An Anatomy of the Petroleum Geo-Services (#PGS) Confidence Fraud
Corporate executives and business owners need to realize that there can be no compromise when it comes to ethics, and there are no easy shortcuts to success. Ethics need to be carefully sown into the fabric of their companies. ~ Vivek Wadhwa
The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it. ~ General H. Norman Schwarzkopf
Having come across an article written by London employment law solicitor, Philip Landau (currently of Landau Law), in October 2013, I contacted and later engaged Landau to help me. I am a U.S. citizen who was working for PGS Exploration UK Limited [PGSUK] in Weybridge, England at the time on a Company sponsored Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List (SOL) visa. I was working in a toxic workplace and had filed a grievance citing harassment and bullying, in part, through the misuse of the PGSUK performance management system. Inclusive to the grievance was my claim that an unsubstantiated false narrative regarding my professional performance which was being forwarded by PGS managers to impugn my professional reputation. I believe that this was defamation and this was cited as well within my grievance. The only formal employment action between me and PGSUK was the grievance. There were only threats of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) being investigated, which I qualified as harassment and bullying. The negotiations lasted nearly six-weeks from Oct-2013 to Dec-2013. I left England at the end of 2013 having signed a settlement contract facilitated by Landau and his assistant, Holly Rushton (Landau officially signed-off on the settlement). Placing so much trust and confidence in Landau was a disastrous watershed event in my life. At the same time, accepting the/any settlement contract terms was also an act of desperation to exit a toxic and corruptly managed health-harming workplace for me and my family.
I am not a lawyer. I am a geophysicist with an understanding of how data is processed. I also understand how systems work. The axiom in data processing is garbage in – garbage out. Legal processes cannot create an illegal outcome. The principal who advised me on my employment settlement contract and oversaw the processes was Landau. Because of this, I could never recommend Landau or Rushton to anyone seeking help with any employment law issue. Never. Consider this article a public service. Of course, Landau and others mentioned herein are encouraged to respond or clarify any of the content presented. I will promise to post and respond accordingly. Some additional food for thought for anyone contemplating engaging Landau as their solicitor: I have been able to publish several articles condemning agents of my former employer, their hired legal counsel, Watson, Farley and Williams (WFW) and even Landau, without comment or rebuke. The settlement contract contained a non-disparagement clause. Nevertheless, I have been able to call-out agents of PGS/PGSUK as criminals, fraudsters, charlatans, and assholes. Many of these articles were first published on LinkedIn™ Pulse (LI) (the first appeared in July 2015), and currently are now accessible on the website www.nopgs.com.
In late 2014, following my submission of a subject access request (SAR) citing the UK Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) with PGSUK, I discovered that most every important aspect with regard to my leaving my position through a settlement agreement was ignored. When I received my personnel file, it contained defamatory false instruments intended to harm me personally and professionally. These were the very things that my grievance highlighted and the settlement was meant to resolve. It took me too long to understand that such a disastrous outcome could only result if my counsel, Landau, was in fact serving my past employer’s interests more so than my own. This seems to be the case. Landau was my agent to oversee the processes to affect my desired legal outcome. This outcome did not happen. Perhaps it was cognitive dissonance – an inability to believe that a well-qualified and reputed person hired as my agent would not advance my interests. Since Landau had been provided with my lengthy grievance along with the PGS Exploration UK Limited Handbook and also clarification emails, he would have been able to detect all of the issues which I discovered when I received my personnel file. It was Landau’s responsibility to make certain there was no false narrative backed by false instruments as an outcome because why else was he retained? Initially, I assumed that PGS/PGSUK agents had placed the documents into my file as a form of retaliation after my employment had been terminated. But, it has become obvious to me now that the problem was a corrupted settlement contract negotiation process with Landau complicity.
