BP CEO resigns over investigation into relationships with colleagues

Bernard Looney, CEO of oil giant BP, has resigned after less than four years in the role over an investigation into his past relationships with members of BP staff. 

In a review last year – prior to Looney being appointed as CEO – he was asked to disclose all relationships he’d had with colleagues at BP. That review was triggered by allegations made by an anonymous source about his conduct in the context of those personal relationships.  

In this latest development, BP says it has now come to light that Looney “did not provide details of all relationships” during that review “and accepts he was obliged to make more complete disclosure”.

“Further allegations of a similar nature were received recently,” said BP in a statement, “and the Company immediately began investigating with the support of external legal counsel. That process is ongoing.”

Corporate culture under scrutiny

In April, The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) was embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal, with allegations of rape, sexual harassment and discrimination being reported in an exposé by The Guardian. 

Several women came forward to share stories involving individuals working in senior management positions at CBI member firms. The story highlighted a pervasive toxic work culture in the corporate world and the potential for abuse of power in personal relationships between senior staff and subordinates at large companies. 

“[The firms in question are] predominantly led by white men and blighted by the pay gap and the authority gap, in which women find it more difficult to be taken seriously at work,” wrote journalist Josie Cox for The Guardian when the CBI scandal broke. “As a function of these chasms, troubling power dynamics allow for cultures of sexism and, in some cases, toxic masculinity to prevail.” 

There have been several similar stories of CEOs resigning amid allegations of misconduct involving personal relationships in recent years. Former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell resigned in April citing an “inappropriate relationship,” and was also accused of sexual harassment and discrimination by a CNBC anchor. The CEO of McDonald’s, Steve Easterbrook, was fired In 2019 after engaging in a relationship with a staff member that violated company policy, as did Brian Krzanich, Intel’s former CEO. 

Looney joined BP at 21 as an engineer, and worked on operations around the globe, including Vietnam and Mexico, and was appointed CEO in 2020. The full details surrounding his swift exit from the company are still unknown. Murray Auchincloss, BP’s CFO, will cover the position on an interim basis.