Oil giant BP faced the wrath of protesters inside and outside its annual meeting yesterday, with some of them even trying to storm the stage.
The gathering of shareholders in London came just days before the first anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.
Activists wearing T-shirts which spelled out “No Tar Sands” in protest against BP’s extraction of oil in Canada were dragged out as they tried to stage a demonstration during the meeting.
They got farther than fishermen from the US gulf coast who were denied entry amid claims their livelihoods had been destroyed by the giant slick from BP’s Macondo well caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig last April
Louisiana fisher Diane Wilson was arrested for breach of the peace after a protest in which she smeared herself in an oil-like substance as she tried to gain access to the meeting.
Inside, BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg tried to interrupt US activist and author Antonia Juhasz as she read a statement from the father of one of the 11 men who died when the Deepwater Horizon exploded.
BP chief executive Bob Dudley later read out the names of those killed, adding that nothing could be done to bring them back.
He said the accident had “shocked and saddened us all” and the company would do all it could to make sure there was no repeat.
Shareholders kept up the pressure on BP’s board with a sizeable protest vote over pay deals for the company’s top bosses. More than 11% of proxy votes cast by shareholders rejected the firm’s remuneration report.
Payouts deemed “wholly unacceptable” by a lobby group included annual bonuses of £380,000 for chief financial officer Byron Grote and £310,000 for Iain Conn, its chief executive of refining and marketing.
Tony Hayward, who presided over the company at the height of the crisis, did not receive an annual bonus for 2010, but he and former head of exploration Andy Inglis could potentially earn up to £8million and £6million respectively from vested performance shares.
About 25% of shareholder votes opposed the re-election of senior independent director Sir William Castell, who oversaw the appointments of Mr Svanberg and Mr Hayward.
BP’s bosses also faced angry questions from indigenous communities from Canada who criticised the company’s involvement in tarsand extraction in their territories, saying it was damaging their traditional way of life, environment and health.
The board was also challenged over the delayed £10billion share-swap and exploration deal with Russian state-owned Rosneft.
The UK supermajor offered to buy out its Russian partners in joint venture TNK-BP as it fought to push through the troubled tie-up proposal.
Mr Dudley said that his company and Rosneft had put in a joint offer for TNK-BP after its Russian oligarch shareholders objected to the deal.
TNK-BP’s shareholders, whose concerns over the agreement triggered a tribunal-imposed injunction, rejected the bid.
GMB union members staged a noisy protest outside the AGM over a dispute at a BP-owned biofuel site near Hull, where hundreds of workers say they have been locked out of the contract to build a new plant after the project fell behind schedule.