We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know because they have never deceived us. ~ Samuel Johnson
Narrative Tension is primarily about withholding information. ~ Ian McEwan
In October 2016, I finally decided to request my file from Landau. I have asked Landau pointed questions about the settlement debacle and even published and sent to him My Philip Landau and Watson, Farley & Williams (WFW) London Solicitors Testimonial. Landau has never provided much insight into the matter and has since blocked me on his Twitter™ (@philiplandau). Landau does not share the names of PGS/PGSUK legal and HR agents that he principally communicated with prior to PGSUK engaging WFW. However, Bjølseth signed the questionable 25-Oct-2013 Memo (along with EVP Per Arild Reksnes). Bjølseth and Rune Olav Pedersen, then SVP Legal, both are part of the PGS compliance team. Bjølseth and Pedersen have also refused to clarify these records held within my personnel file. None of the parties will even confirm the name of the agent who signed the settlement contract on behalf of PGSUK. (I think it was Petroleum Geo-Services ASA (PGS) CEO/President and PGSUK Director Jon Erik Reinhardsen,) I have called to boycott the PGS until management is replaced. I believe that there had been collusion between the three negotiating parties: PGSUK and their counsel, WFW, and of course Landau. The agents of these parties engaged in active gaslighting manipulation and deception as part of a confidence fraud that resulted in the most favorable outcome for corrupt PGS agents. The only way for the outcome to be illegal – false instruments created to support a false narrative within my personnel file – is if Landau allowed it. After all, it was the unsubstantiated narrative which prompted my grievance in the first place. I suppose all the aforementioned parties believed that I would disappear in despair somewhere in the USA after being blackballed and bullied out of my career and livelihood in the marine geophysics industry. Landau and Rushton apparently were not only unsympathetic to my personal health issues resulting from the workplace mobbing or the trauma to my family, but were actually active contributors in the gang assault. So, if settlement contracts are intended to “settle things” so that parties can move on, the contract signed and approved by Landau as my advisor didn’t achieve this objective. In fact, it achieved quite the opposite. In my view, I became, along with my family, victim of a criminal confidence trick.
Settlement contracts are very binding legal instruments. I have learned this the hard way. So, even if one finds that the party/ies on the other side of the negotiating table lied and did terrible things after the fact, the assumption is that all of the legal material issues were considered during the negotiations. The reason that employee’s offered settlement agreements need to engage a solicitor is so that they receive correct legal advice. The role of an advisor-solicitor is to assist the employee is getting the best practical and legal outcome for your situation. Landau is experienced with employment contracts and has published articles about employment law issues. The idea of the settlement contract is to let bygones be bygones. The first mistake that I made was to not be so involved with my negotiation and allow Landau to negotiate without me present to confirm my interests were being advanced. I am not sure what the normal practice is, after all I was unfamiliar with such situations. All those around me knew this. Plus, I was in a foreign country and did not really understand how all the laws and my rights in these circumstances. I am, after all, a professional geophysicist. However, I believe to trust, and of course verify in both processing seismic data or in my business dealings. At the same time, I was working in the contract sales and had some concept and understanding of legal contracts and common law.
My former employer was able to dictate most of the terms of negotiations while information was withheld from me and many of my core concerns were side-lined. None of the documents surrounding my termination are signed by me OR my supervisor. They are defamatory (illegal) hearsay authored by Nicholson and approved by the Directors. Thus, the principals simply were not that capable in negotiating in such a strong position without solid documentation. It was perplexing. If PGS did not have legitimate supporting documentation or evidence that processes were followed, how was such a favorable outcome possible? Simple, PGS agents, with Landau’s cooperation, cheated. Over time and through review of my notes and subsequent research I concluded that I had been conned, not just by PGS agents, but by WFW agents and Landau as well. What firmed this conclusion was the non-response to my many articles and many allegations. People with means with integrity and reputations to preserve simply would not allow such published allegations to be left unanswered. Everyone knows that I wouldn’t. Of course, people guilty of wrong-doing also will not engage and place themselves in legal peril. According to the IT law Wiki site, confidence fraud is the reliance on another’s discretion and/or a breach in a relationship of trust resulting in financial loss. It includes a knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment.
