Jan. 30, 2004 – The US-based transnational conglomerate Halliburton received over 40 percent of its fourth-quarter revenue from massive US government contracts in Iraq, yet still posted a net loss for the period, largely as a result of findings against the companyâ€™s labor practices. Bloomberg reported that Halliburton, the oil and construction firm formerly headed by US Vice President Dick Cheney and with close links to the Bush administration, made over $2 billion in the fourth quarter from construction contracts for Iraqi oil fields, and contracts providing services to the US occupation forces in Iraq.
The BBC reported in May of 2003: "Halliburtonâ€™s role in post-war Iraq includes operating Iraqi oil fields." It also noted that an "emergency contract for firefighting and capping Iraqi oil wells was awarded to Halliburton without a bidding process in March ." Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) was also awarded a lucrative contract for the "operation of facilities and distribution of products" to the US military in Iraq.
However, these contracts were not enough to stop the company posting a $947 million net loss in the fourth quarter. Bloomberg reported that the company blamed its losses on massive pay-outs for domestic occupational health and safety abuses. Several charges have been filed by ex-workers placing blame on Halliburton subsidiaries for asbestos-related illnesses. It was noted that $1.1 billion was most recently paid by the parent company as part of its asbestos settlements, which the Guardian (UK) estimated to total around $4.5 billion.
Many of these charges revolve around Dresser Industries, Inc., a Halliburton subsidiary, which has faced asbestos-related damages claims dating back to the 1970s. According to the Los Angeles Times, thousands of workers developed lung cancer and respiratory diseases from being exposed to asbestos at work.
The industry publication Insurance Journal says Halliburton has attempted to dodge payment of the settlements in various ways, including filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the liable subsidiaries. The Los Angeles Times also reported that a July 2003 proposal by Congress to create a "national fund" for asbestos victims was actively supported by Halliburton, which stood to save over $3.5 billion from the plan.
The acquisition of Dresser Industries by Halliburton around four years ago was described as "the high point of Mr. Cheney's five-year Halliburton career" by the New York Times.