Everything That Bloomberg Got Comprehensively Wrong on P&ID

Last week, Bloomberg Businessweek released a long (and long-delayed) article focused on P&ID co-founders Michael Quinn and Brendan Cahill. Many readers may have found the reporting to be more akin to what you’d read on Page 6 – but the authors of the article want you to believe something more serious. This was an attempt to smear the reputations of Messrs. Quinn and Cahill and to deploy unrelated, defamatory content to plant the seed of doubt about the validity of the P&ID contract.

The gossip column was neither entertaining, impartial nor factual. The evidentiary support for the article hinges primarily on one unnamed source, one who the authors admit is a disgruntled former employee. Such a source could hardly be considered independent or reliable. Further, that unnamed source “couldn’t provide enough evidence to substantiate his claims.”

This is a common theme. The article is riddled with lurid accusations, followed by admissions that such accusations, in fact, do not stand up to serious scrutiny. Here are some examples:

  • Bloomberg’s source “couldn’t provide enough evidence to substantiate his claims”;
  • An investigation cited as evidence by Bloomberg “was eventually closed without penalty”;
  • In an inquiry Bloomberg cites to criticise P&ID’s co-founder Michael Quinn  – “neither he nor [his company] faced any action”;
  • A source admits, in relation to Bloomberg’s allegations “He didn’t see anything improper in the deal’s structure”;
  • Another attempt to smear P&ID’s founders through hearsay ends in “The prosecution appears to have been dropped within a year”; and
  • Another allegation concludes … “according to two sources … no-one was charged”.

Allegations without evidence are known as gossip. This story belongs on Page 6, not in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Before responding in detail, it is worth noting that the primary reporter, Kit Chellel, had asked P&ID for comment on these allegations. P&ID shared hundreds of pages of documentary evidence with Mr. Chellel, including contractual documents, photographs, legal filings, etc.

Unfortunately, Mr. Chellel ignored this documentary evidence in favour of a stream of headline-grabbing – but unprovable – accusations. It is clear that Mr. Chellel had already decided what he wanted to print. Not even hard evidence would persuade him.

So here is a Fact Check for Mr. Chellel and his colleagues at Bloomberg who financed this year-long effort:

Claim #1: Bloomberg makes a bizarre allegation that “[P&ID] and its founders remain elusive.” Representatives of P&ID had engaged substantially with Mr. Chellel for months while he was writing his story, hardly actions of an ‘elusive’ company.

Fact Check: Messrs. Quinn and Cahill have been transparent throughout the entire arbitration process – providing thousands of pages of evidence to the Tribunal and the Commercial Court, and also passing on much of this detailed information to Mr. Chellel. Indeed, P&ID has even launched a dedicated public website full of documentation, legal filings, facts, data, and other evidence related to P&ID and the contract. One strains to understand how Bloomberg could describe this behavior as “elusive.”

Claim #2: Bloomberg then claims that P&ID and its founders, “had no track record” – a demonstrably false allegation.

Fact Check: Messrs. Quinn and Cahill had over 30 years’ experience of project management and execution in Nigeria. You can read more here about their exceptional business career in Nigeria and examples of their work, including their project that launched a new generation of high-tech welding and manufacturing in Nigeria. Again, Bloomberg chose to ignore available evidence, which included legal documents, photographs, contractual evidence, witness statements, and others.

Claim #3: Bloomberg asserts the P&ID project was “doomed from the start…” This assertion is based on unsubstantiated statements from representatives of the Nigerian Government.

Fact Check: This is categorically false, and these arguments have been examined and rejected by both the independent Tribunal and the Commercial Court. Instead of relying on senior judges and expert testimony, Bloomberg chose to rely on unnamed sources that “couldn’t provide enough evidence.” P&ID was established in 2006 for the sole purpose of pursuing the project as outlined in the Gas Supply & Processing Agreement (GSPA). The project’s origins stemmed from the Nigerian Government’s Gas Master Plan, and the Accelerated Gas Development plan endorsed by Minister of Petroleum Rilwanu Lukman – one of the most senior and respected Nigerian Government officials of recent decades – who proposed a solution to the country’s dearth of electrical generation that continues to this day. P&ID was one of thirteen projects to be supported by the government under the Accelerated Gas Development plan. The P&ID project was a key part of this major initiative. The technology for the P&ID project was well established and the wet gas was clearly available – it was (and still is) being flared and wasted, causing massive environmental damage. The Tribunal found the project would have succeeded, having heard expert evidence submitted by both P&ID and the Buhari Administration. Perhaps the ultimate proof that the concept of the project is sound (and not “doomed”) is the fact that the current Buhari Administration is trying to copy and paste the very transaction in question! The Nigerian Government has recently attempted to engage other companies in negotiations for processing flared gas, using similar technology to the P&ID project proposal. The Buhari Administration’s own actions to find a way to make use of flared gas is clear evidence that such an approach is both desirable and achievable. Instead of reporting on the basis of documentary evidence provided by P&ID, as well as the detailed conclusions of senior judges and expert witnesses, Bloomberg relied on media statements from the Nigerian Government.  In doing so, it parroted the same arguments that have been consistently rejected in arbitration and in the courts.

