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Was BP grossly negligent?

Robert Peston | 08:05 UK time, Thursday, 16 December 2010

The significance of the Obama administration's decision to sue BP and four other business over the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill is that the US Justice Department may try to prove gross negligence on the part of BP.

Deepwater

Because if BP were found to be grossly negligent, the costs for BP of the debacle could rise very significantly indeed, for two reasons.

First, it could potentially add almost $16bn or more than £10bn to the civil penalties BP would have to pay under the US Clean Water Act.

Second, it would make it much harder (perhaps impossible) for BP to recover costs it is incurring in the clean up and restitution from its co-owners of the Macondo Well, Anadarko and Mitsui.

BP says it remains confident that it was not guilty of gross negligence. But if it is wrong, the $39.9bn or £25bn it has set aside to cover the costs stemming from the disaster will prove to be too little.

A further source of uneasiness for BP's shareholders is the statement by the US Attorney General Eric Holder that under the Oil Pollution Act he is intending to prove "that these defendants are responsible for government removal costs, economic losses and environmental damages without limitation."

For once, the verdict of the market in a few minutes may be instructive.

Update 0838: Investors plainly believe that the nature of the Department of Justice's case against BP hasn't increased potential liabilities for the company in a fundamental way.

BP's shares have fallen 2.5% this morning to 465p - which takes the edge off a recent strong run in BP shares.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    How do you prove 'gross' negilgence when one of the biggest factors in the failure of the process was the use of a system of work (the type of valve) approved by the US government and banned by almost the entirity of the rest of the planet?

    I think the US may have to settle for mere negligence, unless they want to set a precendent that could open up a whole can of worms they would rather avoid!

  • Comment number 2.

    As far as BP are concerned, you reap what you sow really. As long as Halliburton and the US companies are stood next to them in the dock I really don't mind. Hubris and greed must be punished. I do feel for all with pension funds and no control who will doubtless suffer when the moneymen conspire to reallocate the pain.

    Separately I feel it's time for some class action against the US, the SEC, the Fed, Moodys, S&P, Fitch, Greenspan, Bush, Obama, Geithner, Paulson, et al & etc... as few could doubt "that these defendants are responsible for government removal costs, economic losses and environmental damages without limitation."

  • Comment number 3.

    Don't worry. BP's lawyers in the U.S. can delay this decision for centuries.

  • Comment number 4.

    Seriously, will this action actually gain any legs, all the evidence points to the spill being caused by the actions of a US drilling company [1], I suspect that this has more to do with politics on Capitol Hill than it does with any wish to bankrupt US companies...

    [1] the same company, apparently, nearly caused a blow-out on a UK North Sea oil rig for very similar reasons, fortunately the blow-out preventer worked in that case

  • Comment number 5.

    The only certain winners out of this (it goes without saying) will be Lawyers.
    For minimal risk (if any at all) huge sums of money will go to them. And to what effect ?
    The significance to future USA energy policy is immense (serves them right)

  • Comment number 6.

    I cannot believe that Halliburton (a US company with strong links to TPTB) will face anything more than a token slap on the wrist.

  • Comment number 7.

    #2 ejSwede is spot on.

    I would add that the US's clear intention is cripple BP to the extent that it will become ripe for take-over by Exxon.

    And as for class actions against Wall St. for causing The Great Recession, the UK would have to threaten a return to Socialism (and mass nationalisations) before that would happen. It's our only weapon left against the Yanks.

  • Comment number 8.

    "For once, the verdict of the market in a few minutes may be instructive."

    That'll be the same markets that have continued rising for weeks except for the odd blip despite higher unemployment, rising inflation, further Chinese banking restrictions, possible Korean conflict, RBS blocking FSA reports, flight from sovereign bonds, Irish bailouts, impending EU doomsday scenario, possible Spanish rating downgrade.........etc. All confidence boosters obviously given the market trend.

    Yep, very informative. These clowns have their eyes on one thing only, cheap US dollars and lots of them from the latest round of QE.

    As for BP, don't worry they'll live.

  • Comment number 9.

    I fear that #7 is correct. Is the new CEO not an American, a conflict of interest perhaps...?

    Stick to your guns BP!

  • Comment number 10.

    Halliburton will not be getting sued because many ex and probably current US govenrment officials are major shareholders in Halliburton ! see Wikipedia extracts....

    In 1998 Halliburton merged with Dresser Industries, which included Kellogg. Prescott Bush was a director of Dresser Industries, which is now part of Halliburton. Former United States president George H. W. Bush worked for Dresser Industries in several positions from 1948–1951, before he founded Zapata Corporation.

    Dick Cheney was chairman and CEO of Halliburton Company from 1995 to 2000 and has received stock options from Halliburton.

    All Pigs in the Trough who are as bent as their tails, just like our politicians / FIFA / Bankers.

  • Comment number 11.

    I thought it very interesting that Haliburton and Cameron are not mentioned in the suit, remarkable really considering the important role they were playing in this.


  • Comment number 12.

    EuroSider wrote:
    Don't worry. BP's lawyers in the U.S. can delay this decision for centuries.

