Court Bars Dudley From Post for 2 Years

A Moscow court on Thursday barred Robert Dudley, the chief executive of troubled oil firm TNK-BP from office for two years over labor violations, TNK-BP said.

BP said it was disappointed by the court's decision on Thursday, adding that that Robert Dudley will keep his position until completion of an appeal.

"We will appeal with the Moscow Appellate Court within 10 days," TNK-BP spokeswoman Marina Dracheva said.

"I'm disappointed, but not surprised," Dudley was quoted as saying by Interfax. "I will continue to manage the company on a daily basis to help shareholders to overcome their disagreements."

"Robert Dudley has BP's full support. We believe this is clearly a further example of administrative activity orchestrated by the other shareholders of BP," BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams said.

A consortium of Russian billionaire shareholders in the 50-50 joint venture with BP have repeatedly called for Dudley's removal, saying he has mismanaged the company in favor of BP's interests.

BP denies these claims.

The Russians said they were confident that Dudley's removal would not hurt TNK-BP's operations.

The Presnensky District Court disqualified Dudley for failure to obey instructions of the State Labor Inspectorate, TNK-BP said. As the shareholder heated up, Dudley and BP faced increasing difficulties with Russian immigration and labor regulators.

U.S.-born Dudley left Russia on July 24 when his work permit was not renewed, but has been continuing to work as CEO from an undisclosed location outside the country.

The half of TNK-BP not owned by BP is split between companies controlled by Mikhail Fridman, German Khan, Viktor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik, together known as AAR. BP is locked in a dispute with its partners over strategy and management at the Russian venture, which accounts for almost one-quarter of BP's worldwide production.

Stan Polovets, a TNK-BP board member and CEO of AAR, was not immediately available for comment on his cell phone.

BP has accused the Russian owners of using corporate raider tactics to wrest control of the company after Russian authorities have launched a barrage of probes against the firm, ranging from labor checks to tax investigations.

The authorities have carried out at least three checks on Dudley and the company regarding possible labor-code violations concerning health and safety policies and viability of staff contracts. Dudley was fined 3,000 rubles ($124) in May and 500 rubles this month after violations were found, BP said.

The TNK-BP case is seen as a key test for President Dmitry Medvedev, who has campaigned against corruption and for rule of law in the country.

AP, Bloomberg, Reuters