Monday, 11 October 2010

Trafigura: Frustrated! Impotent!

I describe my feelings here and not Trafigura.

A lesson I am still learning is to read every Trafigura statement very carefully including what is not said.

Given the seriousness of the Probo Koala affair allied to Trafigura’s using Bell-Pottinger it is reasonable (I believe) to assume that Trafigura’s public statements are crafted with exceptional care to ensure that the message says exactly what is intended.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, to find two public statements about the same subject – the Minton Report – which were very different.  I emailed Trafigura about the differences but, unsurprisingly, I received no reply to my questions and, so, I must continue without their input.


In Trafigura's statement of 16 October 2009, 'Eight Key Facts about the Draft Minton Report', the following statement is made under Fact 5:

"Trafigura took the view that an incomplete and outdated document had been unlawfully leaked to the media with only one intention in mind – an unfair and improper attempt to undermine Trafigura’s (now proven) assertion that the slops did not contain highly injurious waste." [My emphasis]

but this “now proven” assertion is lost from their Probo Koala Factsheet, July 2010, which makes a weaker statement,

“Subsequently, the draft Minton report was unlawfully obtained and leaked to the media, apparently to undermine the company’s (now accepted) assertion that the slops did not cause the alleged deaths or serious injuries.” [My emphasis]

[The actual date of this factsheet is open to some doubt: the Trafigura website shows this as being issued on 22 July 2010 whereas the downloadable pdf file is date January 2010.]

This second statement is more in line, as far as I am aware, with the statement released after the settlement of the Class Action.”  


There are two key differences which you will have seen:

-  “now proven” becomes “now accepted

“slops did not contain highly injurious waste." becomes 
“slops did not cause the alleged deaths or serious injuries.”


Ah hah!  Trafigura must now accept that the slops did contain highly injurious waste.  That was my initial reaction but ….  let’s look very carefully.

I’m sure each statement says exactly what Trafigura  intended to say but what can we read into these changes?

After all this writing the answer is “Not very much”.

Trafigura may still believe that each statement is true or that only the second is true but we don’t and can’t know for sure.  So much of the Trafigura affair is like this: we are certain we know what happened but really we don’t have the information we need to be certain. 

Trafigura’s reluctance to answer questions, as evidenced by my experience, puts us in a very difficult position.  If we over-state the case against Trafigura there is a risk that Carter-Ruck will fire off papers but, if no-one pushes against the door, truth will always remain uncertain.

Nothing negative should be read into Trafigura’s reluctance to answer questions.  That is their absolute right.  Despite this I am surprised.  I would have expected a company - any company - which had stressed its innocence to demonstrate that by giving sufficient details to convince doubters.

Where does this leave us?

Frustrated!  Impotent!.

Important questions remain unanswered …. again.

Come on, Trafigura!

Demonstrate your innocence to us.  You have it within your power.

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