Former Anadarko Employees Say Denver Office Was Beset By Culture Of Male ‘Sexual Gratification,’ Bullying And Retaliation

<p>AP Photo/Richard Drew</p>
<p>The logo for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Friday, April 12, 2019. Chevron said it would pay $33 billion to buy rival Anadarko Petroleum. </p>
Photo: Anadarko Logo Stock Exchange AP 20190412
The logo for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Friday, April 12, 2019. Chevron said it would pay $33 billion to buy rival Anadarko Petroleum.

Anadarko Petroleum, Colorado’s largest oil and gas driller, had a “culture of treating women as sexual playthings who are present at work merely for the men’s sexual gratification,” according to a letter from a former employee demanding a financial settlement from the company.

The letter, dated Oct. 30, 2017, was obtained by CPR and verified by a former company senior executive. Written by attorneys for Robin Olsen, a former communications professional at Anadarko, it alleges top Anadarko executives had sex in the Denver office during business hours, and then retaliated and bullied Olsen, who witnessed and reported the incidents.

The letter states that starting around 2012, Olsen could hear then-vice president Scott Moore having sex with a co-worker in the office next to hers. Olsen claims Moore retaliated against her after she reported the incidents to what was supposed to be an anonymous company hotline.

Multiple requests for comment from Moore over several months have not been returned.

Later, in 2015, Olsen claims in the letter, she could hear another vice president, Brad Holly, now the CEO of Whiting Petroleum, carrying out an affair with a different co-worker. This time Olsen reported the incidents to her supervisor, John Christiansen, who, according to the letter, “did nothing to help her.” Olsen did not follow company protocol and call the hotline with the incidents involving Holly, because she had been revealed as the source in the Moore complaint and had suffered the consequences, according to the letter and a signed affidavit from one of Olsen’s superiors, Chris Castilian.

Olsen, who left the company and now runs her own public relations firm, would not agree to an interview for this story, saying only that she resolved her differences with Anadarko. CPR is not naming the two women identified as having affairs in the letter.

Holly declined CPR’s request for an interview. Instead, he responded with a written statement through his attorney: “It is unfortunate CPR has decided to publish a story based on nothing more than hearsay, while ignoring former colleagues who gave on-the-record statements in defense of my leadership, integrity and commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Two of Holly’s former colleagues gave statements to CPR; the sources were provided by Holly’s attorneys. Both spoke favorably of Holly’s general leadership and collegiality, and both said they did not know of any affairs going on in the office. Both requested anonymity in return for their written comments.

“I worked with Brad Holly for approximately six years and sat at the same leadership table with him,” wrote a former Human Resources professional at Anadarko. “Based on my experience working with him and the employees in his division, I can say that he was always professional, adhered to company policy and treated men and women equally and appropriately.”

Anadarko — which recently was acquired by Chevron in a $33 billion deal — wouldn’t agree to an interview about Olsen’s allegations, but did release a statement: “We found the claims deeply troubling and certainly not reflective of the environment we want to provide for our employees. In both cases, the concerns that were raised were promptly and thoroughly investigated.”

Regarding the allegations against Moore, the statement reads, “there was no violation of company policy (the relationship was consensual and there was no direct reporting relationship), we recognized the relationship was disruptive for some of our employees and showed poor judgment by the employees involved. Corrective actions were taken at that time, and the employees involved are no longer with the company.”

With respect to Olsen’s allegations against Holly, the company said it “engaged an outside law firm to conduct a thorough investigation. Although the details remain confidential, the employee in question left the company in October 2017.”

Anadarko would not provide CPR with the results of the company’s internal investigations, or answer any follow-up questions.

Anadarko’s statement said the company believes Olsen’s portrayal of the corporate culture there is false. It strives to create an inclusive environment, including for the 1,300 women it employs, and in the wake of her allegations, “We further strengthened our company policies to specifically prohibit any officer from engaging in an intimate relationship with any employee, regardless of the reporting relationship.”

The company said it “launched mandatory sexual harassment and unconscious bias training to help employees recognize and prevent harassment in all its forms, and offered additional training focused on increasing employee awareness of our 24-hour anonymous hotline to voice concerns, while also reinforcing our zero-tolerance policy for retaliation.”

Industry Titan Besieged By Negative Publicity

It’s hard to overstate Anadarko’s place at the top of Colorado’s oil and gas industry. The Houston-based multinational driller dominates the state’s energy and political landscape, pumping 39 million barrels of oil in 2018, the most of any company by far. It’s also among the largest campaign contributors, with more than $18 million in donations to Colorado groups since 2014. The company, though, has faced a staggering trail of controversies in recent years along the Front Range.

In January 2017, about 30,000 gallons of oil spilled from a Weld County well. In April 2017, an uncapped flowline from one of the company’s wells led to a deadly explosion that killed two men in a residence in Firestone. A month later, a contractor was killed in another explosion at a well pad in Mead. And in 2018, Christopher Watts, an Anadarko employee, murdered his wife and two children. Watts buried his wife on Anadarko property in rural Weld County and dumped his children in nearby oil tanks. Before the killings, Watts was carrying out an affair with an employee of an Anadarko contractor.

Photo: Granite Tower Anadarko 20190405
Anadarko's Denver offices are housed in this office building at 1099 18th Street.

