Skip to comments.Do BP Shareholders Have Rights?
Posted on 06/23/2010 9:19:12 AM PDT by Kaslin
When eight British soldiers were indicted in Boston for murder in 1770 after five people were shot to death in a rioting crowd that was pelting the soldiers with projectiles, a young lawyer named John Adams took up the soldiers' case because he had a point to prove: Americans believed in -- and lived by -- the rule of law.
"The law, in all vicissitudes of government, fluctuations of the passions or flights of enthusiasm, will preserve a steady undeviating course; it will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations and wanton tempers of men," Adams said in his summation to the jury in the trial of the soldiers.
America did not disappoint Adams. Six of the eight soldiers he defended were acquitted, and two were convicted of manslaughter, not murder. The jury listened to the evidence and returned a fair verdict based on the facts. (For a good summary of the case, see the "Famous Trials" website maintained by professor Douglas O. Linder at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School.)
When President Barack Obama was coming under increasing political heat for his response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he decided to give his first-ever nationally televised speech from the Oval Office. But Obama is no John Adams, and preserving due process of law was not on his mind.
Many Americans were understandably angry at both BP and Obama, and Obama wanted to deflect the anger from himself by capitalizing on the resentment of BP. He would show, once again, he was the bully in chief.
"Tomorrow," said Obama, "I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party."
Now, the key words in this statement were "inform him." This was not a request. Indeed, the day before, The Washington Post said Obama would "demand" that BP turn over the money he wanted set up in this fund.
When considering Obama's action, it worth remembering that BP was not trying to disclaim responsibility for damage done by the oil spill, nor was it refusing to pay legitimate claims. As of this past Saturday, The New York Times reported, BP had already distributed 25,000 checks worth $63 million to people claiming damage from the spill. Company official had repeatedly insisted they would pay all legitimate claims.
But at his meeting with BP executives, with criminal and civil federal investigations looking into the gulf spill, Obama convinced the BP executives to surrender to an "escrow account" $20 billion of BP shareholders' money.
This "escrow account" will be managed by a Washington lawyer, who will oversee the distribution of funds to claimants. But Obama personally guaranteed that claims will be paid. "The people of the gulf have my commitment that BP will meet its obligations to them," Obama said. His political goal was to position himself as a champion of the little guy against big oil.
The owners of BP are ordinary people. You might be one yourself. According to The Washington Post, 40 percent of BP's stock is held in the United States. In Great Britain, according to the Post, one of every seven pounds -- or 14 percent -- paid in dividends to pension funds is paid by BP.
After the company's executives met with Obama, BP said it would suspend its dividend payments for three quarters -- meaning $7.8 billion would not be paid to pension funds, to retirees who invested in BP and to other shareholders.
The Fifth Amendment of our Constitution says: "No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
In this case, BP's executives caved to Obama, preferring to cut their own political and public-relations losses rather than insist that due process of law be observed through the normal channels of American justice as they moved forward with their stated commitment to make restitution to those injured by the oil spill. But this sets a bad precedent for people who value property rights.
America will soon face a great financial crisis. The unprecedented federal deficits coming as a result of the welfare state that liberals have build up over the past 75 years will require the government to either dramatically diminish the entitlement benefits they have promised or dramatically increase government revenues. When that crisis comes, liberal politicians just might see the modest wealth accumulated by those middle-class Americans who actually saved -- by investing in such things as, say, BP stock -- as an attractive source of revenue to keep the dole flowing.
A president who has established a pattern of using executive power to unilaterally bully and intimidate corporate executives into surrendering their stockholders' property will be a happy precedent for them -- and a dangerous one for private property rights and the rule of law.
I dunno. Did Chrysler shareholders still have rights? GM shareholders? Republican Chrysler dealers? Evidently not.
Yes, the BP shareholders have rights. They can call a shareholder meeting and vote to remove the current leadership if they don’t like their decisions. The new leadership could then go to court claiming the old leadership failed their fiduciary duty in turning over money to an independent body without any legal benefit.
Certainly the people of The Gulf Coast deserve just compensation for lost wages, business, etc., but the amount should be determined by law, not by 0bamao. Also, if BP wishes to declare a dividend, it is not for 0bamao or his regime to say they cannot.
Pretty much the same tactics as Acorn uses... and organized labor as well. Cooperate or else.
Reminds me of when Paulson (under Bush) demanded that banks take TARP funds to hide the failing ones from investors. Did shareholders in those banks have any rights then?
Did Republicans even care about Paulson doing this?? Many here were upset about this but many others here to this day say it was OK for Paulson to force the banks because it saved the economy.
TARP was a curse. Now in Washington we have emergencies everyday of the year.
Good point - not to mention the bondholders. Obama’s actions on those bankruptcies are certainly leading other potential lenders to be less willing to invest.
