Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tape Recordings May Be Smoking Gun in Texaco Race-Discrimination Lawsuit

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tape Recordings May Be Smoking Gun in Texaco Race-Discrimination Lawsuit

Article excerpt

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Every six months or so, when Texaco executives met to discuss the finance department's minority hiring practices, Richard Lundwall would slip a tiny tape recorder into his jacket.

Lundwall didn't bother telling his colleagues. He says he just wanted to make sure the minutes he kept were accurate.

But now that he has lost his job, it may turn out that what he really had in his jacket was a smoking gun. He and other Texaco executives were caught on tape vilifying black employees as "niggers" and "black jelly beans," mocking a Kwanzaa celebration and discussing destroying documents related to a $520 million race-discrimination suit, court papers allege. The suit is a class-action brought on behalf of 1,500 black employees of the oil company. The employees claim they were denied promotions and advancement opportunities because of their race. Soon after a company consolidation cost Lundwall his job as senior coordinator of personnel services in Texaco's finance department, he went to the plaintiffs' attorneys with his collection of microcassettes. The impact was immediate. In papers filed in federal court last week, the plaintiffs asked for a default judgment -- that is, a ruling against Texaco without benefit of a trial. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 22. The tapes, as transcribed in court papers, show that in 1994, after Texaco had been asked to produce any documents relevant to the discrimination case, executives spoke frankly about papers that should be hidden or destroyed. Lundwall identified the speakers on the tapes, according to court papers. Discussing a collection of documents on minority hiring, a man identified as Robert Ulrich, Texaco's treasurer and head of the department, says: "There is no point in even keeping the restricted version anymore. All it could do is get us in trouble." To which Lundwall replies, "Let me shred this thing and any other restricted version like it." A man identified as J. David Keough, senior assistant treasurer, looks at a chart of women and minorities and says: "If we can't explain this thing, I mean, it shouldn't be in there. ... If it was a favorable chart, you'd want to retain it. …

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