Truth never damages a cause that is just. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Power is what men seek, and any group that gets it will abuse it. It is the same story. ~ Lincoln Steffens
Performance is a legal avenue to terminate an employee and as such, this is a common tool that is misused by toxic management to eliminate targets. Within the 2013 version of the PGSUK Company Handbook it is stated that workplace bullying, “will not be tolerated.” (Landau had received a copy after I engaged him.) I learned, in the most evil way possible, that this is not the case. Not even close. Dr. Sophie Henshaw describes workplace mobbing as “bullying on steroids.” What PGSUK agents, WFW, and Landau have perpetrated against me is mobbing on steroids. Or more generically, confidence fraud. This is my allegation for which I have provided proof. There has been no substantive response from the accused parties. But, such a negative outcome for me could only be possible through the illegal conspiracy and collusion of all of the principal agents involved in the negotiations. Workplace mobbing is also referred to as workplace gang-bullying. Gangs are organized groups of people who associate with each other to forward a certain agenda. The defining characteristics of workplace mobbing is its unidirectional nature and its use as an intentional weapon to hurt a target.
Workplace mobbing essentially permits the most insecure, least adept, and most corrupt agents to guide the enterprise while expelling the more coherent, empathetic and capable personnel. It’s a formula for disaster, and that is why workplace bullying needs to be regarded as illegal in its own right. Such management is a disservice to all stakeholders and there therefore needs to be appropriate third-party oversight, in my opinion. PGS/PGSUK agents had been preparing for my leaving the workplace for some time. In Jun-2013 I had been called to an impromptu meeting that is colloquially called an ambush meeting in workplace bullying lexicon. I was so disturbed by what occurred in this meeting that I naively indicated to the (corrupt) Human Resources (HR) manager, David Nicholson, who had coordinated the evil event and requested minutes of the meeting and stated that I wanted to file a grievance. My immediate superior, Edward von Abendorff, along with his boss, Simon Cather, also had attended the meeting. Aware that their scam had been detected, they withheld the meeting minutes. I requested something in writing so that I could take action. In late Jul-2013, I received a letter with a subject line interjecting “investigation into possible Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) – their “legal” avenue. Another meeting to discuss this letter’s contents, which mimicked some of the content of the ambush meeting, was scheduled for 11-Sep-2013. This meeting was postponed until 20-Sep-2013, and it was clear to everyone that my response to the letter would be filing a grievance.
I surprised my PGSUK bullies once again by not only grieving against Abendorff, but also against Cather and Nicholson. On 13-Sep-2013 there was a change of PGSUK Company Secretary. Directors of companies are ultimately responsible for health and safety issues, compliance, and contracts. I had mailed my grievance the fore-mentioned and the SVP of HR, Terje Bjølseth, SVP Contract, John Greenway, EVP Marine Contract, Per Arild Reksnes, and my co-worker/witness, John Barnard. The actual meeting on 20-Sep-2013 where I delivered the grievance document in person was attended by myself, Abendorff, Nicholson, and Barnard. A grievance hearing was scheduled for 14-Oct-2013 chaired by Bjølseth and Reksnes. On 10-Oct-2013 Nicholson offered me a settlement contract to terminate my employment because Legal Staff in both Norway and Weybridge thought that I was in dispute with the Company, because I was the target following Company policy and procedures. I declined the offer and attended the hearing. PGS delayed any response to the grievance. In fact, I never received any response. After the 10-Oct-2013 meeting and before the hearing, I contacted Landau. Over the next few days Landau had been provided with all of the facts stated and otherwise knew the Company principals. I had provided their contact details to Landau. PGS decided to outsource the settlement negotiations to WFW. PGSUK had a long standing business relationship with WFW, having hired their employees in either a temporary or even full-time capacity. WFW had also processed all of the paperwork pursuant to me and my family’s visas which had been renewed for another 3 years in Jul-2013. PGSUK had stated that my services were required to UK Border Agency between the ambush meeting and ambush letter.