Claim #4: Much of the Bloomberg article is devoted to personal gossip surrounding Mr. Quinn, the late co-founder of P&ID. Over 50% of the article has nothing to do with P&ID, and simply focuses on insinuations about Mr. Quinn’s personal and professional life. The article even claims that “former associates told Businessweek … Quinn told him his father had been in the original Irish Republican Army in the 1920s.”

Fact Check: Mr. Quinn’s father, who was born around 1900, was in the Old IRA and fought in the War of Independence from 1919-1921. The Irish Government awarded him a state pension as a result. The Old IRA and the Provisional IRA – with which neither, Messrs. Quinn or Cahill have ever had any connections or dealings – are quite distinct. Unfortunately, Mr. Chellel purposely conflates the two for purposes of making an unseemly and unfounded insinuation aimed at Mr. Quinn—one to which neither he nor his father is able to respond. This information – and the clear factual distinction as outlined above – was provided to Bloomberg. It was ignored, in favour of retaining a gossipy, but historically inaccurate, anecdote.

Claim #5: Bloomberg also introduces further scandalous allegations from over 30 years ago – namely claims that Mr. Quinn was “charged with espionage and handling secret military materials.”

Fact Check: The details are not “sketchy” as the article claims; they are quite clear and were provided to (and ignored by) Bloomberg in advance. The charge was for possession of secret military documents, not espionage. The charge was baseless and dropped in its entirety. As with the majority of the Bloomberg article, these claims are entirely unrelated to P&ID and have no relation to the current legal case. Moreover, they were misleading. Again, the charge was dropped. This was yet another vain attempt to impugn the integrity of Mr. Quinn.

Claim #6: Bloomberg claims that a project in the 2000s to bring HIV/AIDS testing kits to Nigeria, arranged by Messrs. Quinn and Cahill, was a “Failed Deal.”

Fact Check: First, some important context. The global community in the late 90s and early 2000s was facing steep challenges as they sought to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. The lack of basic healthcare, infrastructure and the ability to secure access to medicines at affordable rates were key challenges. Testing was equally challenging, in particular the stigma associated with being tested. Financial resources of developing countries were also a key factor. These realities led to an unprecedented global response such as PEPFAR, Gates Initiatives and others. Messrs. Quinn and Cahill sought to help Nigeria overcome this epidemic by building up local capacity in Nigeria and ensuring Nigerians were tested for HIV/AIDS. The Sheda facility was completed on 31 May 2008. It was a first-rate manufacturing facility with an entire suite of newly-developed test kits for many diseases, including HIV/AIDS. The problem was the Nigerian Government’s failure to provide any funding to buy the testing kits. With no funding, there was no market for what the Sheda facility intended to manufacture. In addition, Messrs. Cahill and Quinn’s company was barred from exporting the kits. This ultimately led to the project being unable to complete the major and intended output of producing locally-made HIV/AIDS test kits. Mr. Chellel appears to consider the project a failure because “today, the Sheda site outside Abuja is overgrown with weeds.” This metric for ‘success’ is not exactly foolproof: if Mr. Chellel visits an abandoned Olympic Games site, 15 years after the event, could he conclude that the Olympics never took place? Does he think that Gladiators never fought in the Roman Colosseum because today it is empty? Another trawl into the past (over 10 years ago); another allegation unsupported by evidence; another insinuation of a link to the P&ID case when in fact none exists. All the detailed documentary evidence was provided to Bloomberg in advance.

