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In a bid to unseat nine-term U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, Republican Bill Flores touts his prowess in creating private-sector jobs.
In a TV ad that started airing Aug. 26, the narrator says: Bill Flores. "He's a businessman, not a politician. Bill helped build successful energy companies and created over 500 American jobs. Now Bill Flores is running for Congress."
Flores chimes in: "Washington is out of control and it's time for Texans to stand up and stop them."
Edwards fired back in an ad that started airing a few days later. In it, the narrator says Flores helped run a company that laid off over 3,000 workers, a statement we rated False earlier this week.
Now we're looking at whether Flores indeed created more than 500 U.S. jobs, as his ad says.
As evidence, Flores provided us with a spreadsheet he created detailing changes in the workforce over the years at the five companies he helped steer as chief financial officer. Accounting for some job losses at the companies, Flores said he created 1,431 jobs from 1980 through 2009. First, we wondered why his ad doesn't boast about creating more than 1,400 jobs. Flores told us that he picked an estimate that was "bulletproof accurate." More than 500 jobs "gets the point across," he said.
Keyes Offshore, September 1980 - March 1990
Flores told us that according to his notes, he created 356 jobs at Keyes before it was sold to Marine Drilling in 1990, where Flores was appointed CFO. We weren't able to independently confirm Keyes' payroll after searching news archives and filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, with which companies must file financial information.
Marine Drilling, March 1990 - August 1997
Flores said Marine Drilling had a net loss of 582 jobs during his tenure, which he attributed to a downturn in oil and gas prices in 1991 and 1992.
"Marine Drilling was forced to execute significant financial and operational restructuring in order to survive," a note on his spreadsheet says.
Flores said Marine Drilling had 1,495 employees when he started there in 1990. The SEC only has company filings available starting in 1994, so we weren't able to confirm that.
By February 1994, the company had about 700 employees, and by March 1997, it had 800, according to its SEC filings. By March 1998, the company employed 942 people. Flores left Marine Drilling halfway between those two headcounts; he estimates it had 913 employees at that time.
Western Atlas, August 1997 - August 1998
This period proves key to Flores' overall claim because, by his count, Western Atlas gained 1,607 employees while he worked for the company.
As of December 1996 — before Flores came on board — the company had approximately 14,000 full-time employees, including 8,900 in oil field services and 5,000 in industrial automated services, according to the company's SEC filing. Flores was in charge of the company's oil field services division, which became an independent company under the Western Atlas name in October 1997, he said.
By December 1997, the company employed 10,600 people — an increase of about 1,700.
The employee counts in the SEC filings don't jibe precisely with Flores' tenure because they were taken eight months after he joined and also eight months after he later left the company. Flores said his estimate of the company's job growth — about 100 jobs less than the SEC suggests — is supposed to account for that. Flores told us he accounted for about 105 Western Atlas jobs that were lost as a result of its merger with Baker Hughes Inc.
Gryphon Exploration Company, November 2001 - August 2005
Flores said he created five jobs here, boosting the payroll to 29 employees before the company was acquired by Australian-based Woodside Petroleum. We couldn't find an SEC filing for Gryphon. Meantime, Caran Crooker, the company's former controller, said she couldn't remember precisely how many jobs were added during Flores' tenure but said that five sounded about right. She said the company at least hired a couple people in the finance department, a receptionist, and two engineers.
Phoenix Exploration Company, November 2005 - December 2009
Flores, who helped found Phoenix Exploration, told us he had created 45 jobs by the time he left in 2009.
Two news reports back him up.
In August 2006, a few months after Phoenix opened for business, the company paid $340 million for all offshore Gulf of Mexico and onshore Louisiana assets owned by Houston-based Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., according to a March 2007 article in the Houston Business Journal. "Even though I had put together a great team, we only had 12 people on the payroll at the time, so it kept me awake at night," the Journal quotes Flores saying.
By March 2007, the headcount totaled 44, including management like Flores, according to the Journal.
In May 2009, six months before Flores departed, the Houston Chronicle ranked it number 61 of its top 100 private companies, noting Phoenix employed 48 people. Crooker, now a controller at Phoenix, said there are 45 employees on the books.
We wondered how much personal credit Flores can rightly claim for the job growth at Phoenix and the other companies.
Miguel Quinones, a management professor at the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business, said: "To say he personally created (jobs) would be a stretch. It'd be like him taking credit for the price of oil or gas going up. What creates jobs is demand for products and services. Unless he opened up a new product line, or somehow opened up a new market ... you can't claim (credit for creating all jobs)."
When we asked Flores why he, as the CFO, deserves the credit, he said his ad "says the companies that Bill Flores helped create, it doesn't say Bill Flores anywhere takes personal credit for it." When we pointed out that the narrator flat out says Flores created the 500-plus jobs, Flores said: "That's not the way it was intended to be read. It was intended to be read that these companies created over 500 American jobs."
Flores told us: "What we've tried to always say is, 'I was a leader at a company that helped create jobs.'"
Where does this trail wind up?
Our research is by no means perfect, since the payroll numbers we found didn't precisely line up with the months Flores started and stopped working at each company. As far as we can tell, significantly more than 500 jobs were added to the payrolls at growing companies where Flores worked as a CFO. But as he acknowledged to us, the statement's wording overstates that achievement — leaving viewers to conclude he personally created the jobs.
We rate his statement as Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.
Bill Flores for Congress, Ad: Where the jobs are, Aug. 26, 2010
Bill Flores, Job creation statistics, Aug. 30, 2010
SEC filing for Marine Drilling Companies, Inc., FY1993
SEC filing for Marine Drilling Companies, Inc., FY1996
SEC filing for Marine Drilling Companies, Inc., FY1997
Press release: Gryphon Exploration Company acquired by Woodside Petroleum, Aug. 31, 2005
The Houston Chronicle, Gulf's rising tide lifts prospects for Marine Drilling, March 4, 1996
Houston Business Journal, Investor builds energy base; New private equity fuels funding for start-up companies, March 14, 2007
The Houston Chronicle, Chronicle 100 top private companies, May 17, 2009
E-mail interview with Matt Mackowiak, campaign manager, Bill Flores for Congress, Aug. 30, 2010
Interview with Bill Flores, Sept. 8 and 15, 2010
Interview with Miguel Quinones, O. Paul Corley Distinguished Chair in Organizational Behavior, Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business, Sept. 14, 2010
Interview with Caran Crooker, controller, Phoenix Exploration Company, Sept. 14, 2010
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