The British-based oil corporation, British Petroleum, plead guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in settlements Thursday.
“[BP] has reached agreement with the United States government, subject to court approval, to resolve all federal criminal charges and all claims by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against the company stemming from the Deepwater Horizon accident, oil spill, and response.”
In total, BP pled guilty to twelve felony counts and two misdemeanors. Of the felonies, eleven are manslaughter counts for the eleven employees who died in the initial explosion. The twelfth felony count, obstruction of Congress, is a result of BP’s attempt to distort reports of how much oil was being spilled into the Gulf. $525 million of the settlement went to the Securities and Exchange Commission as a result of BP’s fraudulent reports.
The prosecuting Department of Justice has also issued a statement contending that the settlement represented justice for the affected communities and families. Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer spoke at a conference this afternoon,
“Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that the deaths of the 11 men onboard the Deepwater Horizon could have been avoided. The explosion of the rig was a disaster that resulted from BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence…As BP now admits, in responding to Congress, the company lied and withheld documents in order to make it seem as though less damage was being done to the environment than was actually occurring.”
The Department of Justice has also indicted two senior BP supervisors who were onboard the rig, as well as an executive at the company, David Rainey. The charges include gross-negligence, manslaughter, violation of the Clean Water Act, and obstructing a congressional investigation. Additional facets of the settlement are to go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation ($2.4 billion) and the National Academy of Sciences. Both settlements are to be paid over five years.
The settlement does not mark an end to litigation surrounding the BP oil spill. BP plans to “vigorously defend” itself against the remaining claims have been announced, but the Department of Justice is determined to "continue its tireless pursuit of justice in this matter."
Breuer elaborated, “[We] promised that we would thoroughly investigate and hold to account those responsible for this horrible tragedy. Today, we have begun doing exactly that; and tomorrow, and in the months to come, the Deepwater Horizon Task Force will continue its tireless pursuit of justice in this matter.”
To date, BP claims it has spent $14 billion in clean-up costs, $9 billion of which has been given to individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies. Additionally third-party auditors will oversee a variety of safety operations concerning BP’s drilling operations in the Gulf for the next four years.