Thursday PM September 21st, 2006

Exxon Mobil says costs in Russian energy project rising...Newspaper reports say former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling ticketed for PI earlier this month in Dallas...Revamped C-130 aircraft makes first flight after being re-worked in SanAntonio...

Exxon Mobil said today that the total cost of the oil project it heads in Russia's Far East had risen 30 percent. The increase is sure to raise the stakes in a standoff with the Russian government over energy resources. Irving-based Exxon Mobil tells Dow Jones Newswires that the increase at the Sakhalin One project is due to inflation and currency moves. It adds that the company hasn't yet submitted the change to the government for approval. Russia's Natural Resources Ministry says Exxon Mobil had given it preliminary word of a budget increase, but no official notice. A ministry spokesman indicates the ministry would likely reject any increase. The report comes just days after the ministry said it would pull an environmental permit at Royal Dutch Shell's mammoth Sakhalin Two liquefied natural gas project. It also says it's considering revoking a field license for the French energy company Total at its Kharyaga project. Analysts have interpreted the steps as a move by the Russian government to secure better terms for Russian companies.

Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling was ticketed for public intoxication earlier this month in Dallas, according to a newspaper report. The Houston Chronicle reports Skilling was arrested in Dallas in the wee hours of September 9th. Police records examined by the Chronicle say Skilling wasn't drinking at the time of his arrest, and he did not resist arrest. The 52-year-old was convicted in May of 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors in the investigation following the company's 2001 collapse. He faces 20 to 30 years in prison in the Enron case and is scheduled to be sentenced next month. Skilling apparently will not go to jail early for violating terms of his $5 million bond.

Vioxx maker Merck is appealing its more than $253 million judgment awarded last year by a jury in Angleton. New Jersey-based Merck this week filed a notice of appeal in the case of Robert Ernst, who died in 2001. A company statement says Merck, in part, will argue that there was insufficient evidence that Ernst suffered an injury due to the Vioxx pain medication. The jury rejected Merck's argument that Ernst died of clogged arteries instead of a heart attack caused by Vioxx triggering a fatal abnormal heart rhythm. Texas caps punitive damage awards, so the $253 million--including $229 (m) million for punitive damages--would be automatically reduced to about $26 million. The appeal was filed Monday and later listed on Merck's Web site.

Boeing says a revamped C-130 aircraft has made its first flight. The plane had its cockpit gutted and reworked by crews in San Antonio to improve navigation and communication. The aircraft, which was flown for three hours this week, was the first one modified under the Air Force's C-130 Avionics Modernization program. Boeing is modifying more than ten aircraft under a design and development contract. It expects to modify 30 to 40 additional planes in low-rate production before competing for the full-rate production contract, which will include about 400 C-130 aircraft. Governor Rick Perry, who was at the announcement at the company's San Antonio facilities, says Boeing getting the full-rate contract would bring 350 jobs to Texas. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is a unit of Chicago-based Boeing.

Hewlett-Packard Chairwoman Patricia Dunn says it's ironic to be honored at a time when she's facing so much professional turmoil. A week after it was announced that Dunn would step down as chairwoman because of a corporate investigation scandal, she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Bay Area Council Business Group. Dunn briefly touched on the controversy in her acceptance speech, saying she's looking forward to setting the record straight and going back to living her life as "discreetly'' as possible. She also joked that it wouldn't hurt if Pope Benedict continued to make controversial comments to take the attention off her. Dunn has acknowledged that she authorized an investigation of media leaks in which private investigators hired by HP impersonated people in order to access their personal information. Dunn was voted into the Hall of Fame earlier this year, as much for her charity work as her professional success.

If you ask the people who run the country's businesses what kind of job they're doing, most will say "fantastic.'' The folks who work for them, however, aren't so sure. According to the latest Hudson survey, 92 percent of managers who were asked consider themselves to be an excellent or good boss. At the same time, though, only 67 percent of employees rate their managers favorably. In fact, ten percent of workers say their boss does a poor job. The survey also shows many bosses may be clueless about how their employees' opinions. Just 26 percent of the work force is given the chance to review their manager's performance.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...