Once the accident happened, BP controlled the information it released concerning the disaster. BP unilaterally decided not to inform the general public, or allow independent scientists to see the raw data or take independent measurements. In the initial stages of the disaster—before it had become a political maelstorm—the decisions and course of action in dealing with the oil spill were determined solely by BP, while the general public and the U.S. government were pretty much left in the dark. This is akin to someone whose apartment has caught fire, but who decides to put out the fire himself with his own garden-hose, and refuses to either inform the other tenants of the building of the extent of the fire, or allow the authorities to provide assistance or supervision.
Parenthetically, regarding BP’s share price:
Between April 20, the date of the disaster, and May 12, the release of the video feed of the broken pipe which we all know so well, the price of BP shares (NYSE) slid in a very slow, very controlled manner, from 60 to 48.5—that is, just shy of 20% in three weeks. The volume of shares spiked to 157 million on May 3 (share price 50), following a run-up in volume on the previous three trading days; before that, volume had fluctuated between 5 and 10 million shares a day. Then, after the release of the live video feed on May 12, which only happened after severe congressional pressure, the stock plummeted to 29 by June 9—an additional 40% in four weeks, on volume roughly averaging 25 million shares per day, with spikes recently as high as 200 million shares.
In London’s FTSE, the initial spike in share volume was slightly earlier—April 30, there were 165 million shares traded at 576 pc. To compare, on April 21, the share price was 651 pc, on volume of 23 million shares; before the disaster, volume was between 15 and 30 million shares daily.
Without question, senior BP execs and the mutual funds with large BP positions would have known the true extent of the disaster almost immediately after the Deepwater Horizon went down. Presumably, while the true extent of the disaster was withheld from the general public, these corporate players would have had time to get out of BP stock. This is a reasonable inference—or else why keep the video feed under wraps for close to a month? Why prohibit independent scientists from measuring the flow-rate of the leak?