In a massive PR effort to win the affection of Americans for its commitment to address the spill and its cleanup, BP's CEO Tony Hayward made some fairly unequivocal assertions. BP, he assures us, will assume "full responsibility" for the crisis, . . . will honor all legitimate claims, and our cleanup effort will not come at any cost to taxpayers."
Reportedly, President Obama is "furious" at the prospect that BP is contemplating the distribution of billions of dollars to its shareholders while "nickel and diming" residents of the Gulf states whose circumstances are desperate as a result of BP's malfeasance.
Meanwhile, the media and/or the American people are looking for some evidence of real anger in the demeanor of the President, compelling press secretary Robert Gibbs to reference his boss's non-public "clenched jaw."
These concerns could all be met with a simple and well-established financial mechanism: an escrow account.
BP can demonstrate its good faith intention to live up to its highly publicized CEO's commitment that "we will get this done, we will make this right" by establishing and funding an escrow account which could be accessed as needed by the American government. An initial funding of ten billion dollars could get the ball rolling, a reasonable sum since that, apparently, approximates the amount available currently for BP dividend distribution. Obviously, BP's ultimate cost will be many times that amount.
In lieu of clenched jawboning, President Obama could vigorously advocate for such an approach, demonstrating a meaningful, practical, involvement in the problem, and thus quiet criticism that he has been timid in his advocacy on behalf of abused citizens.
If BP were to resist this approach, it would give the lie to their expensive PR campaign, and it would focus the need for the President, and the Congress to take substantive punitive action against our most recent unconscionable corporate citizen.