London Scuffles between protesters and security guards marred BP’s first annual shareholder meeting since the Gulf oil spill Thursday, as investors registered their disapproval with sizable protest votes against company directors.
Five Gulf Coast residents who had planned to tell investors about the loss of their livelihoods and health problems after the spill were denied access to the meeting, prompting confrontations with police and security guards outside the building.
Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation fisherwoman from Seadrift, Texas, was arrested after evading security to enter the foyer of the building, where she covered herself in a dark syrup to represent oil.
“I’ve come all the way here from the Gulf Coast,” Wilson said. “My community is gone, and they won’t let me in.”
Police later said a 62-year-old woman was arrested for breaching the peace.
Inside the venue, hundreds of BP PLC investors who have watched the company lose a quarter of its market value — about $55 billion — over the past year and lost their dividend payments questioned board members about excessive executive pay packets and a lack of transparency on safety improvements.
Preliminary voting results released by the company showed significant disgruntlement among shareholders.
Around 25 percent of investors who voted before the meeting, representing 60 percent of shares, voted against the re-election of the head of BP’s safety committee, William Castell.
About 7 percent voted against the re-election of chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, who has been criticized for his soft response to the spill, and just over 11 percent voted against the company’s remuneration report because of bonuses awarded to Iain Conn, BP’s head of refining, and Chief Financial Officer Byron Grote for work not related to the oil spill.
Former CEO Tony Hayward also grabbed headlines with a $17.9 million pension, $1.6 million payoff and about $13 million in share options despite a series of public gaffes that led to his ceding the CEO post to Bob Dudley, the first American to head the London-based company.