    Spot on!....I am 61 and am not hopeful of seeing this legal case resolved before I pop my cloggs!

  • Comment number 13.

    What a relief that the share price has only fallen by 2.5%. Any news on the lasting effects on the environment, wild life and the local economy, not to mention the families of the workers who were unlawfully killed?

  • Comment number 14.

    Look at the way this Gulf of Mexico disaster has been handled by the US and compare it to that of Union Carbide in India. Will President Obama and the US government encourage and support the India Goverment using the same logic and determination to pursue damages in the case of the Union Carbide disaster in India, which is estimated to have killed 25,000 people and disabled about 40,000 others? This happened in 1984 and still not been settled, far less even had anything like the same attention from the US government. This huge imbalance in thinking and actions serves only to damage the reputation and credibility of the US around the world.

  • Comment number 15.

    More sabre-rattling from the Obama administration. He's playing a dangerous game here as if BP goes down they won't be alone. I have a relative who works for BP in the UK, and his view is that there is enough independent evidence for BP to take both Transocean and Haliburton to the cleaners over the state of the well when it failed. It's only the prospect of more bad publicity that has stopped them so far.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    Do you know what I would do if I ran BP? I would set up a large trust fund to fully sponsor all and any worldwide court cases against USA companies for incidents where there has been pollution, try to put the same pressure on US companies to go bust as the US are putting on BP. Why can the US pollute and do anything and only pay lip service in reparation but when BP has an incident in USA it gets taken to the cleaners by the shallow USA administration.

    Time to get tough with the USA, they are quite simply out of control and need putting back in their place. Let's hope there's a change of government there asap and that some common sense prevails instead of all this ruinous posturing.

    And yes, like most people with pensions in the UK, I have a personal interest in the future success of BP and do not want it bought out cheaply by some other company or ruined by the americans.

    Americans - grow up, just who do you think you are???

    Why not put a temporary ban on Americans coming here and also stop supporting their ruinous and stupid wars. They are just on another planet (or ought to be!)

    Come on Cameron, support your country and BP, get tough and show us if you've got any bottle.

  • Comment number 19.

    Absolutely disgusting that Halliburton isn't being included.

    Yet another attack by Obama and his administration on British interests in an attempt to weaken them whilst US oil firms grow stronger in it's place.

    All the more reason to refuse bluntly to assist the US in it's persecution of Julian Assange, and time we pull out of Afghanistan. There's absolutely no point supporting the US in any of it's endevours anymore when all it does is repeatedly stab us in the back.

    BP may be far from a pleasant company in many people's eyes, but the fact is it pays a decent share into British taxes and pension funds. The fact the US is pursuing it so rigorously and drawing it's attacks on it out over a long period is simply unacceptable. BP, unlike Halliburton, Anadarko etc. accepted it's liabilities from the outset, yet the Obama administration is still doing everything it can to dent the strength of it as a company further and further.

  • Comment number 20.

    More income for our learned friends. Christmas has come early for them this year, next year and for a considerable time to come.

    It is a poor country which can't keep a few gentlemen...

  • Comment number 21.

    What a surprise... US government sues everyone except the two companies who were directly involved in the failure (of the BOP and Cementing), Haliburton and Cameron.

    Let me think... could they be american and have deep roots into the administration by any chance??
    Shame the US administration isn't quite so keen to help progress the case of the Bopahl victims, where hundreds died and there was a much more significant environmental impact that still affects people today. Let me think... was that an american company too???

    It really is pathetic.

  • Comment number 22.

    #18. At 10:32am on 16th Dec 2010, taxpayer2010

    "Why not put a temporary ban on Americans coming here and also stop supporting their ruinous and stupid wars. They are just on another planet (or ought to be!)

    Come on Cameron, support your country and BP, get tough and show us if you've got any bottle."
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    You've got more chance of Hugh Grant becoming Prime Minister.

    Not an idea I "Love, Actually"

  • Comment number 23.

    Pardon me for any dumbness but my impression was that BP had already grovelled, sacked the MD and said yes of course we'll pay for it all.
    Anyway it's only the name that's British - it's a trans-national company, with mission to extract oil wherever it finds it, at appropriate cost whilst maximising returns to its shareholders. Wherever they might be.

  • Comment number 24.

    Here we go again, all the BP shareholders moaning about how unfair it all is....not because they believe it's unfair but because they might lose money (or their pension might)

    Well shares can go down as well as up - and extreme profits often points to corner cutting - and as someone pointed out - you reap what you sow.

    I'm just pleased to see any Government (no matter what their motivation) actually standing up to a corporation. My only disappointment is the action isn't closely followed by actions against other firms - such as Dow Chemicals (union Carbide), J.R. Simplot Co, Cargill, Boeing, Apple, Southern Power, American Electric power, Massey Energy, Chevron and Alcoa - all of whom are great polluters.

    Lets hope this is not simply Obama doing what American Oil interests are telling him to but a real fightback against the polluting corporations which are destroying our world for profit.

    ....only time will tell...

  • Comment number 25.

    [[[22. At 10:42am on 16th Dec 2010, NorthSeaHalibut wrote: ]]]
    Sorry to display such ignorance but do halbut exist in the North Sea?

