Category Archives: Ethics

Questionable Ethics

More years ago than I like to think about, I worked for a oil service company in Alabama. I, as well as others working for the company, routinely visited drilling well sites to perform services for the oil companies operating the wells being drilled. Broadly speaking, due to costs and risk mitigation, there are many owners of a well being drilled in search of oil and gas. Because of the fractionated interests, one of the owners is designated, by mutual agreement, to be the operator of the well. The owners of the well have an ownership which is simply referred to as a working interest. As this is not meant to be a discourse on ownership interests, I will dispense with further elaboration.

On one occasion, around a holiday, two of the working interest owner employees, both being geologist, and a geological consultant were having a conversation concerning the well, what had transpired, and what was anticipated to occur. This discussion was Each working interest owner geologist represented their respective company and the geological consultant was engaged by one of the working interest owners and received direction from one of the geologists at the well site. The geologist was planning to return home for the holiday. That geologist was providing the consulting geologist with information concerning what had to be done in his absence. Obviously, the other geologist was present during the conversation and must have been a bit envious of his peer’s consulting arrangement since he approached the consulting geologist to contract for the the same services on the same well.

The consulting geologist told the second geologist he would provide the services and quoted his daily rate and expenses. This arrangement was immediately agreed upon. Following the verbal agreement, the two company geologist and the consulting geologist laughed about the amount of money the consultant would be making per day plus the double expenses. With the consultants new found contract, one of the company geologist suggested they memorialize the event with dinner and drinks, at the consultants expense, of course. The three of them left the drill site shortly thereafter.

Out of curiosity several weeks later I did ask one of the company geologist about the arrangement which was the consummated at the well, of which he confirmed. Being young and naive, I was absolutely amazed at how business was so loosely and quickly conducted. But, more importantly, I was confused. The actions of the consultant double dipping had a bad odor, at least to me. The actions of the two company geologist was confusing as well since, they found humor in spending their company’s money so readily to help their “friend” out with a few extra dollars. Although not the sharpest tack in the box, everything that was done by the three geologist did not seem right, at least to me.

Upon becoming a member of a professional organization for geologist, I reviewed the amazing amount of technical material provided. I also found the organization’s code of ethics. It appeared my observation of the actions taken by the three geologist, though legal, was not ethical. Many years later, I spoke with the geological consultant for that well and in jest asked about the consulting and the double dipping, to which be replied, while laughing, he made a small fortune doing work that way. He was also proud of having accomplished triple dipping. Further disappointment was had on my part when finding that the consultant was certified in his field of interest and a member of other professional organizations which tout the integrity and ethics of their members.

In the more than thirty years since this occurred, the memory of these individuals, their decisions, and actions have never left me. I have taken several ethics courses when working on my MBA, PhD, and in continuing education hours for my professional registration and always, I think of what I witnessed. I continually ponder the “why”, and have yet to come to any semblance of an answer which I consider to be satisfactory. Each of the individuals was well paid. Each party lived within their means and did not “hot dog”. And, each party did very well, monetarily, through their careers. Perhaps, they did well in their careers because they continued to take care of their business as when I first met them or possibly because they were very good in their profession.

I did cross paths with all three of the individuals, at one time or another over the ensuing years. I never spoke of what I witnessed to anyone other than in ethics courses. I never mentioned their names and never spoke poorly of any of them to anyone. I approached dealing with them, individually, with caution and paid particular attention to every detail in any discussion. I did transact two deals with one party and, sadly, there were problems which required outside intervention to resolve the issues. Would I ever do business with that individual again? No.

Even though I was not knowledgeable as to how infractions of this nature should be addressed at the time or even for some period afterwards, I did learn a valuable lesson, if it smells, even in the least bit, it is best to step away.

Geology is Highly Interpretive

An oil company was in need of a new CEO and the board of directors made a decision to promote within the company for their search. After a great deal of effort, the board had whittled its choices to three candidates; a geologist, a petroleum engineer, and an attorney. The three candidates were called to the meeting and asked to remain outside the board room. The first candidate called into the meeting was the geologist.ᅠTheᅠ geologist…well… looked like a geologist; khaki pants, wrinkled shirt with the tail not fully tucked, and all else that goes with an outdoors kind of person, even to the scuffed shoes. Being invited to have a seat at the conference table, the geologist reclined on the back legs of the chair to listen. The presiding board member explained the view of the board wanting to promote within and that he was one of three candidates identified. The board member then told the geologist they have only one question, “What is two plus two?” The geologist looked at each board members as if sizing them up for a fight. He then leaned his chair forward, stood up, and slowly walked to the floor to ceiling window to survey the city from the rarified elevation. After having taken stock in the outside world, the geologist slowly turned, ambled to his chair and returned to his reclined position. Running the fingers of his right hand through the mane of hair, he mustered a professorial voice, “You know…geology is highly interpretive…I’m gonna say it’s somewhere between three and five”.

