Obama and BP execs iron out 20-billion-dollar claims fund
US President Barack Obama met with top executives of oil giant BP on Wednesday for the first time since the April 20 explosion of a BP-leased rig sparked a massive and ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, dpa reported.
Central to the meeting, BP reportedly agreed to place up to 20 billion dollars into an independently-administered fund to handle claims for damages from local Gulf Coast businesses fighting for survival.
BP would be able to pay into the fund over multiple years in order to avoid a major hit to its finances that might scare investors and drive the British firm out of business, US media reported.
The escrow account would be managed by Kenneth Feinberg, who has also handled a restitution fund for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. More recently he was the White House "pay czar," tasked with looking at salaries of financial firms that took emergency government bail-outs during the credit crisis.
Obama met with BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, chief executive Tony Hayward and others for more than two hours Wednesday morning, forcing the president to delay a public statement on the meeting to the afternoon.
The meeting came one day after Obama delivered a prime-time speech from the White House Oval Office vowing to do everything in his power to help stop the oil spill and ensure that BP lives up to its responsibilities over the long term.
Obama has steadily ratcheted up pressure on BP amid anger from local Gulf Coast residents over its failure to end the worst oil spill in US history. BP hopes to capture about 90 per cent of the oil gushing from an underwater well by the end of the month.
The president had been initially reluctant to meet with BP, but switched tracks as the administration drew criticism for a hands-off approach to the crisis.