Matt Simmons Shorting At Least 8,000 BP Shares – Oil Spill Conflict Of Interest

Static Chaos
updated | Author's Website

After busy making several outrageous comments regarding BP (NYSE:BP) and the Gulf oil spill as recent as last evening, Matt Simmons abruptly announced today that he would retire from the board of Simmons & Co.–the company he founded in 1974–effective June 30.

Meanwhile, Simmons & Co. also issued a statement in an apparent attempt to distance itself from its founder.  As Houston Business Journal reports:

“..on June 14, [Simmons & Co] issued a statement dated May 12 in which [CEO Mike Frazier] distanced himself from the founder, saying that the former chairman’s views were not those of Simmons & Co. Frazier referred to Simmons’ comments related to the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and the implications for the industry and the individual companies.”

You might recall in a Bloomberg interview on May 28, Matt Simmons endorsed the nuclear option as the only viable solution for the oil spill.  later on, BP shares slid to a 14-year low, around the same time Fortune magazine (on June 9) quoted Simmons as saying BP had a month before it would file for bankruptcy.  As recent as last evening in a CNBC interview (at around 6-minute mark) Simmons also intimated that the Gulf oil leak was at 120,000 bpd, instead of the official estimate of 60,000 bpd.

Being a devil’s advocate, my suspicion only grew each day when Simmons seemed to have become increasingly “passionate” about preaching the worst possible outcome and solution (a nuke bomb? come on!) to this unprecedented disaster.

Well, say it isn’t so, but according to Barron’s,

“Simmons has a 4,000-share short sale on BP that he picked up when the stock hit $37. That’s in addition to a prior 4,000-share short sale he made at $48 a couple weeks prior. “It’s going to zero,” he says of BP stock. Mind you, Simmons has an interest and a deep investment in moving beyond fossil fuels.”

The Barron’s article went on to note that Simmon’s Ocean Energy Institute, a renewable energy think-tank and venture capital fund he started in 2007, is involved in a project to develop off-shore wind power facilities and other alternative energies.

If Barron’s assertion is true, it would appear that Simmons, an energy industry veteran and expert, could have had a serious conflict of interest when he went onto so many TV and magazine interviews talking his book about BP and the Gulf oil spill.

From that perspective, his remarks would seem irresponsible and only added to the existing despair and chaos, which is nothing the nation, particularly the Gulf Coast residents, need right now.

One has to wonder if this potentially unethical and maybe illegal act could have been easily deterred if only the media would require a disclosure before putting Simmons on TV and quoting him?

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