BP also agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act; one misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; and one felony count of obstruction of Congress.
The last of those was for lying to Congress. Rainey allegedly said that BP’s out-of-control Macondo well was leaking at a rate of 5,000 barrels a day when he had an e-mail from one of BP’s own experts contradicting that. Later it became clear that the well was leaking at more than 10 times the rate Rainey gave lawmakers. Rainey also concealed his own higher estimates, derived from calculating methods he found by surfing the Internet, the indictment said.
A source says oil giant BP has agreed to pay the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history, totaling billions of dollars, for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
While the technology required to drill — and cap — an oil well in deep water can be mind-boggling, cleaning up the spill required mostly tedious manual labor.
“David Rainey is a man of high integrity and moral character who has done absolutely nothing wrong,” said Brian Heberlig, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson, in a statement. “We are profoundly disappointed that the Department of Justice is attempting to turn a tragic accident and its tumultuous aftermath into criminal activity. We are even more disappointed that BP has succumbed to the pressure and agreed to this extortionate settlement.”
“All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf coast region,” Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, said in a statement before Holder’s announcement. “We apologize for our role in the accident, and as today’s resolution with the U.S. government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions.”
“We believe this resolution is in the best interest of BP and its shareholders,” Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP’s chairman, said in the statement. “It removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims.”
BP said in a news release its criminal plea would not undercut efforts to contain the size of civil claims. It said 13 of the 14 criminal charges “are based on the negligent misinterpretation of the negative pressure test conducted on board the Deepwater Horizon.” BP said that it “acknowledged this misinterpretation more than two years ago” and insisted that the agreement “is consistent with BP’s position in the ongoing civil litigation that this was an accident resulting from multiple causes, involving multiple parties, as found by other official investigations.”
“It’s obviously not cheap,” said Pavel Molchanov, an oil analyst at the investment firm Raymond James. But, he said, “it’s a positive step” from an investor’s point of view. “By eliminating the criminal overhang, the inference is that BP can afford to be more aggressive in dealing with the civil claims,” he said. “They no longer have to fear the criminal stick.”
BP’s stock closed at $40.30 a share, up 0.35 percent. The company’s market capitalization is $128 billion.
BP’s $4 billion settlement is composed of $1.256 billion in criminal fines, $2.394 billion to be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $350 million to be paid to the National Academy of Sciences.