A week before the year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, the worst oil spill in history, BP’s Annual General Meeting tomorrow couldn’t be more poignantly timed. Especially with angry investors preparing to vote against the oil giant’s annual report – in unprecedented numbers.
The second largest oil spill in history, Deepwater Horizon began an abysmal year for BP: they failed to address the environmental, economic and social impacts of the disaster; failed on basic safety and operational procedures; failed to offer accurate reports on what exactly was happening; and – at great cost to their shareholders, lost 40% of share value, halted their dividend for two quarters before resuming it at a reduced level.
Yet, crazily, more than £100,000 of bonuses were given to two of BP’s top executives last year – finance director Byron Grote and downstream chief Iain Conn. And even more excessive payouts went to outgoing staff: former chief exec Tony Hayward received over £1m compensation and £8m of shares on leaving BP.
Eight dead dolphins coated in BP oil washed up on shores this year, and the damage to the marine ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico will run deep for decades – despite what official sources say. Fisherman are still out of work due to their natural resources being destroyed. Local businesses are struggling, if not already bust. Tourism is at an all time low.
People living around the Gulf of Mexico are understandably angry. Community delegates have flown to London to make their voices heard tomorrow, questioning BP execs over their accountability for Deepwater Horizon, plus sharing their frustrations, realities and struggles with the global media present.
As well as bogus bonuses and potentially irreversible environmental damage, critics also question a £10bn deal BP have struck with Russian state oil company Rosneft. After Russian PM Vladimir Putin himself sanctioned a highly dangerous $10bn Arctic exploration deal with BP, it was blocked by four of BP’s existing billionaire Russian partners, known as AAR, resulting in an internal bitter legal battle within TNK-BP, who produce a third of the oil megalith's output.
Perhaps abysmal was an understatement: BP also lost over a quarter of its value this year – £34bn.
Investors are furious too. Firstly due to BP’s mishandling of Deepwater Horizon. Secondly for their audacity in dishing out massive bonuses when the destruction due to their unrelenting thirst for oil still runs raw. Thirdly, due to BP and their contractors' "systemic failures and poor management" resulting in much more stringent safety procedures. And fourthly, for the mega screw up of their shares.
BP’s annual report is likely to rejected tomorrow by a record number of shareholders. US shareholder advisory firm Glass Lewis are pushing investors to vote against BP’s report and accounts, as are corporate governance consultancy Pirc. Both these recommendations are due to the bonkers bonuses and ex-staff bail outs.
A diverse cross-section of UK, US and European investors are also working together to hold BP accountable for the Deepwater Horizon disaster – led by US group Christian Brothers Investment Services. The UK’s Church Investors Group, which owns £200m BP shares, is also demanding transparency, while FairPensions is urging shareholders to reject the report as well.
Greenpeace will also be there, arguing against BP’s decision to go ahead with the controversial Sunrise tar sands project near Alberta, Canada. This is BP’s joint venture with Husky, despite tar sands oil standing a very good chance of attracting a ban in Europe due to it’s huge contribution to climate change.
Above: Syncrude Oil Operations in Alberta, Canada
The Alberta tar sands project is possibly the most destructive on our planet, wrecking indigenous livelihoods and cultures, as well as devastating lakes, forests, soil and more. It is utter madness that BP are investing in such an obviously volatile project, so close to their already outstanding environmental crimes of Deepwater Horizon: think of the tar sands as a Deepwater Horizon in slow motion.
BP will be at their most vulnerable tomorrow. Gulf of Mexico communities and environmental groups will instigate a passionate showdown. But BP will also be hit where it hurts the most - their pockets - by incensed investors, in front of a huge global media presence.
So the week from the AGM until the anniversary of Deepwater Horizon is the perfect time to speak out against BP’s unrelenting, greed-driven pursuit of oil, regardless of the catastrophic consequences.
A week of protests are planned by the likes of Climate Camp London, Art Not Oil, Climate Rush, the UK Tar Sands Collective and more, voicing their disgust at Deepwater Horizon, anger at BP’s incompetent handling and educating the public that a future beyond oil is possible.
Let the BP backlash continue...