There very well should be a shareholders lawsuit come of this. IMO, management has not upheld their fiduciary responsibility. Not saying the victims should not be compensated, but just writing checks is not the way to do it. There will be no end to that line.
I hope some BP shareholders file a suit against Hayward and the directors of BP for breach of fiduciary duty.
Corporate assets may properly be used to pay people with bona fide claims against the corporation.
But handing over a huge sum of corporate assets to Obama and his political apparatus, outside of the legal system, with no control or accounting by BP to ascertain that only bona fide claims are paid, in essence providing a giant slush fund for Obama, could well be found to be a breach of the fiduciary duty owed by the officers and directors of BP to their shareholders.
So, BP could argue that it believed that to give in to Obama's illegal actions was necessary to save the company more money and grief from the US government, and perhaps for PR reasons, and if it does, its actions would come under the business judgment rule.
What needs to happen is for the new supposed conservative Prime Minister of Britain to step in and say that this extra-judicial punishment of BP cannot stand, and fight it diplomatically and economically. He has enough power to stand up to Obama for BP, and he can threaten punitive actions against American companies, perhaps in the North Sea or elsewhere. He could say that he has no problem with BP being subject to US laws, but he will not stand idly by while BP is subjected to dictatorial action. In that way, he would be protecting all those British pensioners who are seeing their life savings go down the drain.
Will he do it? I doubt it. The British are probably still too concerned with following the US lead. They have not shifted, yet, to the realization that Obama is not their ally. We still are, but the US under Obama is not.
“Americans believed in — and lived by — the rule of law.”
Adams was right. Americans do believe in the rule of law. This is what comes of electing a president who is not a natural born citizen (and who has been so cagey about his past that it’s reasonable to wonder whether he is even a citizen).
One of the best tests of Legislation or the actions of our own team, is whether we could support it if Obama or other Democrats were pushing the effort.
The second great test is how would we like it if the worst of the Democrats were going to be able to use this legislation to their own ends later on.
But then our leaders don’t even bother to read the legislation they vote for these days.
I wish you were correct, but he did the same with Chrysler bondholders at the very beginning. He took away their money and gave it to the unions.
Regardless of how much I may like a car, I will not buy it from the Detroit unions that now own it --- the very source of Detroit's demise even prior to Obama's action --- for as long as I live.
“Do BP Shareholders Have Rights?”
The precedent was established when Bam-Bam took away GM and Chrysler stockholders’ rights.
BP could have said, “No. See you in court,” but they didn’t. They agreed to pony up the funds and if anything Obama did them a favor. They’re on the hook for billions in damages anyway. They know that. By setting up an escrow fund and letting Obama’s hand-picked designee run it then BP is off the hook. Any delay in payments, any shortage of help, any bottleneck in the claims being processed is the fault of the Obama administration. BP can say, rightly, “We did the responsible thing and made the money available. It’s the other guys who screwed up getting the money to those who need it.”
In Fall 2008 during the debate it was obvious to me as well as liberals like Maxine Waters that Obama would get to spend the TARP money in 2009.
But many fools here believed Bush that TARP would save the economy and McCain would win the election as a result of saving TARP. Of course when that didnt happen they changed their dictionaries from ‘saving the country’ to ‘destroying the country’ trying to fit the MSNBC model of Republicans.
I don’t think they don’t need to vote out the leadership to do that. I’m not certain what British law on this is today, but I’m pretty sure shareholders can still bring derivative suits against the officers and Board on behalf of the corporation.
From what I can tell, though, it would be a hard case to make under British law (and probable under the law of any US state as well) that the officers and directors breached their fiduciary duty here. You have something called the Business Judgment Rule in the US, and by statute in the UK, directors have a duty to “promote the success of the company”, while having regard for “the impact of the companys operations on the community and the environment,
(e)the desirability of the company maintaining a reputation for high standards of business conduct.”
While I agree that BP’s management didn’t act in their shareholders’ best interests here, it will be very hard to sue them for it.
Q: Do BP Shareholders have rights?
We’re a Kleptocracy.
I supported TARP at the time, because I didn’t want to see a depression era collapse of the banking system, and the financial sector at large.
After having watched how the funds were used, I believe you were right. I am not buying into the MSNBC anything, and I think you should acknowledge that if the banking and financial sector had collapsed, we wouldn’t like that either.
I spent over eight years having folks tell me that Bush was the savior of the human race. I didn’t agree, but I at least expected him to be truthful, as he saw it.
He wasn’t. He flat ass lied about the need to pump money into the banking system “TODAY” or else. Hardly any of those funds were pumped in quickly, and the model had been set, the government was going to assume massive amounts of debt to save us.
I hadn’t realized how that spending would go viral, more massive additional debt added without so much as an objection.
I had also not realized how the government would use those funds to take ownership interest in the public sector entities.
