The $20 billion fund

June 16, 2010 1:21:36 PM PDT
As if the oil spill itself wasn't mindboggling enough, now comes the attempt at putting dollar figures on the catastrophe.

Where to begin? BP, the giant oil company responsible for the explosion and disaster, has already spent $1 billion on the clean-up.

Now, after a meeting at the White House between President Obama and execs of BP, the British-based corporation has agreed to set up a $20 billion fund to pay claims connected to the oil spill. This escrow account - which won't be capped at $20 billion, the President was quick to say - will be run by Ken Feinberg, the mediator who was in charge of the Sept. 11 victims compensation fund. Now to the mindboggling numbers. The $20 billion is a pittance compared to BP's profits over the years: $156 billion in the past 10 years, and $59.2 billion in the past three years.

And it won't be paid in all at once - in fact, it's going to be at least three years before it's fully funded.

Clearly, this is not a company with a troubled past, financially, although it might certainly be one in the future.

BP's Chairman is now apologizing to the American people, and saying that the company will not pay any dividends this year - no insignificant event because BP represents a large percentage of the dividends paid by London's biggest corporations. Our Kemberly Richardson is in the Gulf region for us, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, our Consumer Reports story looks at the myths versus reality of outlet malls. Can you really get better deals? And is the quality of the merchandise the same as you can get at a retail store?

And finally, how cool is it to work for Oprah Winfrey? Consider this: The retiring talk show host dropped into her "O" magazine headquarters yesterday and gave every staffer - on the mag's 10th anniversary - an Apple iPad, a leather iPad case with the worker's initials, and a check for $10,000. I'm just sayin'.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports.

I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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