James Moore: Why BP is relieved at being £3bn lighter

  • @TheIndyBusiness

Outlook The reaction of the stock market to BP's admission of what amounts to corporate manslaughter while agreeing to pay nearly £3bn in penalties is instructive. Shares in the oil giant barely blinked. They finished down just 0.35p.

What the enormous settlement should do is get the United States Department of Justice off the company's back. It is impossible to say the DoJ takes no prisoners because it has secured lots of them. If it's the monkey on your back, you're dealing with a silverback gorilla.

The majority of shareholders in this "British" oil company (copyright USA Today) are Americans, who are well aware of this. It's also run by one, so it's no wonder the reaction to this enormous penalty was much sighing of relief.

Even though this isn't over – there are still civil claims outstanding and other regulatory agencies sniffing around – the deal struck yesterday has got to be worth it for a company that still hasn't cleaned the dirty oil from its reputation. Even if it comes at the price of the liberty of a couple of scapegoats.

Did I say scapegoats? Maybe I'm jumping the gun, but there have been two arrests of individuals to accompany the charges.

I'm not for an instant seeking to defend anyone found to have behaved negligently. Eleven people lost their lives, and the environmental damage wreaked by the Deepwater Horizon spill was disgusting.

But it strikes me that if individuals were at fault, so was a corporate culture that prioritised presenting fancy-looking cost cuts to the City at the expense of safety. The responsibility for that was high up within the BP's corporate headquarters.