  • Comment number 26.

    For once, the verdict of the market in a few minutes may be instructive.

    Thank you for covering this issue. But I think the verdict of the market it that this is no surprise. A moments reflection agrees with this - imagine what the average US voter would be saying if the US government did not intend to sue BP? Perhaps more instructive is that once again the US government is not as quick to persue US firms such as Halliburton as it is to pursue BP. Politics as always is in the driving seat.

  • Comment number 27.

    7. At 09:18am on 16th Dec 2010, DebtJuggler wrote:

    "#2 ejSwede is spot on.

    I would add that the US's clear intention is cripple BP to the extent that it will become ripe for take-over by Exxon."

    Well if this is the case it shows Corporations are not as astute as their executive salaries suggest.

    ...because the bigger you become the more vulnerable you become - sure you can try to monopolise markets and fix prices - but you also become a bigger target for the people.
    The bigger you become the more unpopular you become - I'm sure firms like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Vodaphone etc. will testify. All popular in the beginning but once they reached a certain market position they become vulnerable to attacks from all quarters.

  • Comment number 28.

    # 16. At 10:31am on 16th Dec 2010, AudenGrey wrote:
    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

    # 17. At 10:31am on 16th Dec 2010, Guy Croft wrote:
    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

    Clearly the BP laywers are out in force today - now we can really see who is controlling the news!

    Maybe Guy and Auden were guilty of mis-information, but was it any worse than the mis-information spouted by BP during the oil spill?

  • Comment number 29.

    22. At 10:42am on 16th Dec 2010, NorthSeaHalibut wrote:
    Not an idea I "Love, Actually"


    Quack Quack Oops

  • Comment number 30.

    22. At 10:42am on 16th Dec 2010, NorthSeaHalibut wrote:
    #18. At 10:32am on 16th Dec 2010, taxpayer2010

    "Why not put a temporary ban on Americans coming here and also stop supporting their ruinous and stupid wars. They are just on another planet (or ought to be!)

    Come on Cameron, support your country and BP, get tough and show us if you've got any bottle."
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    You've got more chance of Hugh Grant becoming Prime Minister.

    Not an idea I "Love, Actually"

    Love Actually is the only movie to actually make me feel nauseous. Half an hour into a TV showing I started to feel ill, I thought it was just a coincidence, but when I tried to re-watch it on DVD I felt the same. Maybe they should give the film a public health warning.

    I 've been moderated, so I can expect a polite e-mail in my inbox, I wish I new why ? still, mystery adds to the romance in life !

  • Comment number 31.

    I like Lord Cranworth's comments on the matter - he "could see no difference between negligence and gross negligence; that is was the same thing, with the addition of a vituperative epithet".

    Pretty cool words, eh? But it means that is a spectrum of negligence, and no division line where it crosses into grossness. Some negligence is grosser than other negligence.

    There can be no doubt that the outcome was gross - it can’t get much grosser than allowing your oil rig to blow up in the middle of the sea, killing lots of people and spreading a toxic pool of oil out hundreds of miles in all directions.

    But was the origin of the disaster so gross? Yes, if there was there was no highly competent person in full overall control of events at all times.

  • Comment number 32.

    With US Justice (more appropriately, Injustice) Department run by the mafia politicians, every thing is possible. Blatantly they may separate out the US companies and punish BP singly for gross negligence. When one goes to dance with the devil, this is what may be expected.

  • Comment number 33.

    #25. At 10:55am on 16th Dec 2010, ObserverinMonmouth wrote:
    "[[[22. At 10:42am on 16th Dec 2010, NorthSeaHalibut wrote: ]]]
    Sorry to display such ignorance but do halbut exist in the North Sea?"

    Got to be honest, I've no idea. I've been called Halibut since I was a sprog in York but NorthYorkHalibut didn't sound quite right.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    #29. At 11:09am on 16th Dec 2010, EconomicsStudent wrote:
    "22. At 10:42am on 16th Dec 2010, NorthSeaHalibut wrote:
    Not an idea I "Love, Actually"


    Quack Quack Oops"

    Yep, enough said. I couldn't resist, after all, "It is Christmas."

  • Comment number 34.

    #24. At 10:53am on 16th Dec 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:

    "I'm just pleased to see any Government (no matter what their motivation) actually standing up to a corporation. My only disappointment is the action isn't closely followed by actions against other firms - such as Dow Chemicals (union Carbide), J.R. Simplot Co, Cargill, Boeing, Apple, Southern Power, American Electric power, Massey Energy, Chevron and Alcoa - all of whom are great polluters."

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Wot, no Microsoft? Surely the biggest polluters of all. Oh yes of course, I remember why they're above the law, silly me. Can't say though for fear of moderation.

  • Comment number 35.

    Look this is just a desperate move by a desperate President who will be a one term flop. He is wrestling with huge unpopularity at home and is presiding over the fall of an empire.

    As others have said BP will drag this out in the courts just like Exxon did. Until there is a change of politics at the White House (Republicans will sweep unde the carpet)or until $25Bn is what it costs to buy a big Mac - which the way Bernanke is going won't be long, in which case BP can pay out with Zim$ which will probably be worth more.

