|Obama finally meets with BP brass
By: Carol E. Lee and Glenn Thrush
June 16, 2010 12:19 PM EDT
|Oil giant BP has agreed to finance a $20 billion escrow fund to pay claims to people who lost income in the Gulf Coast oil spill, an administration source told POLITICO Wednesday.
Lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, who was in charge of payments to families of victims of the 9/11 attacks, will oversee the fund, the source said.
The news came as President Barack Obama finally had his showdown with top executives of BP Wednesday. The White House had announced over the weekend that it would press the company to set up a fund, which would be administered by a third party, to pay what is expected to be billions of dollars in damage claims from people and businesses up and down the Gulf Coast.
It was Obama’s first face-to-face meeting with BP CEO Tony Hayward and board chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, despite his four trips to the Gulf Coast. They met as the White House demands that BP create a third-party administered compensation fund to pay out claims filed by residents and business owners in the region.
The six BP executives arrived at the White House around 10 a.m. and were still inside after noon.
The oil giant brought its top brass, and even came armed with a top Clinton administration Justice Department official, Jamie Gorelick, whose name was floated as a possible attorney general pick for Obama. The White House side of the conference table in the Roosevelt Room was stacked: Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, five Cabinet secretaries, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, Attorney General Eric Holder and top presidential advisors. Both sides had their lawyers on hand.
Obama was scheduled to spend 20 minutes in the meeting. He entered the room with an entourage: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and her coordinator for claims oversight, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Commerce Secrertary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, and senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.
The White House gave the executives a bit of cover, allowing to arrive on the side of the West Wing and walk past reporters from a distance, rather than forcing them to come through the main entrance for visitors that would have made it impossible for them to ignore the press.
But ignore the press they did, refusing to respond to shouted questions about the size of the proposed compensation fund and whether they had met with the families of the 11 workers who were killed on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig when it exploded on April 20 and sank off the coast of Louisiana.