Well and Good

In his best imitation of Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook” speech, soon-to-retire Exxon Mobil CEO Lee Raymond proclaimed on the front page of today’s New York Times: “This is no windfall.” The oil industry titan used a news conference to rationalize his company’s record profits this quarter while consumers take it up the gas pipe.

Consider these headlines:

“Oil Giant Does Well: Exxon Sales Top $1 Billion a Day”

“BP Profits Soar Despite Hurricanes”

“Chevron Profits Soar on Higher Energy Prices”

“Conoco Profits Surge”

They may be good news for three of the oil companies’ key stakeholder groups: employees, investors and retailers, but growing reports of consumer outrage over the disparity between their pocketbooks and these companies’ balance sheets aroused the (uninvited) ire of two other key constituencies: legislators and regulators.

To blunt criticism and ensure that its embarrassment of riches is put in perspective, Exxon Mobil took out an advertisement in The New York Times yesterday showing that its profit margins were in line with the average of all industries and far below those of banks, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies.

I find it ironic (and refreshing) to see a company/industry that is doing well getting hammered for not doing good.