  • Comment number 36.

    24 WOTW

    Lets hope this is not simply Obama doing what American Oil interests are telling him to but a real fightback against the polluting corporations which are destroying our world for profit."

    Actually something the EU seems reasonably good at - at least on the face of it.

    That said big business, big government - all self serving if you ask me.

    "

  • Comment number 37.

    Won't this just kill off all off shore oil exploration in US coastal waters as the risks of doing so would outweigh any potential benefits? We are talking of thousands of US workers here - I guess Americans have to trust Obama's business instincts! The Gulf coast economies will really tank now: presumably Obama has discussed this in depth with the various states?

  • Comment number 38.

    On the other hand, there's this: culpa lata dolo aequiparatur. Was it fraud/greed? If so, couldn't we get those bankers on the same thing?

  • Comment number 39.

    @19. At 10:36am on 16th Dec 2010, iwinter wrote:
    "Yet another attack by Obama and his administration on British interests in an attempt to weaken them whilst US oil firms grow stronger in it's place."

    The spice must flow...

  • Comment number 40.

    It is revealing that the shares of BP drifted only slightly lower on this alarming news.
    I don't know if BP will have a fair hearing in America, but I doubt it. The blame for this accident has to be shared around. The head of the U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency was immediately sacked (which is very interesting for the defence) The rig was actualy toppled, causing the leak, by the sheer weight of water discharged on the rig by the US Coastguard. So this is going to run and run. Really the Americans have allowed their hatred of 'British Petroleum' to cloud their judgement bringing this prosecution, after all BP has provided billions of dollars for compensation claims.
    They say that adults should be capable of comprehending the results of their actions. This may possible end up with a slap in the face for the USA. On reflection about the US Judicial system, with a supreme court that is appointed by politicians and in the pockets of the administration, I doubt it

  • Comment number 41.

    34. At 11:44am on 16th Dec 2010, NorthSeaHalibut wrote:
    Wot, no Microsoft? Surely the biggest polluters of all.
    ================
    Do you mean the zillions of discarded CD-ROMs? Their UK HQ (next to where I work) looks pretty clean to me!

  • Comment number 42.

    The "blowout preventer" and the mud used to control pressure were operated by two large,very experienced US companies.These companies,Cameron and Schlumberger,would be working very much in tandem with BP and Transocean,and are therefore, by participation,very much implicated in this appalling tragedy,and should therefore share the blame

  • Comment number 43.

    Let's face it the US is just a bully and Obama is using what clout he has while he can.
    Whatever America does is right so there is no reason for us to have the same extradition rights against them as they have for us because they don't do anything wrong.
    You don't agree? Well punk, what d'you think you're going to do about it?

    BP is seen as a British company in the minds of the US and they are out to eviscerate it in much the same way as they did to the British economy after WW2.

  • Comment number 44.

    I am assuming some kind of safety study would have been undertaken for the drilling of this well. Many different scenarios, causes and consequences would have been put forward but ultimately the safeguard would have been the BOP valve closing and isolating the well from the rig and the environment.
    I see that the only question to be answered is Why did the BOP valve not do its job as intended?
    Afterall, one can put cheaper tyres on a car, fill it up with regular gasoline instead of superunleaded, drive it through a dodgy area of town reknown for gun crime, all these are cost cuts and risk taking. But ultimately if the brakes fail and cause a fatal pileup, then surely the blame is on the brakes manufacturer or maintenance provider? In this case Cameron or Transocean.
    There is only one zero risk strategy, that is not to have been drilling for oil in the first place. One could say the consumers are ultimately to blame!

  • Comment number 45.

    24. At 10:53am on 16th Dec 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:
    "Here we go again, all the BP shareholders moaning about how unfair it all is....not because they believe it's unfair but because they might lose money (or their pension might)"

    I do love WOTW's comments. Here he is telling us what BP shareholders are thinking and getting it completely wrong as usual.
    It's not unexpected of course because, as he said in an earlier blog, he has no interest in these or any other shares. He clearly lacks experience so can speak with authority from a wealth of ignorance.

    Unlike WOTW I do not pretend to be privy to the minds of shareholders. I would suggest (note - it is only a suggestion) that the upward movemment in the market has more to do with a lack of seriously bad news allied to a technical rally so that brokers and their ilk can show good end of year profits and protect their bonuses. Expect to see some correction (ie losses) in the New Year.

  • Comment number 46.

    40. At 12:10pm on 16th Dec 2010, DemoDave wrote:
    It is revealing that the shares of BP drifted only slightly lower on this alarming news.
    On reflection about the US Judicial system, with a supreme court that is appointed by politicians and in the pockets of the administration, I doubt it
    =================
    Presumably the announcement just confirmed what was expected and had already been discounted.
    I believe that at least some judges are elected in USA, so they are politicians.

  • Comment number 47.

    Do you know what I would do if I ran BP? I would set up a large trust fund to fully sponsor all and any worldwide court cases against USA companies for incidents where there has been pollution, try to put the same pressure on US companies to go bust as the US are putting on BP. Why can the US pollute and do anything and only pay lip service in reparation but when BP has an incident in USA it gets taken to the cleaners by the shallow USA administration.

