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Halliburton asks employees to help defend company

Energy giant faces criticism of Iraq contracts, Cheney ties

Vice President Dick Cheney has said he has no financial stake in Halliburton's future.
Vice President Dick Cheney has said he has no financial stake in Halliburton's future.

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(CNN) -- Halliburton Co., the energy services giant once led by Vice President Dick Cheney, has called on its employees to write letters to newspapers and lawmakers in defense of the company's image.

In a memo dated October 17, company President Dave Lesar lambasted what he called "unfounded" criticism against the company and asked its 100,000 employees to get out Halliburton's message "in a thoughtful, non-confrontational manner.

"We should avoid stooping to our critics' level of dialogue, no matter how tempting that may be," wrote Lesar, who is also chairman and chief executive officer.

The memo, obtained by the Web site, which opposes the Bush administration, carried the subject line "Defending our Company."

Halliburton's contract to repair Iraq's oil fields has been a subject of much dispute this year. Most recently, Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, accused the company of overbilling the government for fuel it imports into Iraq.

In past months, Waxman and other Democrats have criticized the government for giving Halliburton the contract without a competitive bidding process.

So far under the contract, Halliburton, one of the world's largest oil field services companies, has been paid about $1.4 billion of a possible $7 billion total, Reuters reported Thursday.

Halliburton also has generated about $1.6 billion in revenue from a separate contract for logistical support, Reuters said.

Cheney, Halliburton and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which issued Halliburton's contract, have denied that the company enjoyed any favoritism in winning the government job.

Lesar, in an editorial published October 17 in The Wall Street Journal, said the Iraq contract was an extension of a previous, competitively bid contract and that Halliburton negotiates "fair and competitive prices to provide fuel to the Iraqi people."

In the memo, Lesar said the attacks "are less about us and more about external issues."

The criticism is "inaccurate and unwarranted, and not based on the realities we face in Iraq," he wrote. "We must react in a way that is not challenging, but that presents facts."

The accusation of favoritism centers around Cheney's ties to the company he headed from 1995 to 2000.

Cheney still receives about $150,000 a year in deferred payments for work he performed as chairman before resigning to run for vice president in 2000.

He also holds more than 433,000 stock options, all above Halliburton's most recently traded price, according to a report by the Congressional Research Office requested by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat.

Cheney has insisted in the past that the deferred compensation was set up two years before he became a vice presidential candidate in 2000 and that he assigned all his stock options to a charitable trust just before being sworn in.

"Since I left Halliburton to become George Bush's vice president, I've severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest," Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on September 14.

"I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had, now, for over three years."

Halliburton has said only that Cheney has no involvement with the company and "no financial interest in the future success of Halliburton."

Lesar's memo lists things to praise about Halliburton letters to the media and lawmakers, and provides suggestions on making the letters "effective."

Halliburton did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the release of the memo.

A spokeswoman told The Associated Press, "We often encourage employees to share their voice and opinions on matters that they feel are important. As many companies do, we encourage employees to write to their respective representatives in Washington."

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