Transcript: Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks on BP’s guilty pleas to criminal charges from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
Edited by Jenny Jiang
Transcript of Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks on BP’s guilty pleas to criminal charges stemming from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill at a press conference in New Orleans on Nov. 15, 2012:
Good afternoon. I’m honored to join with Associate Attorney General Tony West; Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Justice Department Lanny Breuer; Director Robert Khuzami of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement; John Buretta, head of the Deepwater Horizon Task Force; and many of the Task Force’s members – in announcing the latest steps forward in our ongoing efforts to achieve justice for those whose lives, and whose livelihoods, were impacted by the largest environmental disaster in the history of the United States – and to hold accountable those who bore responsibility for this tragedy.
Today, in U.S. District Court here in the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans, the Department filed a 14-count information charging BP with 11 counts of felony manslaughter, one count of felony obstruction of Congress, and violations of the Clean Water and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that began in April of 2010.
BP has agreed to plead guilty to all 14 criminal charges, including responsibility for the deaths of 11 people and the events that led to an unprecedented environmental catastrophe. The company also has agreed to pay $4 billion in fines and penalties.
This marks both the single largest criminal fine – more than $1.25 billion – and the single largest total criminal resolution – $4 billion – in the history of the United States.
It stands as a testament to the hard work of countless investigators, attorneys, support staff members, and other persons – from the Deepwater Horizon Task Force and a range of federal, state, and local agencies – who have worked tirelessly to advance a complex and wide-ranging investigation that began even before the oil well was capped.
And it constitutes a major environmental achievement toward fulfilling a promise that I made here in New Orleans, along with my colleagues, nearly 2 years ago: to engage with our partners and with our counterparts to determine the causes of this disaster; to respond to its consequences; to seek justice on behalf of the victims; and to enable Gulf Coast residents to continue to recover and to rebuild.
To this end, under the terms of the agreement that we announce today, about $2.4 billion of the criminal recovery funds will be dedicated to environmental restoration, preservation, and conservation efforts throughout this region – including barrier-island creation and river diversion projects right here in Louisiana.
An additional $350 million will aid in the development of state-of-the art oil spill prevention and response technologies, education, research, and training.
And more than $1 billion will go to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, to be available for cleanup and compensation for those affected by oil spills in the Gulf and throughout the United States.
As part of its guilty plea, BP will retain a monitor for 4 years who will oversee safety, risk management and equipment maintenance in relation to deepwater drilling in the Gulf, as well as an independent auditor who will conduct annual reviews to ensure compliance with the terms of this agreement. The company will also hire an ethics monitor to improve its code of conduct and to foster robust cooperation with the government.
Now, there can be no question that this historic announcement represents a critical step forward and really underscores the Justice Department’s determination to stand with Gulf Coast communities.
In February, this same commitment led the Department to reach a partial settlement – totaling $90 million – with MOEX Offshore, related to the company’s Clean Water Act liability for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Approximately $45 million of this total will go directly, again, to the Gulf, in the form of penalties or expedited environmental projects.
But our work is far from over. In the trips that my colleagues and I have made to the Gulf Coast since the Deepwater Horizon spill, we have seen the damage – to lives and businesses, as well as coastal areas and wetlands – that this tragedy has inflicted. We understand the tremendous costs, both economic and environmental, that have been associated with this disaster. And we’ve been inspired by the resilience displayed by each and every Gulf Coast resident who has been affected.
That’s why I want to be absolutely clear that today’s resolution does not – does not – mark the end of our efforts. In fact, our criminal investigation remains ongoing and we will continue to follow all credible leads and pursue any charges that are warranted.
In fact, in addition to the charges filed against BP, a federal grand jury also has returned an indictment charging the two highest-ranking BP supervisors who were on board the Deepwater Horizon on the day of the explosion with 23 criminal counts, including 11 counts of seaman’s manslaughter, 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter, and alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.
The grand jury also charged a former BP executive, who served as a deputy incident commander and BP’s second-highest ranking representative at Unified Command during the spill response, has charged him with hiding information from Congress and allegedly lying to law enforcement officials.
These and other matters remain open, including a separate civil action that’s pending in federal court here in New Orleans. We’re looking forward to the trial, which is scheduled to begin in February of next year, in which we intend to prove that BP was grossly negligent in causing the oil spill.
In that lawsuit, we are seeking civil penalties and a judgment that BP and others are liable for removal costs and natural resource damages – exposure that could amount to billions of dollars.
Though we have been unable to date to resolve the civil case, we remain as determined as ever to hold those responsible accountable.
In addition, my colleagues and I are firmly committed to combating oil-spill fraud by investigating and prosecuting those who attempt to reap criminal profits from a terrible tragedy.
Once again, I want to thank each of the Task Force members, the Justice Department leaders, local officials, critical agency partners, and Gulf Coast residents who have contributed to this work and made today’s historic announcement possible.
- Justice.gov: United States v. BP – guilty plea agreement (PDF)
- Justice.gov: United States v. BP – Information for Seaman’s manslaughter, Clean Water Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Obstruction of Congress (PDF)
- Justice.gov: United States v. Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine – criminal indictment (PDF)
- Justice.gov: United States v. David Rainey – criminal indictment (PDF)
- SEC.gov: Securities and Exchange Commission v. BP complaint (PDF)
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks on BP’s guilty pleas to criminal charges from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Assistant AG Lanny Breuer’s remarks on BP’s guilty pleas to criminal charges from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami’s remarks on BP’s $525 million penalty to settle securities fraud related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Press conference Q&A on BP’s guilty pleas to criminal charges from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
- Justice.gov: BP Exploration and Production Inc. Agrees to Plead Guilty to Felony Manslaughter, Environmental Crimes and Obstruction of Congress Surrounding Deepwater Horizon Incident
- Justice.gov: Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the BP Press Conference
- Justice.gov: Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer Speaks at the BP Press Conference
- BP.com: BP Announces Resolution of All Criminal and Securities Claims by U.S. Government Against Company Relating to Deepwater Horizon Accident
- BP.com: Statement About Proposed Resolutions of US Federal Government Criminal and SEC Claims Against BP in Connection with the Deepwater Horizon Incident
- SEC.gov: Remarks During News Conference About Enforcement Actions Against BP
- SEC.gov: BP to Pay $525 Million Penalty to Settle SEC Charges of Securities Fraud During Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
- WhatTheFolly.com: Former BP engineer charged in Deepwater Horizon cover-up