Great Expectations for New BP CEO


It appears the United States still has some pretty serious juice when it comes to how BP will run its operations moving forward. That influence and power has manifested itself in the selection of American, Robert Dudley, to replace the hapless Brit Tony Hayward as BP CEO. We can only hope Mr. Dudley will handle the job more openly, with more of a sense of urgency and more of an eye toward helping the victims of this unprecedented disaster.

So why pick an American to lead the British company? Perhaps, nothing more than stroking the hand that feeds you. Americans account for roughly 40 percent of BP’s shareholders. And approximately a third of the oil giant’s interests are in the United States, including oil and gas wells and refineries. And let’s not forget that the mess BP has made has devastated the lives of thousands upon thousands of Americans for years to come.

In the coming days and weeks, we will see how Mr. Dudley does as the new corporate point man. He’s got an incredibly tough road ahead as he deals with a raft of difficult challenges, from how to best compensate victims to how to handle investigations and possible criminal charges to how to navigate new regulations.

The bar has been set laughably low by Mr. Hayward, but Americans have extremely high expectations for his replacement. A good place for Mr. Dudley to start would be to establish a new policy of openness and transparency. He should talk to the American people directly and candidly about the cleanup, the claims process and a host of other important topics. That new and refreshing approach will go a long way toward repairing the damage done by his predecessor in alienating pretty much everybody involved in this disaster…state officials, federal officials, environmental groups, and of course, victims. Mr. Dudley should have a leg up over Hayward in relating to victims since he grew up in Mississippi and spent time fishing and swimming in the Gulf.

We are all hoping to see a sea change coming out of BP with Mr. Dudley at the helm. He has a great opportunity to get things back on track…or he could simply become a puppet to the corporate lords. Only time will tell.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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