BP faces protests at annual meeting *updated*

JANE WARDELL
Associated Press

LONDON – Rowdy protesters scuffled with security and police outside BP’s annual shareholder meeting Thursday, after Gulf Coast residents were denied a chance to enter the meeting to air compensation demands.

The raucous start of the session inside the vast ExCel center in London’s Docklands district came as BP CEO Bob Dudley faced protest votes over executive pay and questions about a stalled major deal in Russia.

One woman from Texas was arrested and four others were ejected from the session – just before Dudley rose to the podium and told shareholders that “BP remains a great company with a great history and I believe a great future.”

“Not every company gets such an opportunity and we don’t intend to squander it,” he added, stressing BP’s three priorities are strengthening safety, winning back the company’s reputation and restoring long-term value for shareholders.

Dudley said management intended to recommend to the board the appointment of an external expert to implement the recommendations of an internal report into the spill – as it did after the deadly Texas refinery explosion.

“We’re finding it isn’t so easy to find someone. We want to make sure that person is independent and experienced. With the prices of oil, everybody wants somebody like that.”

Dudley also acknowledged unhappiness with a lack of detail about safety improvements in the company’s annual report, agreeing information was “light” but would be stronger this year.

The company gained some critical breathing room on another major problem, however – at the last minute, it received an extension to the Thursday deadline to complete a stalled major deal in Russia.

Just ahead of the annual general meeting, BP said Russia’s OAO Rosneft had agreed to move the deadline to complete a $16 billion share swap to May 16. The deal was blocked in court by a quartet of Russian billionaires, BP’s partners in the older TNK-BP venture.

Rosneft had initially refused to budge on the deadline, throwing the deal into doubt and casting a shadow over the shareholder meeting – the first since the Macondo well blowout in the Gulf almost a year ago that sparked off the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

Live drums and brass provided a soundtrack for the crowds of protesters gathered outside the meeting’s building, watched over by a light police presence. One Gulf Coast resident who was given a proxy vote from a sympathetic shareholder was locked out of the meeting.

“I’ve come all the way here from the Gulf Coast,” said Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation fisherwoman from Seadrift, Texas. “My community is gone, and they won’t let me in.

Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg told shareholders that security didn’t allow them to enter because it thought they would disrupt the meeting.

Indigenous communities angry at the company’s involvement in tar sands extraction in Canada and scores of local workers embroiled in a dispute at a BP-owned biofuels plant in northern England, also protested.

Adding to BP’s woes, two of the world’s biggest pension funds have added their names to a growing list of investors planning to vote against the company’s annual report at the meeting. Complaints include the level of executive bonuses and the re-election of a key safety executive.

BP PLC investors who have watched the company lose a quarter of its market value, or some $55 billion, in the past 12 months, as well as losing their valuable dividend payments, are ready to put the company on the spot.

The meeting is taking place just days shy of the anniversary of the explosion that killed 11 workers and began the spill that has so far cost BP some $40 billion – and former CEO Tony Hayward his job.

Byron Encalade, president of the Louisiana Oystermen Association and one of those ejected, had said wanted to object to the compensation process, claiming many oystermen have been denied payments or given insufficient payouts.

“We’ve not been made whole: our fishing grounds have been depleted, our oysters are dead and we’re not receiving the funds we need to support and sustain ourselves,” Encalade said. “We’re seeing money going everywhere but at ground zero. We’re the communities at ground zero, the first to be put out of work and we’re going to be the last to be able to go back to work and sustain ourselves.”

Pressure from institutional shareholders is also growing on Dudley, the first American to lead the British oil company since taking over in October.

Calpers, the biggest U.S. public pension fund, and the Florida State Board of Administration have said they will join other smaller U.S. and European religious and ethical funds in voting against the reappointment of Bill Castell, the head of the safety, ethics and environment assurance committee. The two state pension boards together own some 0.4 percent of BP’s total stock.

And both Pirc, the investor advice service, and the Association of British Insurers have issued warnings about excessive pay packages for two BP executives. Iain Conn, BP’s head of refining and Chief Financial Officer Byron Grote are receiving $505,000 and $621,000 for their performances not related to the oil spill.

Hayward has also grabbed headlines with a $17.9 million pension, $1.6 million payoff and about $13 million in share options despite a series of public gaffes that led to his ceding the CEO post to Dudley.

Dudley is unlikely to face any direct criticism on this front though as he’s waived his bonus this year.

However, he will be under pressure to explain the stalled share swap with Russia’s OAO Rosneft. The deal was to cement BP’s move forward from the Gulf spill and show it no longer needed to rely so heavily on the United States, where it is still barred from drilling in the Gulf , where it is still awaiting a permit to resume drilling in the Gulf. 

