PRESSURE on BP mounted last night as the US attorney general said he would launch a criminal and a civil investigation into its massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Eric Holder said the federal agencies, including the FBI, would participate in the probe and warned: “If we find evidence of illegal behaviour, we will be forceful in our response.”
The investigation came as BP’s shares suffered their worst one-day fall for 18 years yesterday, hit by news that the oil giant’s latest efforts to plug the leak over the weekend had failed.
BP’s shares closed 13 per cent lower at 430p yesterday. The shares have now lost 34 per cent of their value since the accident started, wiping £40bn off BP’s market capitalisation.
Analysts warned cleaning up the spill, still leaking up to 19,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf per day, could cost over $20bn (£13.6bn), which, together with the shares’ collapse left the company vulnerable to a possible takeover. BP said yesterday that the cost of its failed bids to stem the flow had risen to $990m as it launched new measures to cap the leaking oil using remotely operated vehicles.
Concerns that BP’s latest move could fail and make things worse persist as pressure from the US government on chief executive Tony Hayward continues to escalate.
One shareholder said: “The pressure on Hayward goes up with every step.”