Pelosi urges BP to halt dividend
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top congressional leader on Thursday accused BP Plc of a "lack of integrity" and urged the British energy giant to suspend its dividend to ensure victims of the Gulf oil spill are fully compensated.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked if BP should stop the dividend and focus on funding the cleanup of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, said: "Yes of course, and that would be their best public relations, instead of taking out all these ads."
BP has launched a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign to repair its image with Americans disgusted by the fouling of the Gulf Coast, where businesses complain livelihoods have been hit and BP compensation is insufficient.
This has angered U.S. politicians, not least President Barack Obama, who have persistently focused on BP's expected $10.5 billion annual dividend payout as they seek to deflect popular rage over the disaster toward the foreign firm.
"They made $17 billion last year. They should be paying these small businesses first. They (small businesses) don't have deep pockets. They don't have staying power ... some of the people receiving dividends perhaps have deeper pockets," Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters at the White House.
BP's obligations, and the perception it worries more about its image than making sure Gulf residents get paid what they are owed, also drew renewed fire from the White House.
"If you've got the wherewithal to pay a dividend, and you've got the wherewithal to finance a fairly expensive ad campaign, then you certainly shouldn't ... nickel and dime anybody in the Gulf," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
U.S. officials have voiced concern over whether BP will have sufficient cash to cover Gulf spill damages, and the U.S. Justice Department is weighing action over the dividend to make sure enough resources are kept at hand.
The government has already launched a criminal and civil investigation into the disaster. Pelosi sharply questioned the company's honesty over the manner in which BP had characterized its ability to safely drill for oil at great depth in the Gulf of Mexico.
"It is clear that there was a lack of integrity on the part of BP when it came to what it told us about the adequacy of their technology, the sufficiency of blowout prevention and the capacity to clean up," she said.
(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Eric Beech and Cynthia Osterman)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this