While BP has successfully gained some breathing room by getting Rosneft to extend the deadline, the injunction remains.

BP said Thursday it would continue with the court-appointed arbitration process to “obtain a final award on all outstanding issues.”

___

Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this story.

16 Comments

  1. Trail Trash

    Sounds like Code Pink missed a good photo-op.

    #1
  2. Jon Energy-API

    Lock up the protesters and make em clean up the beach for their community service/punishment !

    #2
  3. Terry

    Katrina all over again. Louisiana will pound these guys for every penny they got. Just like they our federal government.

    #3
  4. Tex

    Is this the nut case Diane Wilson who has been arrested a number of times? May be she should try to get her point accross without poring oil over herself. Could lead to a rash.

    #4
  5. EatRunDive

    “I’ve come all the way here from the Gulf Coast,” said Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation fisherwoman from Seadrift, Texas. “My community is gone, and they won’t let me in.”

    Seadrift is still there, they’re just tired of this woman’s stupidity. The only affect Seadrift experienced from the spill was an increase in what they could charge for their catch. As Sen. Kyl will attest, lying to make a point gets you nowhere.

    #5
  6. Sameasiteverwas

    Are you kidding??
    These are not nut jobs, they are everyday Americans who work day in and day out for a fair days pay. BP is liable due to their greed & negligence over safety…plain and simple. Ask anyone in Texas City TX who has worked there.
    If BP would take the maximum precautions and not the minimal they getaway with, then BP and other companies as well would not find themselves in these positions of destruction or folks questioning the outrageous inequity in pay

    #6
  7. Lobousa

    Ah yes, the “new era of civility”. Thank God these people weren’t from the Tea Party or they’d be excoriated in the press.

    #7
  8. spendmoney

    Complaints include the level of executive bonuses and the re-election of a key safety executive.
    ..
    Some people just don’t fully grasp capitalism.
    These executives are entitled to the money. These are the same guys/cabal that run our government. When you have a job as an executive the cash is there for the taking. It is not the same as working 30 years for a company as an employee, and then when you retire you want only your pension. Sometimes there is no pension. But your company paid into your social security. Then paying your SS becomes too much money to be paid so they demand a cut in their SS taxes and your monthly SS check. If you demand a cut of the retiring company president pay, you are way out of line. They worked for that money…sometimes just four to six years as CEO.

    #8
  9. KTJackson

    “The deal was to cement BP’s move forward from the Gulf spill and show it no longer needed to rely so heavily on the United States, where it is still barred from drilling in the Gulf.”

    BP is not barred from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. This is a mis-statement. BP has not yet received a Permit to Drill a well in the GOM, but it will, and soon. Reporters should report, not editorialize.

    #9
  10. Tom Fowler

    KTJackson:
    Thanks for pointing out that error in the AP story. I crossed it out. I don’t think that reporter was necessarily editorializing, but maybe simply didn’t understand the real status of the company here. The reporter is out of London, so she may not be well versed on the whole system here. If you’re saying the mention of the Rosneft deal was editorializing, I’d say it’s more like a simplification of what just about every analyst has said about that transaction.

    #10
  11. TheDirtyV

    As a former resident of Port Lavaca, I can say that Diane Wilson is certifiably insane.

    #11
  12. Stuart Snow

    I can see the employees at BP were alerted to this story right away. I hope BP goes down like a ton of bricks AFTER it pays these people for ruining our gulf. BP can stick it where the sun don’t shine and that goes for every apologist posting on this site.

    #12
  13. TXCoastal

    What in the heck is Diane Wilson talking about. Seadrift is halfway to Corpus Christi. They did not get ANY of the BP oil spill down there. I live off Galveston Bay and have been fishing the waters from Sabine Pass(Northern most tip of the Texas coast) to the Southern tip of Galveston island. All the time while I was fishing during the oil spill, I saw NO oil. Most of the oil flowed to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. For her to cry that her community is gone is not from the oil spill. It is probably from the lack of jobs due to Obama shutting down drilling in the Gulf. What a nut job!!

    #13
  14. LAFONTAINE

    pathetic reporting by the AP…reporting this woman’s lie about Seadrift, with out any fact checking or context. She is an extreme left wing politico with an agenda. She pulled the same stunt at the Congressional hearings last year. “My community is gone”…no it isn’t. Folks around Seadrift must cringe when they report her as a local.

    #14
  15. Tex

    What is Stuart Snow’s problem? Would be interesting to hear his case (only facts though).

    #15
  16. Lyonesse

    http://www.floridaoilspilllaw.com/
    One year.. ten years ..a hundred years ..there are people that are going to get the truth out about the situation surrounding the BP oil gusher and the condition of the people and wildlife in the area.

    #16