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With record criminal settlement reached over Gulf disaster, what lies ahead for BP and its victims?

November 19, 2012 at 8:40 am by: seeta Category: Civil Rights, Consumer Rights, Eco-Justice

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From Southern Studies:

BP will pay DOJ $4 billion over a period of five years, and $525 million to the SEC over three years to resolve claims related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 workers and injured 17 others. The payments include a $1.26 billion criminal fine, the biggest in U.S. history for the worst oil spill in industry history.

As part of the record criminal settlement, which still requires federal court approval, BP has agreed to plead guilty to:

* 11 felony counts related to the 11 worker deaths;
* one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act;
* one misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Act, and
* one felony count of obstruction of Congress related to misleading communications about the size of the spill.

The company will serve five years of probation. Meanwhile, some BP managers are facing separate criminal charges. A grand jury indictment handed up this week charged site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine with 22 counts of manslaughter for failing to shut down the Macondo well after tests showed it was in danger of failure, and for criminal violation of the Clean Water Act. David Rainey, BP’s former vice president of Gulf exploration, was also charged with obstruction for giving Congress misleading estimates of the spill’s magnitude. The criminal investigation is ongoing.

While the record-setting size of the settlement got a lot of attention, not everyone was impressed. The public-interest watchdog group Public Citizen noted that the fines represent a small portion of the company’s annual profits, which totaled $40 billion last year.

Despite its admission of criminal guilt for the disaster, BP said it intends to “vigorously defend” itself against remaining civil claims. Those include claims under the Clean Water Act, which could range anywhere from $3.5 billion to as high as $20 billion if the company is found guilty of gross negligence. In addition to the $9 billion in compensation to individuals and businesses the company has already paid out, a pending settlement of a class-action lawsuit is expected to cost the company another $7.8 billion.

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