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BP enters plea in Gulf oil spill criminal case

The company has agreed to plead guilty and pay a record-breaking $4.5 billion fine to settle government investigations into the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill

BP Plc pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to 14 criminal counts in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which killed 11 oil rig workers and poured 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The plea is a procedural move, as the company has already agreed to plead guilty to the charges and pay a record-setting $4.5 billion penalty to settle claims brought by the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Today’s 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,” BP said in a statement when the settlement was announced on Nov. 15.

In March, the oil company announced that it would pay $7.8 billion to settle a class action lawsuit involving more than 100,000 plaintiffs who suffered medical or economic damages in the wake of the spill. That settlement is currently pending approval.

But the company is still facing additional civil claims from the government, which could bring more hefty fines. In addition, two BP oil rig supervisors and a former company executive are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday on criminal charges related to the rig explosion and its aftermath.

In more bad news for the company, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it has temporarily suspended BP from any new contracts with the U.S. government because of the company’s “lack of business integrity as demonstrated by [its] conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill and response.”

Read more at Futures Magazine.

For more InsideCounsel coverage of the oil industry, see:

BP will pay $4.5 billion in Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement

BP, plaintiffs ask judge to approve $7.8 billion oil spill settlement

Regulatory: The challenges of newfound energy wealth

Nigerians bring pollution case against Shell in the Netherlands

Exxon Mobil faces lawsuits over Yellowstone River oil spill

Chevron fraud case heads to U.S. as Ecuadorean judge orders seizure of the company’s assets

Alanna Byrne

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