Monday, June 14, 2010
BP - The Villain or the Victim?
The Obama Administration is starting to come down pretty hard on BP, demanding most recently that the company put 'substantial' funds into an "account to cover claims by Gulf Coast businesses and residents affected by the spill". The administration is also demanding that BP withhold its dividend payout for the second-quarter, a demand that sparked subtle resistance from the UK government. In the same way that companies are playing political roles (see following posting on Google and MNCs and diplomacy), governments are inkling their way into company level decisions. This dynamic is quite intriguing and reminscent of Obama's unprecedented firing of GM CEO Rick Wagoner in 2009.
But are we being too hard on BP here? Is our blame of BP really a simplistic response to a very complicated set of circumstances that led to this disaster (see my previous post)? Is this merely a political tactic to show the American public that something is being done, something observable?
What about the failure of regulatory bodies, in this case MMS, in doing their job to uphold certain standards companies need to follow so that these disasters don't happen? Can we expect companies to jump through the appropriate safety hoops when they don't feel regulatory pressure to do so in an environment that demands constant increases in returns? Are the Administration's efforts to influence BP's decisions merely addressing a symptom, placing the proverbial bandaid on a bigger issue related to a massive gap in systematic governmental oversight of the private sector?
Is BP the only villain here?