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November 16, 2012

BP agrees to pay $4.5B; three charged

NEW ORLEANS — A day of reckoning arrived for BP on Thursday as the oil giant agreed to plead guilty to a raft of criminal charges and pay a record $4.5 billion in a settlement with the government over the deadly 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Three BP employees were charged, two of them with manslaughter.

The settlement and the indictments came two-and-a-half years after the drilling-rig explosion that killed 11 workers and set off the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The settlement includes nearly $1.3 billion in fines — the biggest criminal penalty in U.S. history — along with payments to entities inside and outside government. As part of the deal, BP will plead guilty to charges related to the deaths of the 11 workers and to lying to Congress.

“We believe this resolution is in the best interest of BP and its shareholders,” said Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP chairman. “It removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims.”

Also, BP rig workers Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine were indicted on federal charges of manslaughter and involuntary manslaughters, accused of repeatedly disregarding abnormal high-pressure readings that should have been indications of trouble just before the blowout.

In addition, David Rainey, BP’s vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico at the time, was indicted on charges of obstruction of Congress and making false statements. Prosecutors said he withheld information that indicated the amount of oil spewing from the well was greater than he let on.

Rainey’s lawyers said the former executive did “absolutely nothing wrong.” And attorneys for the two rig workers accused the Justice Department of making scapegoats out of them.

The settlement, which is subject to approval, includes payments of nearly $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences and about $500 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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