BP Agrees To Plead Guilty And Record Criminal Fine, 3 Individuals Face Indictment In Deepwater Horizon Case

Posted On Saturday, November 17, 2012
By: Leslie A. Mariotti

Oil giant BP has accepted criminal responsibility for the largest offshore oil spill in the nation’s history. On November 15, 2012, BP agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges and to pay a record $4.5 billion in fines and other payments. The settlement comes over two years after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed 11 workers and caused a massive oil spill.

The 14-count Information, filed by the Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, charges BP with 11 counts of felony manslaughter related to the workers’ deaths, one count of felony obstruction for misleading Congress about the rate at which oil was spilling from the well, and violations of the Clean Water and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts.  BP agreed to plead guilty to all 14 charges. BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley said in a statement: “We apologize for our role in the accident. As today’s resolution with the U.S. government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions.”

As part of its guilty plea, BP agreed to pay $4 billion in criminal fines and penalties including a $1.26 billion criminal fine, the largest single criminal penalty in U.S. history, $2.39 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for cleanup initiatives, and $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences.   BP also reached a $525 million agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle civil charges that it misled investors about the flow rate of oil from the well.

In addition to resolving the charges against BP, the government indicted three individual BP employees.  The two Well Site Leaders stationed on the Deepwater Horizon were charged with 23 criminal counts including manslaughter. Additionally, BP’s former vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico was charged with obstruction of Congress and making false statements to Congress regarding the rate at which oil was spilling from the well.

According to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the settlement is “unprecedented, both with regard to the amounts of money, the fact that a company has been criminally charged and that individuals have been criminally charged as well.”

The settlement comes on the heels of a massive, and on-going, clean-up effort by BP. To date, BP has paid $14 billion for direct cleanup efforts, $1 billion for early restoration projects, and more than $9 billion on civil payouts to individuals, businesses and government bodies. Another $7.8 billion settlement to resolve private plaintiffs’ claims for economic loss and property damage is pending approval. 

Despite the settlement and indictments, Holder insisted that the criminal investigation “remains ongoing – and we’ll continue to follow all credible leads and pursue any charges that are warranted.”  Moreover, the settlement does not resolve civil litigation brought by the federal government and U.S. coastal states under the Clean Water Act.  If found to have behaved in a “grossly negligent” manner, BP could be held liable for as much as $21 billion under the Clean Water Act.  A federal civil trial is scheduled to being in February 2013.

The complete Information can be found here.

The complete Guilty Plea can be found here.