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This Week, Screws Tighten on BP to Pay Damages

Execs come to Washington as the Obama administration threatens legal force

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President Obama makes his fourth visit to the Gulf this week, and on Tuesday he will give a national prime-time address about the oil spill. As the leak continues to gush at twice the initially-estimated rate, the administration is under mounting pressure to take control of the crisis and impose concrete measures to hold BP accountable. The mammoth company, for its part, seems ready to cut dividends to appease some public anger, and is sending executives to meet with the president on Wednesday. Here's what to expect:

  • BP Forced to Make Account to Pay Damages  Robert Hendin of CBS News explains that "the President will push for a BP-funded escrow account to handle claims filed by people and businesses in the Gulf area who have lost business (and possibly their entire livelihood) because of the spill." Mike Allen of Politico elaborates that the account will pay out damage claims evaluated not by BP--which has been accused of slow responses--but a third party.
  • A Week of BP on the Defensive  Jackie Calmes of the New York Times explains how the Obama administration is seeking legal tools to force BP to establish the fund. This "ultimatum" and Obama's speech will "set the tone for a week of events that will have the oil giant publicly on the defensive more than at any time in the nearly two months since" the spill. BP's CEO will also be "in the hot seat" testifying before Congress.
  • Oil Giant Ready to Cut Dividend  Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism writes that after some resistance from British pensioners and other shareholders, BP now seems willing to cut its dividend. At the same time, the company "is simultaneously negotiating with the Administration ... BP appears to want the Administration to quit criticizing it in public (or at least to tone it down a lot) and to set some limits on what BP will be held responsible for."
  • Pressure Mounting From Gulf Governors  Mike Allen of Politico writes that governors of the southern states Obama is visiting are asking "for BP to pay out for the secondary costs of the spill, such as its impact on tourism." An editorial from the Miami Herald asks for lifting a $75 million limit on how much companies are required to pay beyond cleanup costs because "Oil companies can afford it." 
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.