BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg must still be learning the finer points of crisis relations — here’s his explanation (before the White House press corps) of why President Obama is so frustrated with his company:

[He’s] frustrated because he cares about the small people. And we care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care. But that is not the case indeed. We care about the small people.”

Sir, you are an idiot. How out of touch does an executive have to be to let something like this slip out in public? These BP guys are endlessly, morbidly fascinating.

In other news, BP executives were summoned to the White House Wednesday for a walk of shame/negotiation session with the president. The company agreed to halt dividends to its shareholders and set up a $20 billion escrow fund to pay for containment, cleanup costs, and damage claims. The Times has the details:

The terms of the agreement would give BP several years to deposit the full amount into the fund so it could better manage its cash flow, maintain its financial viability and not scare off investors. The company would put up some of its United States assets as collateral to assure that it will deliver all the promised funds.

… Fearful that the spill could ultimately cost BP tens of billions of dollars, investors have driven the company’s market valuation down by 48 percent since the spill began, erasing $91 billion of shareholder value. Mr. Obama has said all along that BP will pay for everything. People close to BP said that as asset-rich as the global oil giant is, its holdings are not so liquid that it could instantly set aside as many billions of dollars as the White House and leaders in Congress are seeking.

The agreement doesn’t shield BP from legal liability, so thousands of “small people” who are out of work thanks to the mess can still try to sue the pants off the company.

Here’s the video: