Schumer: BP 'finally got the message' on dividend payments

BP "finally got the message" about its business practices by suspending its dividend payouts, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday.

Schumer, who led the Senate fight to persuade BP not to pay shareholder dividends while the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is continuing, said Wednesday the petroleum company "finally got the message" with its afternoon announcement that 2010 dividends have been canceled.

Schumer said the announcement, made by BP after a White House meeting with President Barack Obama, said that decision as well as the company's pledge to create a $20 billion escrow account shows the company has at last heeded "the handwriting on the wall" in terms of public pressure. Schumer appeared with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) at a Senate press conference to applaud the announcements.

"BP has finally gotten the message. It's taken a long time, but it finally looks like their ears are opening up to what America is asking for," Schumer said. "Throughout all of this, BP had appeared more concerned with paying dividends to their shareholders and less concerned with the destruction of this oil spill and what it's done to the Gulf. Now we can have some faith that BP will be required to do what's right. This has been a good day for the residents of the Gulf Coast, for the American people and a good day for President Obama."

Begich said he spoke earlier Wednesday with Transocean, the company that owned the rig that BP leased for the drilling project that went catastrophically awry April 20. The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and touched off what has become the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Begich said he tried to impress upon the company to follow BP's example with its announcements Wednesday.

Schumer said he is not concerned that BP could slip into bankruptcy as the cleanup costs mount, noting that the company earned $7 billion in profits in the most recent financial quarter.

"They're a very wealthy company," Schumer said. "Even the highest estimates of damage costs don't come close to bringing them under. But remember this, before we shed lots of tears for BP... BP wasn't as careful as it could have been. No one wants BP to go under, but no one wants them to escape its full responsibility."