Yes Men pull Halliburton hoax

Halliburton Co. fell victim this week to a group of pranksters pushing a “SurvivaBall” to save corporate executives from the effects of global warming.

Members of the Yes Men, a group of environmental and corporate ethics activists, gave a presentation at a trade conference pretending to be Halliburton executives touting large inflatable suits that provide corporate managers safety from global warming. They also distributed a phony press release through e-mail and set up a Web site, halliburtoncontracts.com, similar to the real Halliburton site, halliburton.com.

“It’s basically a giant inflatable orb,” said a Yes Man posing as “Fred Wolf of Halliburton” during a phone interview yesterday. “If catastrophe threatens a large population, the business manager simply enters the orb, puts it on, and it protects him or her in any climate condition, whether it involved tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, ice conditions or heat conditions.”

The Yes Men posted photos of the products, which look like large plastic bubbles with six hands, two speakerphone-looking ears and an opening for the executive’s face.

The group, which has pulled similar stunts on Dow Chemical Co. and the World Trade Organization, says it presented the phony global-warming-protection suits — priced at $100 million each, nonetheless — to show that corporations are more concerned about profits than taking expensive steps to reduce carbon emissions to reduce global warming.

“We were targeting Halliburton because they’re the most iconic example of companies profiting from global warming, climate changes and even natural disasters like in New Orleans,” said a Yes Man who called himself Andy Bichlbaum.

Halliburton, the Houston oil and energy company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been accused of being more concerned about profiting from oil than the environmental impact of oil drilling.

Halliburton denied connection to the phony release.

“[T]he information is not a company press release or document. To confirm, Fred Wolf is not a Halliburton employee,” a spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Halliburton said it received fewer than five phone calls about the release and said it’s handling the matter internally.

The Yes Men say they uncover the wrongdoings of corporations with “identity correction.” They set up phony Web sites and e-mail addresses under names similar to the real companies and wait for invitations to conferences and media interviews, where they reverse the companies’ positions on hot topics. They have been featured in a book and a documentary.

One of the Yes Men appeared in a British Broadcasting Corp. interview in late 2004 as a Dow spokesman and claimed responsibility for a 1984 cyanide gas leak in Bhopal, India, which killed thousands of people. The fake spokesman said the company would pay billions of dollars in compensation.

During the 2004 election, they posed as a “Yes, Bush Can” group, encouraging people to sign up to send their children to war and keep nuclear waste in their neighborhood, before putting out an endorsement for Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat.

This week’s catastrophic-loss conference was organized by Mealey’s, a branch of LexisNexis, which did not return calls yesterday afternoon for comment. A conference chairman declined to comment.

Mr. Bichlbaum said they’re not sure if what they do is legal, but said they think they’re moral.

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