Update: BP Employees Charged with Manslaughter in Gulf Disaster


In a press conference this afternoon, the U.S. Department of Justice said that two employees of BP plc (NYSE: BP) will be charged in a 23-count criminal indictment with manslaughter and violations of the Clean Water Act. In its press release issued earlier today, the company said that it had pleaded guilty to 14 charges and had agreed to pay a total of $4.5 billion in fines.

The company did not mention that two management employees responsible for operations on the Deepwater Horizon would also be charged with manslaughter. A third (former) BP employee is also being charged with obstruction. Here's what Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said this afternoon:

While the company is guilty, individuals committed these crimes. And we have also unsealed today a 23-count indictment charging BP's two highest-ranking supervisors onboard the Deepwater Horizon with manslaughter and violation of the Clean Water Act. The indictment charges these two BP well site leaders with negligence, and gross-negligence, on the evening of April 20, 2010. In the face of glaring red flags indicating that the well was not secure, both men allegedly failed to take appropriate action to prevent the blowout.

A separate indictment was also unsealed today charging a former senior BP executive, David Rainey, with obstructing a congressional investigation and making false statements to law enforcement officials. The indictment alleges that Rainey, on behalf of BP, intentionally underestimated the amount of oil flowing from the Macondo well. Rainey allegedly cherry-picked pages from documents, withheld other documents altogether and lied to Congress and others in order to make the spill appear less catastrophic than it was.

Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement is available here and Breuer's speech is here.

Paul Ausick

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