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Week of 5.11.07

The Royalty Treatment

When veteran government auditor Bobby Maxwell learned oil giant Kerr McGee was not paying the $10 million he says it owed in oil royalties, he prepared an order to Kerr McGee to pay up. Making sure the government gets its money from energy companies was Maxwell's job in the Minerals Management Service (MMS), a division of the Department of the Interior. But Maxwell claims his bosses at the MMS quashed that order.

After filing a lawsuit under the False Claims Act, which protects and encourages whistleblowers, Maxwell lost his job. This week, NOW talks with Maxwell about the personal and professional price he says he paid in pursuit of fairness, and examines an industry under fire for keeping too much of the enormous revenue it makes for drilling on land and waters owned by us all. Are oil and gas companies being protected—and even feted—by the government agency charged with regulating them?

"I felt very strongly that the American taxpayers just had $10 million stolen out of their pocket," Maxwell tells NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa. "And that that needed to be remedied."

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Related Links:

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NOW: David Sirota on Trivializing Corruption

Bloomberg: Kerr-McGee Wins Bid to Reverse Oil Lease Verdict

Department of the Interior: Office of Inspector General—Audit Report, Minerals Management Services Compliance Review Process

Minerals Management Service: Statement in Response to Result of Kerr McGee Litigation

Mother Jones: Office of Special Counsel's War on Whistleblowers

Project on Government Insight: MMS Whistleblower Weighs In on Burton Resignation

Topic Search: Business/Corporate Ethics, Environment/Energy


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"I think it's this almost Daily Show approach to the environment." Giller says. He also talks about his mentor Bill McKibben, an environmentalist was his babysitter years ago. "At his knee, I was learning about global warming," Giller says of McKibben, who founded the Step It Up global warming campaign.

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