BP Plc will pay $4.5 billion in penalties and plead guilty to criminal misconduct in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which caused the worst U.S. offshore oil spill ever.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the deal a critical step forward but was adamant that it did not end the criminal investigation of the 2010 spill.
The settlement announced on Thursday includes a $1.256 billion criminal fine, the largest such levy in U.S. history. It was not, however, the global settlement some had hoped for, which would have also resolved the considerable federal civil claims against the company at the same time.
BP lied to me. They lied to the people of the Gulf. And they lied to their shareholders, and they lied to all Americans, said Representative Ed Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee who led investigations at the time of the spill.
The government also indicted the two highest-ranking BP supervisors aboard the Deepwater Horizon during the disaster, charging them with 23 criminal counts including manslaughter. One man's lawyer said his client was being turned into a scapegoat for the disaster.
The April 2010 explosion on the rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers. The mile-deep (1.6 km) Macondo oil well then spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over 87 days, fouling shorelines from Texas to Florida and eclipsing in severity the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
The company said it would plead guilty to 11 felony counts related to the workers' deaths, a felony related to obstruction of Congress and two misdemeanors. It also faces five years' probation and the imposition of two monitors who will oversee its safety and ethics for the next four years.
Wall Street analysts said the deal will allow BP to focus again on oil production, while one U.S. senator from Louisiana said he hoped the settlement would not prevent his state and others from collecting civil penalties.
Investors shrugged off the news, and BP shares listed in New York and London were little changed on the day.
It certainly is an encouraging step, said Pavel Molchanov, oil company analyst with Raymond James. By eliminating the overhang of the criminal litigation, it is another step in clearing up BP's legal framework as it relates to Macondo.
The disaster has dragged BP from second to a distant fourth in the ranking of top Western oil companies by value.
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