BP to Plead Guilty, Accept Criminal Charges for Gulf Oil Spill

Over two years after the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 oil rig workers, and sent 4.9 million barrels of toxic crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, it seems that BP is finally ready to face the music. Reuters reports that BP is ready to plead guilty in exchange for a waiver of future prosecution on the charges. The London-based company has been in talks with the Justice Department and U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, and multiple anonymous sources say a plea deal may be announced as soon as Thursday.

First things first, let’s heave a huge sigh of relief that BP will not be able to avoid criminal charges. They will go down in history as the company ultimately responsible for this tragedy, the full consequences of which we may never know. According to the sources cited by Reuters, a guilty plea will likely force BP to pay record breaking fines. As of right now, the largest criminal penalty in the U.S. is held by Pfizer Inc, which paid a $1.3 billion fine in 2009 for a marketing fraud.

But if you think that this guilty plea will mean justice has been served, you’re wrong. A billion dollars is a drop in the bucket to BP. The company enjoyed $24 billion in profits last year alone. Rest assured, BP wants this plea deal to go through. Unlike an individual, BP can’t be sent to jail for its crimes. It can’t be forced to look its thousands of victims in the eye. Millions if we include the marine, bird and animal species decimated by the oil spill. Most importantly, BP wants this deal to go through because it exonerates it from further responsibility. If, next year, we discover some massive, unpredictable consequence of the oil spill, BP would be completely immune from any further criminal penalties.

Update [5:12 ET]BP has agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal counts and will pay $4.5 billion over five years in a settlement with the Justice Department. In addition, the company will pay $525 million over three years to settle claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which said the company concealed information from investors. U.S. Attorney General Eric 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. So it looks like a few BP execs will do some jail time, a surprising development.

The only good news is that settling on criminal charges won’t exempt BP from further penalties in a civil suit already filed by the U.S. Justice Department. In an August filing, the Justice Department said “reckless management” of the Macondo well “constituted gross negligence and willful misconduct” which it intended to prove at a civil trial set to begin in New Orleans in February 2013.

For the sake of the Gulf, the people who died, the thousands of families who lost their businesses or have become sick, and the countless animals who paid the price with their life, we can only hope that that trial will result in a similar guilty verdict.

Related Reading:

Gulf Oil Spill: 10 Horrifying Facts You Never Wanted To Know

Two Years After BP Oil Spill, RESTORE Act Becomes Law

A Legacy Of Lies: The BP Oil Spill Two Years Later

Image via Thinkstock


Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Theodore S.
Theodore Shayne5 years ago

I can only say that it should have been 4.5 Trillion and that would still not make restitution for the murdered environment or all the new respiratory illnesses or strange deaths occurring among the Gulf residents all the way to Florida.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N5 years ago

I SO owe Mary D. and some others Green Stars!

These companies are doing this all over the world, and the trend finally seems to be turning in favour of the world they've so far been damaging and destroying with few, if any repercussions.


People power vs Big Oil

Update: 16 November 2012
Our call, delivered in Parliament and on TV, helped win this round! Let's build our numbers for the full vote just around the corner -- Sign now.
Posted: 16 November 2012
In days, Nigeria's Parliament could approve a $5 billion fine against giant oil polluter Shell for a spill that devastated the lives of millions of people, and pass a law to hold all oil companies to account for polluting and plundering. This is a watershed moment, but unless we all speak out, oil giants will crush it.

Finally, Big Oil is having to pay for the wasteland and violence that they’ve created. President Jonathan supports the Shell fine, and progressive Senators are pushing for strong regulations, but oil companies are slick, and without huge international support MPs could buckle under the pressure.

Politicians are deciding their positions right now -- sign the urgent petition for the Nigerian Parliament to fine Shell and support the bill, and then forward this page to everyone -- when we hit a million signers we'll bring our unprecedented global call to the steps of Nigeria's Parliament.

Isabel Araujo
Isabel Araujo5 years ago

Thank you for the update.

Susan Allen
SusanAWAY Allen5 years ago

It's about time, but this should have happened a long time ago. I'm sure there was strategy in dragging this out for as long as possible. People have a habit of forgetting all too soon after a tragedy happens.

Marcia Shiel
M s5 years ago

Because of bp, countless animals died and many are coming up with cancers and toxins..probably suffering too There is irreparable damage Oh but wait now we are drilling in alaska and increasing drilling everywhere around US coasts lets not forget keystone What happens when that leaks or explodes And let's not forget utah They are destroying land and murdering animals for tar sands to make oil No lessons learned here ..just keep ruining our country until nothing left but death and disease

John B.
John B5 years ago

Thanks Beth for the article and the update. Should have been more $$$ but it's something and I was glad to know some people will spend some jail time.

Mary D.
Mary d5 years ago

And the oil-friendly GOP, particularly Congressman Barton, who in June 2010 apologized to BP for what he called a shakedown of which he said he was ashamed. As the GOP battle for further deregulation rages on, the Gulf today experienced yet another oil rig explosion with injuries, loss of life, and who knows how much damage to our waters and coast.

To me, the question is when can we rid ourselves of these representatives of corporate profits, and vote sane people in despite the Republican's redistricting that helped them maintain an iron grip on a do-nothing-for-our-country-and-its-people Congress?

Yvette T.
Past Member 5 years ago

Not much financially to clean up and make waters pristine for Earth Mother and LIFE again, but BP is to face upcoming trials, as well.