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BP agrees to $4.5 billion settlement, including criminal fines

In a time of economic recession, some may have concerns about agencies cutting staffing or other resources. Even corporate leaders may be tempted to cut corners in safety or regulatory compliance matters, in an effort to reduce costs.

That might be the lesson Texas readers take away from today’s story. Oil giant BP recently agreed to pay the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history — $4.5 billion over five years — for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The payment will be made as part of a settlement between the London-based company and the U.S. government.

Of that total, $1.3 billion constitutes fines for various criminal felonies. BP agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct relating to the deaths of 11 men in the rig explosion. Another felony count relates to obstruction. However, the settlement does not include civil claims under the Clean Water Act, which might total upwards of $20 billion.

Texas will get about $191 million, through a formula that calculates damage to each of the Gulf Coast states. Although tar balls washed up on less than 30 miles of beaches in Texas, there are lingering fears about the spill’s affect on shellfish, the fishing industry and regional tourism.

Leaders and activists on the coast are reportedly pleased with the criminal penalties. However, many believe civil penalties are still warranted, as there is much work yet to be done. Such local leaders believe the civil penalties will help pay for repairing the environment.

If you are facing criminal penalties, it is important to remember that convictions may go on your record. That, in turn, may create problems down the road, such as being precluded from applying to certain government jobs, potential ineligibility for certain unemployment benefits, and a tarnished reputation. An aggressive criminal defense attorney can help you prepare the best defense and advise you when a plea bargain or other kind of settlement may be in your best interest, especially in instances where the agreement does not require an admission of guilt.

Source:, “Texas criminal settlement money with BP comes to $191 million,” Nov. 16, 2012