BP Takes Guilty Plea

BP Exploration and Production Inc. pleaded guilty today to 14 criminal  counts for its illegal conduct leading to and after the 2010 Deepwater  Horizon disaster, and was sentenced to pay $4 billion in criminal fines  and penalties, the largest criminal resolution in U.S. history, Attorney  General Holder announced today.

“Today’s guilty plea and sentencing represent a significant step forward  in the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts to seek justice on behalf  of those affected by one of the worst environmental disasters in  American history,” said Attorney General Holder.  “I’m pleased to note  that more than half of this landmark resolution – which totals $4  billion in penalties and fines, and represents the single largest  criminal resolution ever – will help to provide direct support to Gulf  Coast residents as communities throughout the region continue to recover  and rebuild.”

“The Deepwater Horizon explosion was a national tragedy that resulted in  the senseless deaths of 11 people and immense environmental damage,”  said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice  Department’s Criminal Division.  “Through the tenacious work of the Task  Force, BP has received just punishment for its crimes leading up to and  following the explosion.  The Justice Department will keep a watchful  eye on BP’s compliance with the plea agreement’s terms, including the  requirements of full cooperation with the department’s ongoing criminal  investigation, implementation of enhanced safety protocols and adherence  to the recommendations of two newly installed monitors.  Should BP fail  to comply, we will act swiftly and firmly.”

BP’s guilty plea was accepted, and the sentence was imposed, by U.S.  District Judge Sarah S. Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana.   During the guilty plea and sentencing proceeding, Judge Vance found,  among other things, that the consequential fines imposed under the plea  agreement far exceed any imposed in U.S. history, and are structured so  that BP will feel the full brunt of the penalties.  She also noted that  the agreement provides just punishment and significant deterrence,  requiring detailed drilling safeguards, monitors and other stringent,  special conditions of probation so that BP’s future conduct will be  closely watched.

BP pleaded guilty to each count charged in an information filed in U.S.  District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, including 11 counts  of felony manslaughter, one count of felony obstruction of Congress and  violations of the Clean Water and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts.  In its  guilty plea today, BP admitted that, on April 20, 2010, the two  highest-ranking BP supervisors onboard the Deepwater Horizon, known as  BP’s “Well Site Leaders” or “company men,” negligently caused the deaths  of 11 men and the resulting oil spill.  The company also admitted that  on that evening, the two well site leaders observed clear indications  that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing  into the well, but chose not to take obvious and appropriate steps to  prevent the blowout.  Additionally, BP admitted that as a result of the  Well Site Leaders’ conduct, control of the Macondo well was lost,  resulting in catastrophe.

BP also admitted during its guilty plea that the company, through a  senior executive, obstructed an inquiry by the U.S. Congress into the  amount of oil being discharged into the Gulf while the spill was  ongoing.  BP also admitted that the senior executive withheld documents,  provided false and misleading information in response to the U.S. House  of Representatives’ request for flow-rate information, manipulated  internal estimates to understate the amount of oil flowing from the well  and withheld data that contradicted BP’s public estimate of 5,000  barrels of oil per day.  At the same time that the senior executive was  preparing his manipulated estimates, BP admitted, the company’s internal  engineering response teams were using sophisticated methods that  generated significantly higher estimates.  The Flow Rate Technical  Group, consisting of government and independent scientists, later  concluded that more than 60,000 barrels per day were leaking into the  Gulf during the relevant time, contrary to BP’s representations to  Congress.

According to the sentence imposed by Judge Vance pursuant to the plea  agreement, more than $2 billion dollars will directly benefit the Gulf  region.  By order of the court, approximately $2.4 billion of the $4.0  billion criminal recovery is dedicated to acquiring, restoring,  preserving and conserving – in consultation with appropriate state and  other resource managers – the marine and coastal environments,  ecosystems and bird and wildlife habitat in the Gulf of Mexico and  bordering states harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  This  portion of the criminal recovery is also to be directed to significant  barrier island restoration and/or river diversion off the coast of  Louisiana to further benefit and improve coastal wetlands affected by  the oil spill.  An additional $350 million will be used to fund improved  oil spill prevention and response efforts in the Gulf through research,  development, education and training.

BP was also sentenced to five years of probation – the maximum term of  probation permitted under law.  The company is also required, according  to the order entered by the court pursuant to the plea agreement, to  retain a process safety and risk management monitor and an independent  auditor, who will oversee BP’s process safety, risk management and  drilling equipment maintenance with respect to deepwater drilling in the  Gulf of Mexico.  BP is also required to retain an ethics monitor to  improve its code of conduct to ensure BP’s future candor with the U.S.  government.

The charges and allegations pending against individuals in related cases  are merely accusations, and those individuals are considered innocent  unless and until proven guilty.

The guilty plea and sentence announced today are part of the ongoing  criminal investigation by the Deepwater Horizon Task Force into matters  related to the April 2010 Gulf oil spill.  The Deepwater Horizon Task  Force, based in New Orleans, is supervised by Assistant Attorney General  Breuer and led by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John D. Buretta,  who serves as the director of the task force.  The task force includes  prosecutors from the Criminal Division and Environment and Natural  Resources Division of the Department of Justice; the U.S. Attorney’s  Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, as well as other U.S.  Attorneys’ Offices; and investigating agents from: the FBI;  Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigative Division;  Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General; Department  of Interior, Office of Inspector General; National Oceanic and  Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement; U.S. Coast Guard;  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and the Louisiana Department of  Environmental Quality.

This case was prosecuted by Deepwater Horizon Task Force Director John  D. Buretta, Deputy Directors Derek A. Cohen and Avi Gesser, and task  force prosecutors Richard R. Pickens II, Scott M. Cullen, Colin Black,  and Rohan Virginkar.