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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Texaco Executives Under Fire for Alleged Racial Slur

WHITE PLAINS, New York -- A Texaco Inc. executive was bemoaning "poor St. Nicholas" and not uttering a racial slur during a secretly recorded conversation, says an investigator hired by the oil company.

Plaintiffs in a $520 million discrimination lawsuit against Texaco claim former treasurer Robert Ulrich said "[expletive] niggers" during a 1994 discussion of the suit among company executives.

The comments have brought criticism against Texaco, and black leaders have threatened a boycott unless the company remedies the alleged discrimination against 1,400 minority workers.

Lawyer Michael Armstrong, whom Texaco hired to analyze the tape, enhanced a digitized version of the recording, removing laughter that obscured some of Ulrich's words.

"The phrase '[expletive] niggers' just doesn't exist on the tape," Armstrong said Monday.

He said Ulrich actually said "poor St. Nicholas" -- a reference to Christmas -- while disparaging Hanukkah and the black cultural festival Kwanza.

Texaco Chairman Peter Bijur said the findings "merely set the record straight as to the exact words spoken in the conversations, but they do not change the categorically unacceptable context and tone of these conversations."

Cyrus Mehri, an lawyer for the plaintiffs, said, "We stand by what we said was on those tapes and transcripts as best we could hear and determine at the time we received them. ... Bottom line, even if you took out the word ... you still have all the racial hostility on those tapes."

Jackson said, "To go from regrets to denial would be adding to the insult." Jackson and Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, were scheduled to meet with Texaco officials Tuesday.

In the lawsuit, Ulrich is accused of calling black workers "black jelly beans."

Armstrong's report said the remark apparently was not intended as a racial slur, but stemmed from an analogy used in a speech attended by Texaco executives. The colors of the beans were used to refer to different races.

In both versions of the tape, executive Richard Lundwall states: "That's funny. All the black jelly beans seem to be glued to the bottom of the bag." The statements were recorded in 1994 by Lundwall, who attended meetings of the company's finance department.

The lawsuit contends that Ulrich also said during the meeting, "We're going to purge the [expletive] out of these books, though. We're not going to have any damn thing that ... we don't need to be in them."

A federal grand jury is investigating whether executives illegally destroyed documents on minority hiring.