    Time to get tough with the USA, they are quite simply out of control and need putting back in their place. Let's hope there's a change of government there asap and that some common sense prevails instead of all this ruinous posturing.

    And yes, like most people with pensions in the UK, I have a personal interest in the future success of BP and do not want it bought out cheaply by some other company or ruined by the americans.

    Americans - grow up, just who do you think you are???

    Why not put a temporary ban on Americans coming here and also stop supporting their ruinous and stupid wars. They are just on another planet (or ought to be!)

    Come on Cameron, support your country and BP, get tough and show us if you've got any bottle.

    US president is anti british.US government done more invirmental damage than BP.How many people died on irag/afgarnusthan war what damage did to the cuntry and invirmental.I think UK company should quite amarica and move to europe.US is duble standard

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    #]41. At 12:36pm on 16th Dec 2010, AnotherEngineer wrote:
    34. At 11:44am on 16th Dec 2010, NorthSeaHalibut wrote:
    Wot, no Microsoft? Surely the biggest polluters of all.
    ================
    Do you mean the zillions of discarded CD-ROMs? Their UK HQ (next to where I work) looks pretty clean to me!

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    From my experience you engineers are obsessively clean; the "stuff" you produce on the other hand.........

  • Comment number 50.

    This is nothing more than one more humiliation, in a very long line of humiliations over a period of more than 70+ years, being heaped on the UK by the latest in a long line of successive US administrations intent on reminding us that we, the UK, are now little more than an "also ran" when it comes to global significance.

    Why, oh why, do the media and politicians of all hues, continue to drivel and drool about a "special relationship" between our two countires, when the reality is that, given the opportunity, the USA happily kicks sand in our face whenever the opportunity presents itself.

    It is time to re-think our relationship with the US, and grow some stones - starting with the scrapping of the extradition treaty between our two countries. A lit bit more quid pro quo would not go amiss. If they sue BP, we should sue Goldman Sachs.

  • Comment number 51.


    No sign of the boys from Halliburton on the List of Shame- I wonder why?

    Can we expect to see some backbone from the Executives and Senior Management of BP instead of allowing the Federal Government and the four State Governments to use their Shareholders as a perpetual milch-cow thus robbing British Pensioners.

    $40 Billion now, and rising. Their are having a Larf!

  • Comment number 52.

    Anyone would think that the incumbent in the White House was going to be seeking re-election around the time any determination is made, looking for a scapegoat - no new wars to wage, at least militarily - to bolster his and his country's image.

    BP's only hope may be that Osama Bin Laden is found soon.....

  • Comment number 53.

    Did the UK Govt sue Occidental over the Piper Alpha disaster when 167 people were killed?

  • Comment number 54.

    I cannot believe Halliburton have gotten away with it......again!

    All this does is to add further weight to the opinion that such actions are anti-british and an excuse to lauch a hostile take over of BP, rather than the environmental impact and the impact on tens of thousands of people effected by the spill.

  • Comment number 55.

    sell BP to the Chinese. They'll buy it with inflated QE2 dollars and give Obama hell. BP should start making overtures to the Chinese State Oil, that'll get Obama in a panic.

  • Comment number 56.

    As BP are the prime contractors, then I would think that is why they are being targetted and it would then be for them to go after the subcontractors.

  • Comment number 57.

    This is clearly another case of the USA attacking this country: the excessive targeted use of national legislation against foreign business is protectionism that the World Trade Organisation seeks to remove.
    Significantly, the UK business ministers have nothing to say on this matter.
    Until the UK stands up to the USA and makes clear that the UK has a different set of principles on a range of issues, the USA will continue to walk all over this country. And it will have done so at the express invitation of our 'leaders'.
    The USA requests the extradition of our citizens there to stand trial and risk massively long sentences, it executes our people, it has extradited there people who the courts here would consider were not fit to stand trial, it kills UK citizens who are legally in third countries, as has been announced today. All this, and our Government and news reporters either are silent, or censor away any complaint.
    Disgraceful.

  • Comment number 58.

    37. At 11:55am on 16th Dec 2010, excellentcatblogger wrote:

    "The Gulf coast economies will really tank now"

    Oh that's incredible - don't you think all that brown stuff has already done that???
    That's true bias without any shame - you blame Obama for taking action against a polluter because it might cost jobs?

    Your ideology is exactly why America always needs to find someone to war against - I mean it's good for business....good for jobs...

  • Comment number 59.

    How strange that Haliburton and Cameron were not sued. As usual the US has decided who are the bad guys and have looked only to their own self interest. This POTUS is the blatantly clutching at straws and looking for votes from anywhere.

    bp should counter sue using the fact that due to US work permit restrictions they were forced to use sub-standard crew. Most of the crew on Horizon would have been run off in most other countries and the company men would never have been in charge.

  • Comment number 60.

    51. At 13:50pm on 16th Dec 2010, honestgradgrind wrote:

    "Can we expect to see some backbone from the Executives and Senior Management of BP instead of allowing the Federal Government and the four State Governments to use their Shareholders as a perpetual milch-cow thus robbing British Pensioners."

