NPR logo Obama Warns BP: Don't 'Nickel And Dime' Gulf Coast

Obama Warns BP: Don't 'Nickel And Dime' Gulf Coast

During his Friday visit to the Gulf Coast, President Barack Obama still wasn't showing, at least not publicly, the passionate anger with BP some people are demanding from him.

But he nonetheless had a stern message for BP. He let the energy giant know that he wouldn't take kindly to it spending a lot of money on shareholder dividends or image advertising while stiffing fishermen and others making claims on the company for compensation for the losses they have and will suffer due to BP's oil gusher now despoiling parts of the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama said:

Now, 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, toward 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.

Now, 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's 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.