“We care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies who don’t care, but that is not the case with BP, we care about the small people,” Svanberg said.
The comments were cited all over the US media on Wednesday as indication of a patronizing attitude towards all of the small business owners and fisherman that have been affected by the Mexican Gulf oil spill.
BP was later keen to stress that English was not Carl-Henric Svanberg’s first language and that the true meaning of his choice of words had been lost in the translation. The Swede later apologised for the use of the phrase which he conceded was clumsy.
Svanberg and BP executives met with President Barack Obama on Wednesday to discuss the environmental catastrophe that has now continued for almost two months.
The firm’s main message from the meeting was one of regret for the accident and the handling of the spill and BP announced an agreement to set up a $20 billion fund to compensate those affected over the next four years.
The firm furthermore announced that it is withholding shareholder dividends in order to help finance the fund.
BP’s CEO Tony Hayward, who has become known for a few language slips of his own in recent weeks, is meanwhile set to face a US Congress committee on Thursday to account for BP’s actions over the spill.
The ruptured well is currently capped with a system pumping the oil into a ship on the surface of the ocean. The system was back in service on Wednesday afternoon following a five hour shut down after the vessel was struck by lightning, the firm reports.