has come under fire from both shareholders and protesters at its annual
meeting as the anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster looms.
Activists wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "No Tar Sands", in
protest against BP's oil extraction operations in Canada, were dragged
out of the ExCeL Centre in London as they tried to stage a
demonstration. A group of fishermen and women from the Gulf coast who
say their livelihoods have been destroyed by the oil spill that followed
the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig last April were denied
entry to the meeting despite holding proxy documents for the event which
should have allowed them in.
A quarter of investors voted against the re-election of BP's safety
committee in a damning indictment of the recent record of accidents.
The meeting also saw the board grilled over its delayed £10bn share-swap
and exploration deal with Russian state-controlled oil company Rosneft.
BP said it had been given a one-month extension to hold further talks
over the troubled joint venture.
The protesters had flown in from the US to draw attention to what they
say is evidence that the Gulf continues to be badly affected by last
year's spill. Louisiana fisherwoman Diane Wilson was arrested for breach
of the peace after she smeared herself in an oil-like substance as she
tried to gain access to the conference centre.
During a tense meeting, BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg
tried to prevent Antonia Juhasz, an activist promoting a book about the
Gulf spill, from reading a statement from Keith Jones, whose son Gordon
was one of the 11 workers to die when the Deepwater Horizon exploded.
"His son died aboard the rig and you don't want to hear his voice?" she
interrupted, before she read out the statement: "This was not an act of
God. BP and Halliburton could have prevented the blow-out. You were
rolling the dice with my son's life and you lost."
She also claimed the large parts of the sea bed were dead zones because
of the oil and dispersant that she said had sunk to the bottom.
In response to her comments, BP chief executive Bob Dudley
read out the names of the 11 men who died when the rig exploded. He
said nothing could be done to bring the 11 men back, that the accident
had "shocked and saddened us all", and the company would do everything
it could to make sure it did not happen again.
Dudley continued: "I disagree with your assessment that the BP oil spill
has ruined life on the bottom of the ocean. It's a lifeless zone in
some of these areas because of the fertiliser coming down ...You say
it's because of the oil, which you can't see and I can't see."
Mike Roberts, one of the three Louisiana shrimpers barred entry, told
the Guardian outside: "That is typical tactics from BP -- they say
something that sounds good. When you have got that kind of money you
write your kind of history and make your own reality."
Roberts, from Grande Isle on the coast, has not been fishing since the
spill and says few people in the Gulf feel confident about eating fish
caught there. He added: "We came all the way from Louisiana. We weren't
going to be rowdy. We were here, dignified and respectful, on their
terms.They looked at our passports and asked us if we were all from
Louisiana. They didn't let us in because they didn't want the truth to
Some 25% of shareholders voted against the re-election of Sir William
Castell, BP's senior non-executive director and head of the safety,
ethics and environment assurance committee. The remuneration report was
also unpopular, with an 11.1% vote against due to the bonuses paid to
the finance director and the head of refining last year, as well as the
£1m golden goodbye for former chief executive Tony Hayward. Another 7.1%
voted against the re-election of Svanberg as chairman, who rebutted
criticism that he took a hands-off approach to the crisis last year.
BP said it hoped the extra month would enable it to salvage its
controversial alliance with Rosneft which is being blocked by AAR, which
represents the interests of three Russian oligarchs who are partners
with BP in their TNK-BP venture.
Dudley said BP had made a "fair offer" to buy out half of TNK-BP, as
well as offering it involvement in the Rosneft deal, but added: "We are
not going to offer a large amount or significant shareholdings."
Stan Polovets, chief executive of AAR, responded: "BP has never made a
constructive proposal to turn the Rosneft deal over to TNK-BP as our
shareholder agreement requires. AAR is not interested in the selective
parts of the deal that BP feels it can give up."