British oil giant BP can easily afford to pay the $4.5 billion in oil-spill settlement costs announced Thursday, but analysts said a more difficult task may be rebuilding its reputation.
BP agreed to the fines and other payments to the federal government and others and pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts related to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers in April 2010. It also agreed to a misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act, a misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and a felony count of obstruction of Congress.
"The real fallout is not financial; the real fallout is trust," said James S. O'Rourke, a professor at the University of Notre Dame and an expert in business communications and reputation management.
"It will take some time for investors, employees, communities, business partners, regulators and others to answer a fairly direct question for themselves: Do we trust this management team to deliver on the promises they have made?" he said.
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