WASHINGTON, November 15 (RIA Novosti) – British multinational oil giant BP has accepted criminal liability for its disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago and will pay the largest criminal penalty in US history totaling billions of dollars, US media reported Thursday citing unnamed sources close to the case.
Two BP employees also face manslaughter charges over the deaths of 11 people in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that resulted in the spill and BP will plead guilty to lying to Congress about the dimensions of the spill, reports in major US broadcast and online media stated.
Announcement of the settlement with BP was expected to be made by US Attorney General Eric Holder at a news conference later Thursday, the CBS broadcast television network said. BP shares rose in London as news of the possible settlement broke.
The largest corporate criminal penalty previously imposed by the US Justice Department was the $1.2 billion fine on drugmaker Pfizer in 2009. The New York Times, quoting an unnamed law enforcement official, said the BP fine was “reported to be in the billions of dollars.”
In a statement, BP said it was in “advanced” discussion with the Justice Department and the stock market regulatory Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on a resolution of all US government and SEC criminal claims against the British oil company.
Even if BP agrees to a settlement of the criminal claims against it, the company would still be liable to federal civil claims and claims for damage to natural resources. The New York Times cited one broker saying fines under the US Clean Water Act could go as high as $21 billion.
The 2010 rig explosion resulted in millions of barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, contaminating hundreds of square miles of water, leading to widespread death and destruction of wildlife in the gulf and along the coast and damaging many businesses.
It took almost three months to cap the well after the explosion and halt the flow of oil into the Gulf.