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The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street: April 8

5. Transocean: 2010 Was the Best...Year...for Oil Drilling...Ever!

It's been almost a year since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and some of the primary players are back in the news -- whether they like it or not, and whether or not they've learned a darn thing about public relations.

Transocean (RIG) was busy in the past week awarding annual bonuses and citing safety as a reason for lucrative compensation to five top officials totaling $19.5 million -- and then, and only then, realizing that citing safety as a reason for hefty executive pay wasn't such a bright idea in the year of the fatalities on the Deepwater Horizon. Apparently it was the best year for safety in the history of Transocean!

What, you didn't notice what a bang up job Transocean did in 2010 when it comes to safety, as the images of the fireball once known as the Deepwater Horizon rig and the testimony from the family of workers killed in the disaster remains fresh in your oil spill memory?

Not since Halliburton was added to Dow Jones sustainability indexes shortly after the oil stopped gushing from the BP Macondo well has such an interesting "pat on the back" been given to one of the primary companies bearing responsibility for the natural disaster.

Transocean quickly backtracked from its safety dancing, though its contrition left something to be desired, with an apology that more or less begrudged the public its right to find bonuses for executives during a year when 11 workers were killed on Transocean's rig to be offensive.

Ihab Toma, Transocean's executive v.p. for global business (and one of the executives to hit pay dirt as a result of the "safety" successes made by Transocean in 2010), said in a public-relations-nightmare management statement, "We acknowledge that some of the wording in our 2010 proxy statement may have been insensitive in light of the incident that claimed the lives of eleven exceptional men last year and we deeply regret any pain that it may have caused."

The Street Says: Here's a good corporate foot-in-mouth rule of thumb: when an apology is meted out in "mays," it "may" not be the apology that's merited by the situation.

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