Geology can be highly interpretive, depending on the amount of data which is available. I had the pleasure of reviewing a drilling prospect in the Breton Sound area of Louisiana. the beautifully colored geological structure maps showed several prospective horizons. As explained, there were several billion cubic feet of natural gas which were narrowly missed by many wells drilled over many years by many operators. The maps showed one large regional fault but, the prospective horizons were not trapped by the large down to the south growth fault as portrayed. Instead, each of the mapped prospective horizons was a four way closure with numerous downdip wells setting up the play.

Wanting to understand the prospective geological structure, I started from scratch with a new base map and clean well logs, there was no geophysical data. After correlating the well logs and posting the data, the horizons of interest were interpreted. Sadly, the prospective geological structure disappeared, at least with the interpretation I constructed. I reviewed the data; again and again. And, perhaps because of the bias of my original interpretation, my results from subsequent remapping was very similar to my original interpretation.

The objective of reviewing the geology is to support the originators geological interpretation. However, if it cannot be confirmed, the objective becomes reoriented with a direction taken of what can be done to assure a reasonable re-interpretation. Unfortunately neither I nor a third party could confirm or agree with the original geological prospect maps. So, there was a pass on the deal.

Approximately two years later I met the originator of the deal while dining in a restaurant. In playing “catch up”, I asked what happened with his Breton Sound deal. He told me it was a dry hole and the well was plugged and abandoned. I asked about oil and gas shows, of which the response was the well had no shows and came in low and wet. I expressed my disappointment in his not having a discovery. His response was surprising. He told me that since the well came in low, it set up two plays, one to the east and one to the west. The play can be very easily visualized or recreated while taking a bath. A large soap bubble floating on the surface of the water is the gas prospect. If a finger is used to slice through the soap bubble, two bubbles are “created”. Now there are two gas prospects.

In short, this well drilled for the original prospective horizons turned out to not have been drilled in an optimum structural position and narrowly missed the “two” prospects, just like all of the other wells in the past. When I returned to my office the next day I pulled my files and maps of the area which showed the prospect should have been low and no plays to be made.

Strange things happen. The originator sold the “two” prospects. One prospect was drilled, resulting in a dry hole. THe horizons were low and wet. The operator that took the deal would not drill the second play. You know, geology is highly interpretive, especially when chasing soap bubbles.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

Cornell University (2005) states, at 60 percent of all their academic integrity violations, plagiarism is the most common problem they experience.

Plagiarism is a form of dishonesty as it uses and presents the intellectual work effort performed by another yet, it is presented as the work of one’s own doing (Cornell University, 2005; Trident University International, 2011). Although a traditional sense would lead one to believe plagiarism exists only when someone copies word for word an encyclopedia article for a school assignment, the depth of plagiarism is much deeper when considering the inclusions which seem to be better defined within a university setting. Not only are writings, conversations, words and ideas included as copied works falling under the plagiarized domain but, any form of media are, as well (University of Southern Mississippi, n.d.). Trident University International (2011) also includes for clarification; the engagement of contract cheating, copy and pasting, direct duplication, paraphrasing, and submitting one’s prior work.

Texas A&M University (n.d.) clarifies part of the reasoning for academic integrity by addressing the issues surrounding individual reputation, personal integrity, professional competence, and the status or standing of the institution.

Plagiarism charges can be levied by anyone, inclusive of professors, administrators, students, or co-workers (Trident International University, 2011). Trident further states that in addition to the plagiarist, the assistance or attempt thereof, even if not a benefit to the facilitator is a violation of the university academic policy. The Aggie Honor System (n.d.) has a simple but very profound and in depth code of which adherence is practiced, “An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do”.

Cornell University (2005) cites penalties of plagiarism to include grade penalty, failure of the course, and suspension or expulsion from the university. Trident University International (2011) in addition to Cornell penalties adds “imposition of appropriate education and academic sanctions”. Trident further notes that plagiarism may also attract civil and criminal penalties if the actions are in violation of U.S. copyright law.

The avoidance of plagiarism can be summed; 1) use your own words when referring to ideas or concepts of others, and 2) give due credit to the rightful author and source (Trident University International, 2011). The University of Southern Mississippi (n.d.) among others promotes the use of in-text citations to credit the words or ideas of others within the document and providing a reference listing of all of the work which is cited. Several referencing styles are available for properly quoting, citing, and listing the sources of information. The choices; whether APA, MLA, Chicago or others depend, on the department and the university.

University of Southern Mississippi (n.d.) refers to Harris (2001) in developing a pre and post test concerning plagiarism which helps one to understand what may and what may not be plagiarism.


Cornell University (2005). Recognizing and avoiding plagiarism, Retrieved from
Harris, R.A. (2001). The Plagiarism Handbook: Strategies for Preventing, Detecting, and Dealing with Plagiarism. Los Angeles, CA: Pyrczak Publishing.

Aggie Honor System Office (n.d.). 20.1.2 Honor System Rules, Texas A&M University, Retrieved from

Texas A&M University (n.d.). Academic integrity and plagiarism. Retrieved from

Trident University International (n.d.). Student guide to writing a high-quality academic paper [PDF]. Retrieved from

Trident University International (2011). Academic integrity policy. In Fall 2011 University Catalog [PDF]. Retrieved from

University of Southern Mississippi (n.d.). Welcome to plagiarism tutorial. Retrieved from