BP grovels over Gulf deaths , pays $4.5B to US - and two employees face manslaughter charges

The horror in the Gulf of Mexico

Striving to heal the wounds of the Deepwater Horizon disaster , BP has reached a deal with the US government to pay $4.5 billion and plead guilty to all of the 14 criminal charges from the oil spill two years ago. Two BP employees will also be charged with manslaughter in the case.

The deal has cleared the decks, allowing BP - which sponsored the US team in the Olympics to help restore its image in America - to defend remaining civil actions, which could top $20 billion.

The payments announced today include a $4 billion fine to be paid over five years, much of it going to US environmental agencies, BP said in a statement.

Bob Dudley, BP’s Group Chief Executive, said, “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.

“From the outset, we stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and funding restoration efforts in the Gulf.

"We apologise 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.”

As part of the settlement, BP pleaded guilty to 11 felony misconduct or neglect charges related to the deaths of 11 people in the accident in 2010, which sent millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

US attorney general Eric Holder was scheduled to hold a news conference in New Orleans later today.

Even with the criminal claims settled , BP still faces other claims, including federal civil claims and claims for damages to natural resources.

Potentially the largest penalty, said the New York Times, is for breaches under the Clean Water Act. At $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel spilled- that bill could reach $21 billion.

BP in March settled claims for economic loss from the local seafood industry, and medical claims stemming from the oil spill. The cost of that settlement will be about $7.8 billion, coming from a trust BP set up to cover such costs.

The company made a profit in the third quarter but has been shrinking as it sold assets to raise funds to pay oil spill costs.

By eliminating the possibility of any further federal criminal charges, BP can now focus more fully on defending itself against the outstanding civil claims, said the NYT.

Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP’s Chairman said ““This resolution removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims.”

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