billion with a BP

The President:

We also talked about claims.  And this is an area where I think everybody has a lot of concern.

My understanding is, is that BP has contracted for $50 million worth of TV advertising to manage their image during the course of this disaster.  In addition, there are reports that BP will be paying $10.5 billion — that’s billion with a B — in dividend payments this quarter.

Now, I don’t have a problem with BP fulfilling its legal obligations.  But I want BP to be very clear, they’ve got moral and legal obligations here in the Gulf for the damage that has been done.

And what I don’t want to hear is, when they’re spending that kind of money on their shareholders and spending that kind of money on TV advertising, that they’re nickel-and-diming fishermen or small businesses here in the Gulf who are having a hard time.

We’ve assigned federal folks to look over BP’s shoulder and to work with state and local officials to make sure that claims are being processed quickly, fairly, and that BP is not lawyering up, essentially, when it comes to these claims.

They say they want to make it right.  That’s part of their advertising campaign.  Well, we want them to make it right.  And what that means is that if a fisherman got a $5,000 check, and the next time he goes in, because it’s a new month, suddenly BP is saying, well, we need some documentation and this may take six months to process, or 60 days to process — or 30 days to process, for that matter — that fisherman, with all his money tied up in that boat, just may not be able to hang on for another 30 days.  He may lose his boat and his livelihood.

So the key point I’m making here is, this has been a disaster for this region and people are understandably frightened and concerned about what the next few months and the new few years may hold.  I am absolutely confident about the resilience of this area long term, but if we can make sure that BP is doing the right thing on the front end, it’s going to make it an awful lot easier for us to fully recover on the back end.  And by the way, it may end up being cheaper for BP.