So, on BP, let’s assume that it gets so busted by compo claims that its entire US business gets liquidated and sold to Exxon (as seems to be the current, insane narrative: “we’ll pretend BP are evil rather than the same as everyone else, so we don’t have to stop the drilling and the oil greed…”. I don’t think it’s an anti-British thing, by the way – I’m sure that if Exxon had been the unlucky chaps, they’d've got the whole take-one-for-the-team treatment.)
At that point, the American liabilities are ringfenced, and BP can continue to do as it does in the North Sea, Asia and Africa, bringing quantities of money that are undeniably copious, albeit less large than its shareholders pre-spill might have hoped.
At that point, British and Chinese BP shareholders are perfectly safe in their holding of the company. But what happens to American shareholders? Is there a mechanism by which the US government could appropriate US-held BP shares, and is it an ‘unprecedented, practically war’ thing or a ‘yeah, we do this’ thing if so?
…which brings the technical question: is there any divergence between movements in BP shares on the LSE, and BP shares on the NYSE? That would be an interesting indicator, if so…