Rep. Melancon calls on BP to suspend bonuses, use those funds to help Gulf families.

Melancon2 After coming under pressure from the White House, BP agreed last week to forgo paying billions in dividends to investors for the rest of the year, freeing up cash to make initial payments into a $20 billion escrow fund that will help compensate those affected by the company’s oil spill. Now, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA) is calling on BP to indefinitely suspend giving bonuses to its top execs, and to use the money that would have gone to them to assist Gulf residents instead. Melancon sent a letter today to BP Chairman Carl-Henrik Svanberg noting that the $3 million bonus that CEO Tony Hayward received last year would cover the salaries of 50 people who are out of work due the disaster:

I find it inexcusable for top BP executives to claim seven-figure bonuses while Louisianians suffer as a result of your company’s drilling disaster in the Gulf. In light of the persistent failures of BP’s top management, I am calling for all future bonuses to BP’s top executives to be suspended indefinitely.

These bonuses would be better applied toward meeting the company’s obligations to the thousands of Louisianians whose lives have been destroyed as a result of this disaster.

Executives who preside over a corporate culture that promotes cutting corners over safety, mislead the public, and stonewall Congress in their testimony do not deserve performance bonuses by any standard or measure. Suspending bonuses for top-ranking executives represents, in my view, a small first step in the long process of restoring some semblance of trust between the people of Louisiana and BP.

Svanberg was scorned earlier this month after saying BP “care[s] about the small people.” Cutting bonuses at his “big and important” company would be a way for Svanberg to put his words into action.