President Obama for the first time will address the nation about the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday night and outline his plans to legally force BP executives to create an escrow account reserving billions of dollars to compensate businesses and individuals if the company does not do so on its own, a senior administration official said on Sunday.
Mr. Gibbs did not elaborate on the legal basis for such a move but said that White House lawyers have been researching the matter for days. The president is seizing the initiative after reports on Friday from London that BP would voluntarily establish an escrow account — either for compensating victims or for delaying a planned dividend for BP shareholders — turned out to be less certain than the White House initially thought.
The escrow account that the White House envisions would be roughly modeled after the fund established for victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and it would be administered by a third party to provide greater independence and transparency and to guard against the company too narrowly defining who is entitled to payments and how much.
“We want to make sure that money is escrowed for the legitimate claims that are going to be, and are being made, by businesses down in the Gulf — people who’ve been damaged by this,” said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior White House strategist, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” television news program on Sunday. “And we want to make sure that that money is independently administered so that [they] won’t be slow-walked on these claims.”
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