BP execs express frustration after one-on-one with president

After a White House meeting with BP executives that lasted significantly longer than the twenty minutes initially allotted, President Obama announced that BP had agreed to establish a $20 billion escrow account to pay for claims resulting from the spill at its Deepwater Horizon rig.

The announcement that the fund will be managed by Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who handled claims in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, reflects the president’s wish — outlined in last night’s Oval Office address — that the claims administration be handled by a third party. President Obama made a statement to the press outside the White House following the meeting to announce Feinberg’s selection:

We have mutually agreed that Ken Feinberg will run the independent claims process we are putting in place, and there will be a three-person panel to adjudicate claims that are turned down. Every effort will be made to expedite claims. Ken has long experience in such matters, including running the fund that compensated victims of 9/11. And I am confident he will ensure that claims are administered as quickly, fairly, and transparently as possible.

At a separate press conference after the meeting, BP Chairman Carl Henric Svanberg summed up the company’s frustration with the damage caused in the Gulf:

And we care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are really companies that don’t care, but that is not the case in BP, we care about the small people

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama met on his own turf with top BP officials on Wednesday to press his demands that the London-based oil giant pay into a claims fund for victims of the worst oil spill in the nation’s history.

BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, CEO Tony Hayward, and other officials walked slowly as a group from the Southwest Gate of the White House, where they were dropped off, and climbed the steps leading to the West Wing.

The meeting comes the morning after Obama vowed to an angry nation that “we will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused.” BP is the majority owner of the deep water well that blew out on April 20, killing 11 rig workers and triggering the spill.

It was Obama’s first meeting with BP officials since the spill. While Hayward has served as the voice of the company, the White House has been emphasizing the role of the company’s chairman, Svanberg, instead.

Obama in his speech to the nation from the Oval Office backed creation of a fund administered by an independent trustee to pay damages and clean up costs associated with the spill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats have suggested the fund be established with $20 billion from BP.

In his Oval Office address, Obama described the battle against the spill in combat terms, calling it o – a “siege” on the shores of America.

Joining the president at the meeting were Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and the secretaries of energy, interior, commerce, homeland security and labor.

For the president, the tough diplomacy with a few officials behind closed doors is a bookend to his attempt to reach millions at once. Using a delivery in which even the harshest words were uttered in subdued tones, Obama did not offer much in the way of new ideas or details in his speech to the nation Tuesday night. Instead, he mainly recapped the government’s efforts, insisted once again that BP will be held to account and tried to tap the resilience of a nation in promising that “something better awaits.”