Malone, who retired last year, declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for BP was not available for comment.
Families of workers who died in the accident have already filed lawsuits accusing BP of negligence. Congress, as well as the Minerals and Management Service, the federal agency that regulates drilling in the Gulf, were already separately investigating allegations that BP has failed to keep proper documents about how to perform an emergency shutdown of the Atlantis, another Gulf oil platform and one of the largest in the world.
There are also indications that BP and Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that burned and sank, could have used backup safety gear-- a remote acoustic switch that would stanch the flow of oil from a leaking well 5,000 feet underwater -- to prevent the massive spill now floating like a slow-motion train wreck toward the Mississippi and Louisiana coastline. The switch isn't required under U.S. law, but is well-known in the industry and mandated in other parts of the world where BP operates.
In the year before the accident, BP once again aggressively cut costs. A reorganization stripped 5,000 jobs from its payroll, saving BP more than $4 billion in operating costs, according to a report sent to ProPublica by Fadel Gheit, an investment analyst for Oppenheimer.
On April 27, as the U.S. Coast Guard worked with BP engineers to guide remote control submarines nearly a mile underwater in a futile effort to close a shut-off valve, BP told investors that its quarterly earnings were up more than 100 percent over the last year, beating expectations by a large margin. After underperforming its competition throughout the last decade, Gheit wrote, BP was the only major oil company to perform better than the S&P 500 last year.
Abrahm Lustgarten is an investigative reporter for ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces journalism in the public interest.