Disclose No Evil
McGinn, Daniel, Newsweek
Byline: Daniel McGinn
In a much-watched Wall Street ritual, Warren Buffett will release his yearly letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway this weekend, marking the informal kickoff of annual-report season. The task shouldn't be hard: Berkshire stock returned 21.4 percent in 2010. Other letter-writers aren't so fortunate, such as BP CEO Bob Dudley, who will have to explain away the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. NEWSWEEK turned to annual-report consultants for suggestions on spinning some of the thorniest corporate issues.
The explosion of its Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers, spilled 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and cost the company $40 billion.
Good news, everyone! Most of the gulf cleanup is complete, and a report by the U.S. in January attributed the disaster to "multiple causes involving multiple parties"--i.e., not just BP. (And don't forget, we replaced gaffe-prone CEO Tony Hayward.)
In April an explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch coal facility in West Virginia killed 29 miners.
Look for Massey to play up its long-term safety record. It wouldn't hurt to tweak federal regulators for failing to develop effective rules to protect miners. And did we mention our $8.5 billion merger with Alpha Natural Resources closing later this year?
It still hasn't delivered its new flagship 787 Dreamliner, originally scheduled for May 2008. Most recent glitch: an electrical fire in a November test flight. …