A shareholder lawsuit filed after the Firestone explosion accused Anadarko of trimming safety budgets amid an oil slump and creating a “ticking time bomb” in Colorado as it relied on poorly trained contractors to manage aging oil and gas wells. The suit was dismissed in March.

‘You Feel Helpless’

Long before Anadarko started to attract bad headlines, spirits at the company were high. The stock price in 2012 was double what it is now. Anadarko controlled vast mineral rights in Colorado, the price of oil had spiked, and new drilling technologies opened billions of gallons of raw energy for the taking.

But the company, and the industry as a whole, has struggled to attract and retain women in its ranks. Women make up about 20 percent of all oil and gas employment, which is a smaller share than just about any other industry, in part because of “an established male-centric culture that remains prevalent throughout much of the industry,” according to a report from the World Petroleum Council.

As Anadarko started to raise its profile in Colorado, Robin Olsen alleges things took a dark turn. Starting in 2012, according to the letter from her attorneys, she could hear Scott Moore, then a senior vice president for Anadarko, have “intercourse [a total of] six to eight times” during business hours from her office next door.

At the advice of Chris Castilian, her immediate supervisor at the time, Olsen reported the incidents to a supposedly anonymous human resources hotline. Moore then retaliated against Olsen “by publicizing around the office that she had reported him, and preventing her from doing her job by refusing to email, call or speak to Ms. Olsen,” according to the letter from Olsen’s attorneys. Olsen was a communications professional at the company and Moore was then the vice president of global marketing.

“You feel helpless, and you’re not able to protect your own folks,” said Castilian, in an interview with CPR. He felt stuck between his direct report and some of the company’s most powerful executives. “And my suggestion was that she call the hotline.”

Castilian said the company assured workers the hotline was anonymous, but “it was very apparent who made the call and for what reason. It did the exact opposite of what it was intended to do.”

“I had witnessed a lot of those allegations happen,” said Castilian, who left the company in November 2016. “I signed an affidavit attesting to many of those situations because I felt it was the right thing to do. I couldn’t protect Robin when I was her supervisor.”

Castilian said the affidavit, which CPR also obtained, was requested by Olsen’s attorneys to help bolster her case against the company. Neither Olsen nor Anadarko would state whether Olsen received a financial settlement from Anadarko.

Moore no longer works for Anadarko. He left the company in April 2018, at the exact time CPR first asked Anadarko to comment on the letter. According to his LinkedIn profile, Moore is now the chairman and president at Corral Creek Corporation, a business name he incorporated in 1993 in Colorado. Efforts to reach him there, seeking comment for this story, have not produced any response.

An Anadarko spokesperson told the Denver Business Journal on April 10, 2018 simply, “Scott Moore is no longer with the company.” Other than the company’s above statement confirming there was a consensual relationship but no violation of company policy, Anadarko refused to provide any further information to CPR.

Different Executive, Similar Allegations

About a year after the incidents involving Moore, Olsen went to work for Brad Holly, then a senior vice president at Anadarko.

Holly, according to allegations in the letter, carried out an in-office affair with a different woman, having intercourse “four or five times between late 2015 and early 2016,” during business hours. Chris Castilian’s affidavit states his team of “16 employees was unsettled by these visits, and because of them, the whole team seemed aware of the affair, although no one was willing to talk about it in light of the company’s poor management on Ms. Olsen’s last hotline complaint.”

Holly began to bully Olsen, allegedly telling her to speak only when spoken to and regularly berating her until she cried, according to her lawyer’s letter. Olsen claims this caused her emotional distress, even causing her to throw up at her desk, according to the letter.

The former HR professional, who vouched for Holly, stated that he “was always professional, adhered to company policy and treated men and women equally and appropriately,” and a second former colleague who requested anonymity stated, “I never saw [Mr. Holly] exhibit any favoritism. He was dedicated to the development and advancement of all Anadarko employees, regardless of gender, race or creed.”

Nevertheless, Olsen’s attorneys claimed she reported Holly’s bullying to John Christianson, her superior at the time. Castilian knows Olsen made the reports, because “Christianson called me about six times to discuss how Mr. Holly treated Ms. Olsen, and how I could act as a liaison to minimize Mr. Holly’s treatment of Ms. Olsen,” according to his signed affidavit.

Oil Slumps, Layoffs Start

In 2016, as the price of oil sagged and profits dried up, Anadarko’s stock price tumbled 70 percent and the company began making deep workforce cuts. Holly tried to add Olsen to the list of employees to be laid off, a violation of company policy as he was not her immediate supervisor, according to Castilian’s affidavit and Olsen’s letter.

At the same time, Holly attempted to save the job of the woman he was alleged to be having the affair with, but she voluntarily left the company. Castilian’s signed affidavit said she told him, “She was leaving because she was having an affair with Mr. Holly, that Mr. Holly’s wife knew about the affair and was tracking his whereabouts on his phone.”

Olsen was not laid off, but she continued to be subjected to bullying from Holly and eventually resigned from Anadarko in March 2017, according to her letter. Holly left six months later to run Whiting Petroleum.

Castilian, who is now the executive director of Great Outdoors Colorado, acknowledged that Anadarko has taken positive steps, having removed both Holly and Moore.

“The company finally realized that it needed to make changes, and it did,” he said. “You can argue about whether it should have happened a year or two before, which many of us suggest it probably should have.

“But they finally did the right thing.”