Fascism wasn’t Obama’s brain-child. It actually started under our own village idiot.
I was wrong, but then I didn’t have all the information Bush did, and I trusted the man when I should have known better.
At least I’m willing to admit it.
For waht it’s worth, I agree with you, and think that BP did in fact act in a way they thought best for their shareholders. I was just pointing out that, while Obama’s actions are unseemly and unbecoming the leader of the most powerful, best country in the world (and much more that like a 3rd-world tinpot dictator), that the shareholders still had rights they could attempt to exercise.
And what I mean by that is, BP essentially got Obama to “force” them to turn over the responsibility for handling claims to a 3rd party.
Now, when a claim is disallowed, BP gets no blame for it. There were certainly going to be claims disallowed, and each one was going to get big press time, and even if the claims were false, BP was going to suffer.
Now there’s a 3rd party that will feel obligation to prove they are doing their job by rejecting claims, and when they do, the victims will have to rant about Obama and the government, not BP.
I didn’t see any “rights” afforded GM shareholders OR bondholders, who usually have more rights than shareholders.
No, we would have hated it. The mistakes of the past could not be undone even though politicians will always lie and tell us they can be, just to get power. McCain and Obama would fix it all with tax cuts, although not the same idea of tax cuts. But same idea, all candy. The bailouts resulted in a few even bigger banks as they bought up smaller banks with TARP money (why would this not happen?) . Too big to fail became even bigger.
Bailouts are like economic Keynesian stimuluses, they just delay the pain and the healing...in fact the current state proves it, we are in an endless recession as far as jobs go.
SS reform in the 1980s solved nothing, it just moved the problem until after the deaths of those that passed it. But the time when the pain can no longer be delayed is coming much sooner than ever before. The elected and the MSM are all about NOW, but they call it investments.
I agree with your comments. The true cost of the government tax credits for home buyers is now coming into focus. Just ended in April, they caused the 33% drop in new home sales in May.
And what happened to the auto industry, after government stimulus there? Why a big drop in new car sales of course.
The free market MUST be allowed to find it’s own equilibrium.
You’d think the lessons would be learned by now...
If some big banks failed , the federal government could have honored FDIC, the failed banks would have to be sold for pennies. Lending would be cut back except for those with great credit, worse than now. It would be ugly.
The US is so dependent on government economic stimulus now, primarily Bush and Obama, that significant cuts in spending would crash the current economy. And tax increases would be demanded politically to go with the spending cuts to make things worse (actually consumption taxes make the most sense, investment taxes make the least sense) .
There is no good way out of this. It’s like a alcoholic drinking quarts of vodka every day, going dry brings on DTs, possibly coma and death. So on Intervention the parents buy their kids more booze, “What is the alternative?? “ they aways ask. The answer is ‘pain’ and ‘more pain’.
Cuts in taxes do pay off. Here’s why.
If the government cuts taxes on small businesses, those businesses can afford to hire new employees. Those new employees pay taxes and the net sum is a gain in the revenues to the government
Under Ronald Reagan, the federal government’s receipts doubled. This was due in no small measure to tax cuts.
The problem was, Congress tripled expenditures during the same time frame.
There is a painless way out of this. Cut government spending and reduce taxes.
Then start a gradual reduction in government workers.
Cutting taxes while increasing spending is the most popular and gets lots of rationalizations by both parties for their side, but solves nothing. It’s just screwing future generations for the present. But it’s all we can expect now.
My problem is when both sides look us in the face and tell us that tax cuts and spending are going to increase tax revenue to fix the deficit. It’s all we get.
I believe we have to guit spending immediately. We could save trillions if Obambi would just pull his head out of his...
If he can’t, then I pray we win back Congress in November, so we can do it starting in January 2011.
And who am I kidding? He obviously can’t.
You are really kidding yourself assuming Republicans would do it if they had a chance. They might cut small things like ACORN, then Obama will veto the bill and tell voters Republicans want them to starve to make the rich more $$$. Then Republicans and Obama will make a bipartision deal to increase spending and cut some taxes.
When you say 'we' do you mean Republicans? I consider Rs and Ds : 'bad' and 'worse'.
FROM WHAT I HAVE SEEN UP TO TODAY, IS REPUBLICANS WHO ONLY GO PUBLIC WHEN THEY DEMAND AN APOLOGY FROM A FELLOW REPUBLICAN FOR CRITICIZING OBAMA
End of rant.
If I had been the CEO of BP, I would have “informed” Obama that he had no right to demand anything from me.
After the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, they cut spending and brought federal expenditures to a nearly balanced status. Then Bush took over and all bets were off.
I recognize it’s dumb and dumber back there, but the reality is that Congress can balance the budget, and over time begin to whittle down the massive debt.
Increase receipts by lowering taxes and spurring new economic activity, job hires, corporate, and small business growth. Then limit spending until receipts grow beyond the outlay.
