Federal Court Approves BP's Guilty Pleas, Agreement To Pay $4.5 Billion In Penalties

NEW ORLEANS - (Mealey's) A federal judge in Louisiana on Jan. 29 approved BP Exploration & Production Inc.'s offer to plead guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter and pay $4.5 billion in criminal penalties for its role in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010, and ensuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, sources told Mealey Publications (United States of America v. BP Exploration & Production Inc., No. 12-cr-292, E.D. La.).

U.S. Judge Sarah Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana approved the agreement after reviewing statements from relatives of workers who died when the Deepwater Horizon exploded following a blowout from the Macondo well and briefs from the oil company, according to published reports.

On Nov. 15, BP said it would plead guilty the manslaughter charges as well as one felony count of obstruction of Congress, one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act and one misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Of the $4.5 billion penalty, the company said $525 million would be used to resolve claims brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over oil flow estimates BP presented to the commission within the first 14 days of the incident in 2010. The amount will be paid incrementally over five years, BP explained.

Claims Remain

The penalty will not resolve any of the federal government's claims under the Clean Water Act, federal and state law claims on natural resource damages and civil claims pending in the multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, BP explained.

A nonjury civil trial is scheduled for Feb. 25 before U.S. Judge Carl Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Ralph Capitelli and Brian J. Capitelli of Capitelli & Wicker in New Orleans; Anjali Chaturvedi of BP America Inc. in Washington, D.C.; F. Joseph Warin of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in Washington; Henry DePippo of Kirkland & Ellis in New York; and Mark Filip of Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago are counsel for BP.

Richard Rowland Pickens II of the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans and Avi Gesser, Colin L. Black, Derek A. Cohen, Edward Kang, John D. Buretta, Lanny A. Breuer, Rohan A. Virginkar and Scott Michael Cullen of the U.S. Department of Justice in New Orleans represent the government.

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