    They're not robbing British pensioners - British pensioners robbed themselves ....when they listen to the pitter patter sales talk of vested interest Governments reducing the state pension in favour of a panacea of retirement from the private pension funds.

    You see the US couldn't sue the UK Government - but private companies are open to all manner of problems.

    ...was it not all explained? - I wonder why...

    The pensioners who are angry should be angry at themselves (or their parents) for allowing the state pension to be largely replaced by the snake oil private pensions without much of a fight.

    It's childish to now blame a nation for suing a corporation when that corporation has done wrong. I'm presuming the arguments are not that BP didn't do wrong but that it's going to affect your pension

    Some people need to grow up and realise what they have done and the root causes - and not conveniently blaming participants in this particular instance.

    ...and the same goes for those drawing parallells with the Piper Alpha - if our Government was too feckless and lazy to sue - then we should have enforced it at the time - it's no good moaning about the unfairness now!

  • Comment number 61.

    45. At 13:20pm on 16th Dec 2010, pietr8 wrote:

    "I do love WOTW's comments. Here he is telling us what BP shareholders are thinking and getting it completely wrong as usual."

    Really? - I thought it was all about the self interest. So what other reason do BP shareholders have to complain about?
    Did the company pollute? - yes
    Was it ultimately responsible (including it's subcontractor relationships)? - Yes
    Are the shareholders concerned about the tarnished reputation? - No (or they wouldn't invest in one of the worlds biggest polluting industries to begin with.

    The best is the claim this is an attack on Britain - BP is no more British than Ghengis Khan. Shareholders will say anything to avoid the very crass self interested driven "it's all about me and my money"

    "It's not unexpected of course because, as he said in an earlier blog, he has no interest in these or any other shares. He clearly lacks experience so can speak with authority from a wealth of ignorance."

    ...what because I don't gamble in the bookies it means I don't know how they work? I can be an expert in shares and never buy a single one. I;'ve never actually left this planet but I still know what our solar system looks like.

    I do have an interest, it's just that I don't put my interests before that of the planet - I realise that whinging BP shareholders losing money is far more important than the longevity of Earth!

    "Unlike WOTW I do not pretend to be privy to the minds of shareholders. I would suggest (note - it is only a suggestion) that the upward movemment in the market has more to do with a lack of seriously bad news allied to a technical rally so that brokers and their ilk can show good end of year profits and protect their bonuses. Expect to see some correction (ie losses) in the New Year."

    Are you talking shareholders or speculators? The reason the price hasn't collapsed is because there will always be some greedy people who think they can make a fast buck out of everything. These people are very loud on the way up - and generally very quiet on the way down.

    Fortunately they are not conscience driven people and therefore don't have to consider where that profit originates from (in this case the damaged environment).

    If BP actually had to pay the full cost for this environmental disaster then the company would fold - fortunately for all those shareholders the price the planet pays is always far greater than the one the corporations pay for damaging it.

    Maybe it will be a good thing when mankind is wiped out - if this attitude is common then we don't deserve this planet and should be exterminated in order that the other creatures can live here in peace.

  • Comment number 62.

    #28 WOTW nice thought thanks. I got booted off for criticising the owner of this blog for continually writing exclusively about the big BBC headline news, the so-called 'big business' stories rather than 'the business stories that matter' and telling him he should really get out more.

    Moderators - you may not like that any more than Rp will but it is jolly-well true. This blog supposedly concentrating on the 'business stories that matter' is aimed at big city finance ALL THE TIME. if it's not banks it's other corporate giants. In case you haven't noticed half the country is going BUST and in the interests of fairness and equality you might care to come down from your iveory towers and pay passing mention to the reasons why and the possible rememdies for it.

    You just don't understand the difference between moderation and censorship = can't take criticism - like you at the BBC know everything. You don't.

    Of course USA is suing BP that's the American way + they have to pay for their wars somehow.

    GC

  • Comment number 63.

    39. At 12:07pm on 16th Dec 2010, Stuart Wilson wrote:

    "The spice must flow..."

    Man the wierding modules stuart - for Moardib is amongst us...

  • Comment number 64.

    Robert Peston is FANTASTIC

    GC

  • Comment number 65.

    ...come on folks - everyone seems to have messed up on this one....

    http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/120810-bp-investigation-stalled-after-firm.html?hpg1=bn

    ...and it's not just BP - the oil drilling business is getting more difficult - the companies are getting more desperate (Peak oil) - either the oil price will rise or the environment will be destroyed.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703989004575652714091006550.html

    Now we shall see how many shortsighted people put profit before humanity - I know there are plenty of them out there - a lot of them are CEO's and politicans.

    You won't be able to eat / breathe the paper money when it's all gone (or did you think that was some far off wives tale that's simple 'another generations problem'?)

    I wonder how proud people will be when they describe this particular generation as the 'greedy generation' - all wanting to have an easy life without putting in any effort (but criticising others for trying to do the same).

    I hope your dividends make you all feel comfortable - because it's your children who are going to pay for it all.

  • Comment number 66.

    Can't praise Robert Peston highly enough for bringing us the big business stories!

