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TheStreet Open House

The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street: Sept. 24

Stocks in this article: BPHALNLCNFLXHBCYUM


5. BP Oil Spill? Hey, No Big Deal. It's All Cool.

Here's a pop quiz for you: Do you remember, a few months ago, when a little company called BP (BP) spilled some oil in the Gulf of Mexico? Not too much. Only about 205 million gallons. Made the news for a few months. You might have heard of it.

Well, back in June, Dow Jones and boutique investment management firm SAM apparently remembered, and they removed BP from the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes. Given that whole Gulf-of-Mexico, rig-explosion, loss-of-life-ending-in-environmental-catastrophe thing, it seemed a reasonable decision.

But apparently -- or outrageously, depending on your point of view -- BP's removal from the list left the door open for its partners in slime to join the earth-friendly club. That's right, Dow Jones and SAM thought it would be a great idea to go ahead and extend invitations to Halliburton (HAL) and Nalco (NLC) to join the index.

Let's consider this, shall we? Admittance to the Sustainability Index is based, according to SAM, on a "thorough analysis of corporate economic, environmental and social performance, assessing issues such as corporate governance, risk management, branding, climate change mitigation, supply chain standards and labor practices."

So, let's see: Halliburton -- a dubious firm on the best of days -- was responsible for the Macondo well cement job, which may or may not have been partly or wholly responsible for the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Nalco, for its part, manufactures the chemical dispersant that was used by BP to break up the oil covering the surface of the Gulf. At the time, numerous press reports highlighted the toxicity of Nalco's dispersant relative to other dispersants available for use by BP (more than four times more toxic than the oil itself, according to a class-action lawsuit filed against BP and Nalco by residents of Louisiana). At one point, the Environmental Protection Agency even mandated that BP find an alternative -- a mandate that went unheeded as BP claimed that there were no other chemical dispersants manufactured in high enough quantities to use.

And now bear in mind that a former BP executive and a former ExxonMobil president sit on Nalco's board of directors -- just sayin'.

So what's the word for when two companies involved in the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history are added to the list of the most sustainable companies in North America? Oh, right, we remember ... it's "dumb."

TheStreet Says: Perhaps they should add a few oil-soaked egrets to the Sustainability Index selection panel.

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