Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Depending on your pole position, rules are made to be broken

The old adage “rules are made to be broken” seems to be the running theme as of late. You simply can not pick up a newspaper or turn on the television without hearing about another ’side-stepping’ of a rule or otherwise generally accepted practice.

Naked short selling; financial institutions accused of breaking ethical, if not judicial laws; governments overstepping previously-accepted boundaries - bailing out said institutions; NASDAQ “relaxing” a de-listing rule, even if temporarily…To those who think these are insignificant or isolated incidents, I say look at the bigger picture. These things together are disconcerting.

Put together, these incidents have helped to create a lot of the strife and stress we (most of us anyway) are feeling. Were the rules broken to make things easier? If so, that ease was temporary for most. Was it more sinister - a power play to override the less-than-desirable outcome that the rules would have allowed? Or are folks simply trying to cover for past mistakes? At what point did it become acceptable to cover repercussions of rules broken with additional rule breaking? What rung on the totem pole do you have to pass in order for the rules to no longer apply? And where does it stop?

My final thought is - when can I start bending rules and have it deemed an acceptable practice? The recession-bound economy certainly affects me as well. Even if my moral and ethical fortitude wasn’t a factor, rule-breaking wouldn’t be an acceptable practice for me. I’m too far down the totem pole.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Crisis casts shadow over oil patch

San Francisco wasn't so sunny today. While the weather outside was beautiful, the mood inside the IPAA OGIS conference was less than joyful. I've been wondering when the energy industry would, at the very least, reference the financial crisis. The energy industry has been incredibly strong in past years, but it doesn't operate in a vacuum.

While the financial markets have been gloomy for awhile, attitudes around the oil patch have remained optimistic despite the crumbling economy around them. That is, until now.

Nearly every presenter started off with a joke about the markets. "Sorry I'm late; I couldn't tear myself away from the Lehman Brothers interrogation," said Southwestern Energy's Harold Korell. Another joked that the water pitchers should be filled with vodka instead.

The focus of presentations became less about assets and properties and more about financials and balance sheets. As it will now be much harder to raise capital , companies talked about recent deals and financings signed "just in time." Words like "liquidity" and "unused" in reference to credit facilities became the buzzwords of the day.

While executives finally recognized the impact the financial markets have on energy, the overall sentiment remained positive. "While people are probably glued to the markets," said Swift's Bruce Vincent, "I want people to know that the fundamentals of energy are strong."

Does anyone else remember hearing that in reference to the American economy recently?