March 11, 2007 -- The much-maligned defense contractor Halliburton is moving its corporate headquarters from Houston to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
"The Eastern hemisphere is a market that is more heavily weighted toward oil exploration and production opportunities," said CEO Dave Lesar at an energy conference in nearby Bahrain. "And growing our business here will bring more balance to Halliburton's overall portfolio."
The draw is obvious. Dubai's friendly tax laws will add to Halliburton's bottom line. Last year, it earned $2.3 billion in profits.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-N.H., called the company's move "corporate greed at its worst." He added, "This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years. At the same time they'll be avoiding U.S. taxes, I'm sure they won't stop insisting on taking their profits in cold hard U.S. cash."
Fellow Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has investigated contractor fraud, is planning to hold a hearing.
"This is a surprising development," he said. "I want to understand the ramifications for U.S. taxpayers and national security."
Waxman's committee estimates that Halliburton, once headed by Vice President Cheney, has received contracts valued at an estimated $25.7 billion for its work in Iraq.
Among the company's low points are said to be serving troops spoiled food, exposing troops to contaminated water from the Euphrates River and failing to adequately protect its contractors.
Last month, the government's special inspector general for Iraq found Halliburton overcharged the U.S. government $2.7 billion, a finding the company is still contesting.
"This is part and parcel of the way they do business," said Robert Greenwald, the man behind the film, "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers," which documented Halliburton's excesses. "I hope it increases the number of investigations and subpoenas that they will be subjected to."
Halliburton will maintain a corporate office in Houston.