BP Pleads With Judge For This $4 Billion Deal

BP’s (NYSE:BP) Exploration & Production unit and federal prosecutors are asking U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance to approve the criminal plea deal it made at the end of last year regarding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, despite a wave of objections from victims.

Last November, BP agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal counts, including 11 counts of manslaughter, and a pay a fine of $4 billion over five years in a settlement with the Department of Justice over the drilling disaster that caused the worst offshore oil spill in United States’ history. A 55-page memorandum filed by federal prosecutors and company officials in New Orleans federal court on Wednesday, argued that the arrangement was “appropriately punitive.”

“The plea agreement imposes severe corporate punishment, appropriately reflects the criminal history of other companies with the BP group of companies, the serious nature of the instant offenses, and the impact of the Macondo blowout and spill on the Gulf Coast and our nation as a whole; and deters BP and other deep-water drillers from permitting such a catastrophe to occur in the future,” said Lanny Breuer, an assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, in a court filing seen by Bloomberg. He asked the judge to consider the $24.4 billion the company has already spent on cleaning up the spill and on settlements when deciding whether to accept the plea

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But more than a dozen letters have been written to Vance by injured workers and relatives of the men killed in the explosion, asking the judge to reject BP’s plea. One letter, obtained by Bloomberg, came from Transocean (NYSE:RIG) executive Buddy Trahan, who was the most severely injured survivor. Trahan alleged that he has not received “any restitution for my injuries from BP or any other responsible party,” and claimed that the deal will “do nothing to stop BP from continuing to evade responsibility to the victims of its crimes.”

In addition to the plea request, BP also included a formal apology in the filing. “BP deeply regrets the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon blowout and explosion as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf Coast region,” wrote the company’s attorneys, Mark Filip and F. Joseph Warin. “From the outset, BP has stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and helping to fund restoration efforts in the Gulf.”

Judge Vance can accept or reject the deal, but she cannot alter the terms. The trial is set for January 29, several days after a non-jury trial has been scheduled to determine civil pollution fines.

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