Supervisors of BP Face Manslaughter Charges; Company to Pay $4 Billion Over U.S. Gulf Oil Spill

4798BP has agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal counts, including manslaughter, and will pay $4 billion over five years in a settlement with the Justice Department over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the company and Justice Department announced Thursday.
In addition, the London-based oil giant will pay $525 million over three years to settle claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which said the company concealed information from investors.

"This marks both the single largest criminal fine - more than $1.25 billion - and the single largest total criminal resolution... in the history of the United States," Attorney General Eric Holder said during a news conference in New Orleans. "I hope this sends a clear message to those who would engage in this wanton misconduct that there will be a penalty paid."

Holder also announced a separate 23-count criminal indictment -- including charges of seaman's and involuntary manslaughter -- against the two top-ranking BP supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig where a blowout occurred April 20, 2010, sinking the rig and killing 11 workers.

Holder also announced an indictment against David Rainey, a BP vice president, for hiding information from Congress and lying to law enforcement officials about the rate at which oil was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

"Make no mistake: While the company is guilty, individuals committed these crimes," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, head of the criminal division. Of the two rig supervisors, Breuer said: "In the face of glaring red flags indicating that the well was not secure, both men allegedly failed to take appropriate action to prevent the blowout."

BP said it would increase its existing $38.1 billion charge against earnings for the spill by $3.85 billion.

The criminal settlement does not cover federal civil claims, including Clean Water Act claims, federal and state claims of damages to natural resources or private civil claims. Settling those would probably cost BP billions of dollars more, and the company said it is "prepared to vigorously defend itself against remaining civil claims."

But the settlement resolves a variety of criminal charges. BP agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of ships' officers relating to the loss of 11 lives on the drilling rig that caught fire and sank; one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act; one misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; and one felony count of obstruction of Congress. BP said that the last of those is related to misreporting to a member of Congress the rate at which oil was gushing into the gulf.

The settlement is subject to U.S. federal court approval.

Source: Washington Post | Steven Mufson
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