    G

  • Comment number 67.

    Ironically the reason why the US legal system uses 'gross' negligence is to give their businesses a cop-out when they supply goods and services to cross border customers. Proving negligence is often insufficient to bring an action against an incompetant US business - of which there are many.

    The US legal system is a farce which encourages capricious litigation and its about time they grew up.

  • Comment number 68.

    I think that the whole of the deep sea oil industry is operating in an untried area which is as difficult as space exploration it looks as if the procedures need to be as precise and detailed as that. I suspect that because oil is running out and the demand for oil in the USA is such that the economy will collapse without those risks, someone was going to take them. What the USA should be doing is looking at how they will get energy in 10 years time when the price of oil will probably be $500 a barrel and China will own it all. Should we be spending money on oil exploration at all?

  • Comment number 69.

    Time to split bp into bpUS & bpUK all future liabities for Gulf to bpUS and other international business to bpUK that should stop the US vultures in their tracks.

  • Comment number 70.

    Bhopal?

  • Comment number 71.

    24. At 10:53am on 16th Dec 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:

    It's a 'show' I reckon after what happened at Cancun, not a change towards protecting the environment.

    How many polluters have had their lobbyists put on the same non-cooperative, black sheep list as those pesky journalists who just can't stop asking the Pilgeresque questions?

  • Comment number 72.

    BUT WHAT ABOUT BHOPAL WHERE THOUSANDS DIED AS A CONSEQUENCE OF US POLLUTION?

    Oh, I see, the lives of thousands of Indian women and children are not equal to the lives of birds and fish off the US coast in the Gulf of Mexico.

    And I thought equal rights were invented in the US!

  • Comment number 73.

    62. At 15:21pm on 16th Dec 2010, Guy Croft

    Government = Corporation = Media = Government = Corporation = Media....

    The rest of don't matter (until windows start getting broken and the Royals are 'attacked' on their way to the theatre)

    This is the way they want it - then that is the way it shall be. However I know they undestimate the people of the world - they said we wouldn't do anything about it - and lo and behold there are people all over the world doing something about it right now....and the establishment are scared - which is why they are perpetually trying to cast the corporate giants as the good guys.

  • Comment number 74.

    Maybe 'the special relationship' means that you don't get attacked militarily and economically...just only economically.

  • Comment number 75.

    6. At 09:17am on 16th Dec 2010, tony_was_here wrote:

    I can understand the slap on the wrists to Cheney. Oops, Freudian slip there. Sorry Halliburton.

  • Comment number 76.

    #8... Ha ha ha ha ha... Fantastic.. I'm in tears.. ha ha ha ha.. You've done Pesto with that one!

  • Comment number 77.

    Just another day in the transplanted Chicago mafia machine that is the Obama White House. It was bad enough when the Daley placeman (Obama) conducted an illegal $20 billion shakedown operation (to use the phrase favoured by a Texas Congressman). Now we have the murky Eric Holder doing the bidding of his masters. The same Eric Holder who was responsible for Bill Clinton giving a last minute pardon to Marc Rich (an undisputed crook) and who was roundly condemned for his behaviour by a congressional panel. I would suggest the way forward for BP is signposted by the Marc Rich affair; pay bribes (sorry - donations) to the White House and all your problems disappear.

  • Comment number 78.

    '18. At 10:32am on 16th Dec 2010, taxpayer2010 wrote:
    Do you know what I would do if I ran BP? I would set up a large trust fund to fully sponsor all and any worldwide court cases against USA companies for incidents where there has been pollution, try to put the same pressure on US companies to go bust as the US are putting on BP. Why can the US pollute and do anything and only pay lip service in reparation but when BP has an incident in USA it gets taken to the cleaners by the shallow USA administration.

    Time to get tough with the USA, they are quite simply out of control and need putting back in their place. Let's hope there's a change of government there asap and that some common sense prevails instead of all this ruinous posturing.

    And yes, like most people with pensions in the UK, I have a personal interest in the future success of BP and do not want it bought out cheaply by some other company or ruined by the americans.

    Americans - grow up, just who do you think you are???'

    You'll end up in Oscar Wilde's old cell, talking like that! I hear it is vacant, though for how long, who knows.

  • Comment number 79.

    @33 NSH
    I think you've wandered marginally off course - your normal swarming ground is the North Atlantic - perhaps you're on vacation?

  • Comment number 80.

    How can the US government attribute fault across eight different companies. Whatever they find BP will have to pay the highest proportion because they are the one's with the most money. With so many companies involved in this situation how can one of them be found to be grossly negligent. I think the American government are going to milk BP for everything they can. I don't think our government would not pursue like the American government has. How much pursuing did the Indian government do after Bhopal. That's because India was powerless in that relationship, much the same as us.

  • Comment number 81.

    How can the US sue BP.........How hypocrytical.....wasnt the drilling so that the US citizens can drive around the US polluting the world ! ? ?

  • Comment number 82.

    It was Obama's aim at the outset to squeeze every pen out of BP. It's why he called them 'British' because in today's shameful America foreign=foe. He's looking for 'win-win' - billions of dollars in cash to help prop up his profligate country and billions of dollars in assets that Exxon can scoop up for a few million. Not his most Lincoln-like moment.