Claim #7: Bloomberg then highlights a project that Messrs. Quinn and Cahill managed for the Nigerian military, to source replacement parts for fighter aircraft, describing it as “a floundering project.”

Fact Check: It is unclear why Mr. Chellel has focused on this project, which involved a British company called North Wales Military Aviation Services (NWMAS), and Industrial Consultants (owned by Messrs. Quinn and Cahill). The article admits that a “Nigerian arbitration panel … found that the military had pulled out for ‘flimsy, untenable, and unacceptable reasons.’” The arbitration panel sided with Messrs. Quinn and Cahill’s account of the contract and awarded compensation.

The facts are that the contract was terminated only after North Wales Military Aviation Services (NWMAS) had successfully completed the first milestone and AETS (the Nigerian agency in charge) had signed off on it.

P&ID provided ample documentation to Bloomberg in advance of publication, including evidence of contracts, milestones, and work completed.

Claim #8: In one final assertion Bloomberg summarises the current state of play in the P&ID legal case: “[i]n spite of Buhari’s comments and the criminal probe, Nigeria hasn’t made any formal allegations of misconduct, and it isn’t clear whether the country will challenge the deal’s legitimacy in court.”

Fact Check: This is the one claim that is true. Nigeria never made any formal allegations of misconduct during the Tribunal or the English Commercial Court’s review. No fraud was alleged because no fraud took place. The opportunity to appeal the Tribunal’s judgment has passed and, as such, the window is closed. Only after Nigeria learned they would be held liable for their failure to uphold the P&ID contract has the Nigerian Government since mounted an aggressive smear campaign aimed at attempting to exonerate themselves of any responsibilities.

We note that Bloomberg Businessweek also discusses the relationship between P&ID and General Danjuma. Here is some additional background: The late Mr. Quinn held General Danjuma in high esteem, and considered him a friend. The General was a valued partner to Messrs. Quinn and Cahill over many years. General Danjuma and Mr. Quinn both saw the business opportunity presented by the burgeoning gas sector in Nigeria and the potential benefits to the Nigerian economy. General Danjuma’s preference was to build a full scale commercial Propylene Plant in Lagos, using feedstock gas purchased locally in Lagos. This was a perfectly good idea and would have been a landmark project. Mr. Quinn’s preference was to build a plant in the region of Calabar, to take advantage of the vast quantities of gas that was being wastefully flared in the area. The essence of Mr. Quinn’s idea was to structure a deal that would obtain the Wet Gas at no cost, and to return the processed Lean Gas to the Government at no cost, making money solely by keeping and selling the extracted Natural Gas Liquids such as Propane and Butane. The plan was for General Danjuma to provide the finance to build the plant. Had it gone ahead, it was envisaged that P&ID would provide equity in the project in return for the General’s financing.  In the end, the project did not go ahead, P&ID was unable to build the envisaged Gas Processing Facilities (a fact confirmed by the Arbitration Tribunal), and General Danjuma’s finance was not required. Contrary to misinformation emanating from the Nigerian Government, specifically the Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele, $40 million was spent on preparatory work in the early days of the project. The $40 million came from General Danjuma and was structured as a contract for services. A complete Basic Engineering Package and Front End Engineering Design were produced at this stage. P&ID was reimbursed for this expenditure. P&ID did not claim the $40 million in the arbitration claim, which it brought against the Nigerian Government. The $9.6bn Tribunal Award against Nigeria was for loss of profits, and not the $40 million expenditure. This entire discussion is therefore irrelevant, and a distraction from the real issues in the case. General Danjuma’s involvement as financier, although not relevant to the issues before the arbitrators, was transparent from the documents put before the Tribunal. P&ID would like to add that General Danjuma acted throughout with the utmost honour and integrity.

Finally, it is disappointing that Bloomberg chose to support a version of events repeatedly disproved in court instead of accepting (or at least considering) the clear documentary evidence available to its journalists. Instead, a pre-determined bias was followed regardless of evidence. Despite the many claims ‘exposed’ by Bloomberg Businessweek, there remains no actual evidence of wrongdoing. Nor do any of these claims bear any relevance to the current P&ID case. Messrs. Quinn and Cahill spent the majority of their working lives on public works projects in Nigeria that brought real benefits to the country. It is sad that the potential benefits of the P&ID project have been lost to Nigeria: that sadness and regret is no excuse for Bloomberg to invent a new history.