Reagan would have accomplished this if the idiots in Congress had kept spending down to a 25% growth rate during his term in the White House.
Yes, the Republican party sucks. More accurately, the leadership is out to lunch. They might just as well join the Democrat party in light of what they support.
Even the new Queen of the Frozen tundra can’t guite grasp that you don’t put a guy like McCain back in office.
None the less, the example from 1994, relating to how federal spending was brought down to a near balanced status, reveals it can be done, and in short order.
If we could double receipts under Reagan, and we did, then we can do that again with the proper stimulus. Tax cuts worked the last time.
All we need to do is get a Congressional majority that will get spending under control. It can be done. We’ve done it before.
Reagan was president and wouldn't technically be doing the spending himself , but he had his priorities and limiting deficit growth was not one of them. And yes the economy will get moving temporarily if you apply stimulus by cutting taxes and increasing spending(and it will get you re-elected most of the time) at the same time, even Keynes would agree to that. The problem is the ‘net’ revenue is negative and gets more negative. That is called the Santa Claus economic theory that more candy makes us healthy when we are overweight. (We need energy to exercise e right?)
Eventually we hit a wall. .
Please stick to the comments I made in my post. At no time did I state that we should continue deficit spending. Instead I stated we needed to cut spending to balance the books, and begin to pay off debt.
Reagan pushed through the tax cuts. They doubled the federal tax receipts. Please don’t tell me this was a net loss. It wasn’t and you should know it.
The president cannot control everything Congress does. Spending did skyrocket. He wasn’t introducing large new public mandate spending programs.
Reagan signed budgets with tax cuts, and some tax increases with a big growth in spending and yes it resulted in a net loss called a deficit. It cannot be proved what those tax cuts produced on their own because they were not implemented on their own.
Yes, I have heard it all before, Reagan cut taxes, democrats increased spending (he signed), all good came from the tax cuts, all bad from the spending. Rush has a whole chapter saying that in his first book. That is a neat trick to draw that imaginary line. Most people wont buy that line.
If the government cuts your taxes 1$ but hires a new government employee for 10$ but he payes $3 dollars in new taxes even without speculating about economic growth that looks like a net revenue increase of $3-$1 = $2 on the surface. But it still results in 10$+1$-3= 8$ of new deficits. But Rush includes that $2 in increased revenue paid by the government employee (which he gets from deficits) as resulting from the tax cuts, that he cant prove.
Some tax cuts can reduce the deficit, but others will increase it.
You can try to spin those years any way you like. Most folks accept that tax cuts spurred economic activity. Reagan took over an economic mess, and turn things around. Kennedy cut taxes and got big economic growth. Obama has refused to cut taxes, and we’ve got one of the worst periods of stagnation I’ve seen in my lifetime.
If you wish to blame large deficits on Reagan, go ahead.
The fact is, government receipts doubled under Reagan. He cut taxes, and the economy skyrocketed.
Explain that away if you can. Nobody else has been able to.
I think Reagan was our best president but he also increased FICA taxes and cut benefits to create surplus and then spent that leaving IOUS that are being cashed in now(by borrowing) . And he started taxing SS benefits so he could spend them as general revenue too, but that increased tax revenue, Clinton expanded this. You cant add all these things together and then just say all increases in income tax revenues were due to any one thing, just because Reagan really didnt want to do those other things.
Amazing how few people understand how that works. JFK's tax cuts gave the exact same result.
If I understand the time frame of those taxes correctly, they were towards the end of his term in office, less than two years.
So trying to make the case that those tax increases were responsible for the majority of new income, falls flat. Receipts had escalated prior to the new taxation.
Why are we having this conversation? What’s your plan to increase federal receipts if you don’t want to cut taxes to spur the economy? I’ve advocated cutting spending too, and so far you haven’t jumped on that band wagon either.
I am not blaming anything on Reagan but I am not swallowing a theory popular here based on bogus numbers just because it might benefit me. The theory includes new receipts from taxing SS benefits as well as new revenues from new government workers that were paid for by deficits, all credited as resulting from tax cuts.
Some tax cuts can reduce the deficit, but others will increase it. A general rule is , if it is really popular it probably increases the deficit.
And then you have Obama refusing to, and we have the worst stagflation I’ve seen.
Seems rather clear to me...
They do have rights. I don’t think there is a “right” to financial gain though, which is probably what this is about.
Cutting spending is the only option, that and making the 48% of the public (lower incomes) that pay no income taxes pay some so they understand what it is like.
But those things are unpopular. That is why no Republican is running on them, or at least few are. So I am skeptical they will do it. Where I live they wont even support tax cuts on themselves it's so bad.
I don’t believe in redistribution of wealth, so we’re on target there. The earned income credit is just stealing from one person to pay another.