Serious misfortunes, originating in misrepresentation, frequently flow and spread before they can be dissipated by truth. ~ George Washington
It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing, and to talk by the hour ~ Thomas Jefferson
I have discovered that it is a legal requirement that grievers be provided with a conclusion to any grievance hearing along with notification that they can appeal unfavorable decisions. Landau did not press PGS/PGSUK to submit to these legal requirements. Instead, Landau pressed that I would likely get a better settlement if I did not press on this (legal requirement). I never received a conclusion or the minutes from the grievance hearing, nor did my witness. I asked Landau about how the terms would be impacted by my Tier 2 visa status. There would be pauses in the negotiations. When I filed an SAR with WFW, they did not provide any of the Tier 2 application documentation. According to WFW, there was no discussion of my citizen status. This corresponds with Landau’s “file” and is ridiculous because for bullying to be illegal harassment the target needs to be a protected class. My claims of bullying and harassment were never investigated even though I asked Landau about it specifically. However, the real issue is whether a PIP conformed with information PGSUK provided to UK Border Agency because misleading the agency would also be illegal. Would have I been granted the Tier 2 visa if PGSUK had revealed that it was the intention to place my on a PIP? Likely not, as the SOL visa displaces locally qualified applicants. Landau never pursued this avenue and continued to press for a settlement predicated on unestablished “underlying performance issues” which PGSUK never was requested by Landau to substantiate. Why?
Landau never seemed to use my visits made to Doctors as leverage to substantiate the health harming effects of PGS/PGSUK toxic management practices. PGS/PGSUK even had a report citing the same findings completed by their contracted occupational health nurse (OHN). Landau never cited this report or that I could have received a fit note from my NHS GM. PGS/PGSUK was able to destroy and withhold this health report which they had requested during the negotiations. The UK has the National Health Service. The US does not. When I returned to the US I did not have health insurance for myself and my family. I had requested to be able to purchase PGSUK Company plan insurance on my own for six-months. But, Landau could not leverage any concession there. Landau did not negotiate positively a single concession based on the unique special circumstances. On the day before signing the settlement contract, PGS/PGSUK, WFW, confirmed that all data held about me was accurate. Landau accepted PGS/PGSUK and WFW on their word and never stated that I could make a SAR, or similar, and actually see the data which PGS/PGSUK processed about me to confirm that it was accurate. How much more can you help the other side?
PGS/PGSUK knew that I was motivated to flee the toxic work environment because it was stated within the OHN report which I never received, even though the OHN requested that it be sent to me by Nicholson. I had to make a separate SAR following my SAR to PGSUK to find this out. The day before I signed the settlement contract I asked Landau if I should go to tribunal. He advised no. Based on what? Tribunal would not have been the next step. We would have had to have reverted back to the grievance and then receive the report and letter stating that I could appeal. Then I would have had an appeal, and THEN we would have had to consider tribunal. But wait! Dated 25-Oct-2013 is a Memo written to my attention stating that the grievance was concluded! This is a false document citing the 11-Sep meeting which never happened and a letter which I never wrote. The conclusion does not even reference the grievance document which I presented! The PGS/PGSUK, WFW, and Landau false narrative was the basis of fake negotiation that lasted for six-weeks. Six-weeks of lies and gaslighting that negatively affected my health and effectively ended my career in the marine seismic industry. Of course, PGS/PGSUK shared this defamatory information with their US based agents to interfere with my job search. While I cannot prove this, I am certain of it. I could tell by the interviewer questions and it’s what prompted me to submit my SAR in the first place. Corrupt and criminal PGS/PGSUK agents have lied throughout all of this. They have lied to me, to UK Border, to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and to stakeholders. They have been able to lie because of Landau’s binding settlement. Corrupt PGS/PGSUK agents have such little respect for stakeholder clients, employees, and shareholders that without shame they highlight grifters like Cather as spokespeople for anti-corruption. Laughing like this only hurts. What Landau taught me about employment settlement contracts is that you cannot trust anyone.
Truth is truth to the end of reckoning. ~ William Shakespeare
Psychopaths know intellectually what is immoral they just don’t have a feeling of immorality about it. ~ Barbara Oakley