chief executive David J. Lesar announced his intention to "exit Iran" and "wind down operations there" while finishing already contracted work.
"We believe the services we provide in Iran, while perfectly legal under U.S. law, are minuscule in comparison to the scope of our worldwide activity; however, they attract a disproportionate share of attention," Lesar said then.
Thompson's proposed shareholders' resolution calling on the company to review and justify its operations in Iran followed reports in 2003 that Halliburton had opened an office in Iran under the name Halliburton Products and Services Ltd., its Cayman Islands subsidiary, in February 2000.
Thompson said he had insisted upon a written promise from the company before he would agree to drop his shareholder resolution pressing the company to change its policy of seeking work in Iran. Five city pension funds hold about 1.46 million Halliburton shares worth about $42 million, his office said.
Thompson said similar efforts had prompted General Electric Co. and Cooper Cameron Corp. to forgo future business in Iran.