We’re stunned. This settlement is pathetic. The $4 billion penalty is equivalent to just a fifth of the company’s 2011 profits.
The point of the criminal justice system is twofold: to punish and to deter. This does neither. It is a weak-tea punishment that provides zero deterrence to BP or other companies. Consider that after the 2005 Texas refinery explosion that killed 15 people, BP pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and paid a fine. Now, after a 2010 event that killed 11 people, BP is again pleading guilty and paying a fine. Zero deterrence.
Although the government is right to pursue manslaughter charges against two individuals BP employees, the settlement is inadequate to address BP’s repeated criminal conduct.
The government must impose more meaningful sanctions. Nothing in this settlement stops BP from continuing to get federal contracts and leases. BP will earn more in annual federal contracts than it will pay in penalties as a result of this. That’s appalling.
Below is earlier statement made just prior to announcement:
The Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly has reached a multibillion-dollar settlement with BP in which the company will plead guilty only to obstruction of justice for lying to Congress in the disaster’s aftermath. The reports suggest that DOJ will not pursue criminal charges against BP for the events that led to the April 20, 2010, disaster. While civil violations of the Clean Water Act are still pending against the company after this settlement, the lack of criminal sanctions for conduct up to April 20 would be a defeat for the communities and families harmed by the disaster. The single criminal charge is inadequate; remember that two BP subsidiaries were under criminal indictment at the time of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. Claims arising from the Gulf disaster, which killed 11 workers and did untold damage, puts the company’s liability at a minimum of $51.5 billion.