    To me the funny thing is that PetroChina, Gazprom or even Petrobras could probably outbid Exxon. Maybe we should let BP go to PetroChina to thwart the plan of the Illuminati.

  • Comment number 83.

    The US government is always right.
    You don't get to have the world's reserve currency by being wrong.
    Right.

  • Comment number 84.

    DebtJuggler at 16:08 p.m. tried to compare between the Deepwater Horizon (owned by the BP) disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the Bhopal disaster caused by the American Union Carbide company.
    In the Gulf of Mexico disaster, 11 people died and the environmental damage was virtually made up within six months. Although Haliburton and Transocean (both American companies) were the key players in the design and operation of the platform which happened to be licensed to BP, the BP had to take the full flak of the aggressive American political and media wrath. BP has already spent billions of dollars and earmarked around 30 billion dollars to mitigate this disaster. But Barack Obama wants more money and hence his administration has started the court case against BP for 'gross negligent'.
    As against that, in the Bhopal disaster, over 3,500 people died within a few days by inhalation of toxic chemical and over 30,000 people died from the after-effect of this disaster. More than 25,000 people are still suffering from chronic and genetic effects. Altogether the company only paid about $15 million over the 25 year period out of 'goodness of heart' without admitting liability!
    American aggressiveness and injustice are beyond description and simply breathtaking.

  • Comment number 85.

    #84 A Rahman,

    Hi, yes indeed. I'm a Brit and I feel natural kinship towards the USA. I am deeply grateful for their support in 2 world wars (but the UK fought like hell too). But I look across the Atlantic now and wonder if we really are on the same, small, limited planet.

    The world's population is 95% non-American. For their own best interests, as well as ours, they need to win friends and not alienate them. I am not saying India is right and the US wrong; if you know Indian management methods and the caste system you'll know how bad things can be for regular people. If you go to China, you'll find just as severe, if non religious, polarisation. The one thing the 3 nations share is an appalling, self-interested political elite.

    For me the worrying thing is that the US produces brilliant scholars but puerlie politicians. And on them will their wealth be foundered.





  • Comment number 86.

    Hopefully Americans' realize that this will work directly through into the cost of their gas. All the Oil companies are going to have to cover themselves for these events. How long before the rest of the World, particularly Maldives tries to sue US government for it's gross pollution of Co2 etc over the years and negligence in dealing with it.

  • Comment number 87.

    However the Treasury has helpfully provided an assessment of the impact on businesses and consumers of the likely increases in power prices that will be sparked by different increases in the minimum carbon price.

    These show that the average annual household electricity bill will be between £4 and £28 higher in 2016 (after adjusting for inflation), but should be between £20 and £48 lower by 2030 (when all the new generating plant should be on stream).


    If this assessment for 2016 is like other assessments then the figures are far too low, as for 2030, when was the last time electricity bills went down and stayed down?

  • Comment number 88.

    Is it just me, or does Robert Peston only talk negative views? The US Gvmt is trying to sue BP he says, as was always known. They intend to prove BP guilty he says, in the way our CPS tries to find any accused guilty. Again, this isn't news; this is what they are tasked to do, but what will probably happen?

    He says how bad it could be if they are found guilty of gross negligence, which is fine, but is this likely, what if they are not found guilty. Somehow I just expect more from the business head. I read the comments after these blogs like you are now, and even I know about the other companies possible liability, that BP can sue against. I know BP will string out any action for years, and if the company makes $20 billion profit per year anyway, and it takes 5 years to come to a decision, then really it is such a big deal to the company? The US is a plea bargain place anyway, so some fudge will be worked out, and at least half the fine passed on by BP further suing. The reason the shares didn't move much, was no new news, and nothing surprising causing more of a problem, and so it is just big business as usual.

    Perhaps I'm missing the reason for this article, is it to get us to read other better made points from other posters, or should Mr Peston be doing more research into the story, and suggest what will probably happen, as compared to reporting what we know, and saying how bad it could get. It’s like a weather forecaster saying the clouds outside mean it’s cloudy, and if they get black, then it will probably rain.

    I expect better Robert.

  • Comment number 89.

    '86. At 19:05pm on 16th Dec 2010, lixxie wrote:

    Hopefully Americans' realize that this will work directly through into the cost of their gas. '

    That's why the US (and UK) keep throwing the spanner in the works every time there is a big meeting to sort it out ie Copenhagen, Cancun.

    They're doing everything they can to make sure they can carry on with impunity. Dumb, though. The planet will get 'em in the end.

  • Comment number 90.

    What are the odds that Wikileaks release in due course an e-mail, dated sometime last week, from the Whitehouse to No.10 along the lines "Hand over Assange or BP gets it!"?

  • Comment number 91.

    I am surprised that this is seen as bad news for BP. If its partners in the well, Mitsui and Anadarko, have been joined in the legal action, along with the operator, Transocean, then they may at last realise that they have to contribute financially.

  • Comment number 92.

    Robert, I think you are confused - the big story today is not BP and the USA, it's BP and Azerbaijan!

    or don't you read the news??

 

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