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The allegations that prompted Bernard Looney to resign from BP were made only last week, according to two people familiar with the matter, signaling that the chief executive’s position at the company is rapidly unraveling.
In response, the board launched its second investigation in 18 months into Looney’s past personal relationships with colleagues, leading up to the CEO’s resignation on Tuesday. The charges were filed by a different person than those received in May 2022, people familiar with the matter said.
The series of events between the latest claims and Rooney’s “immediate” departure underscores how quickly a crisis has erupted at the 113-year-old British energy group.
When the Financial Times first approached BP on Tuesday about Rooney’s planned resignation, the company’s communications staff were unaware of the allegations or the board’s investigation. People familiar with the matter said Looney decided to resign soon after.
BP later said in a statement that Looney had resigned over his “conduct” regarding personal relationships with colleagues, highlighting the CEO’s failure to disclose details of all past relationships during an internal review last year.
An investigation in May 2022 following allegations from anonymous sources found no breaches of BP’s code of conduct.
The board then sought and received formal written assurances from Rooney that there were no further relationships or other matters that he would be required to disclose, a person familiar with the matter said.
BP received the new allegations last week, after which Looney acknowledged that his previous disclosures had not been fully transparent, the company said.
BP said an investigation into Looney’s conduct, with support from outside advisers, was ongoing but did not elaborate further on the number or nature of those relationships.
A spokesman for Looney declined to comment.
BP’s published code of conduct does not prohibit personal relationships with colleagues, but it does flag them as potential conflicts of interest.
“A conflict of interest may arise when your interests or activities affect, or appear to affect, your ability to make objective decisions for BP,” the document states. The report adds that such situations may include “a situation in which you have the ability to influence remuneration, promotions, or manage people to build close relationships with.”
Chief Financial Officer Murray Auchincloss, who succeeded Looney as interim CEO, also has a relationship with a BP employee, according to the company’s stock market disclosures. Auchincloss could not be reached for comment.
The company said the relationship was disclosed in 2020 when Auchincloss was chief financial officer and there was no indication the relationship violated BP’s code of conduct.
Auchincloss told employees at a town hall meeting on Wednesday that BP’s “fundamentals” have not changed. “The board has its full support as we continue to implement the plans we have set out,” he said, according to BP.
The company’s shares closed down 2.74% at 508.5 pounds in London on Wednesday.