The U.S. Department of Justice and BP PLC (NYSE: BP) have reportedly reached an agreement on the penalties the company will face related to the blowout of its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon also killed 11 workers and dumped more than 5 million barrels of crude oil into the waters of the Gulf. In exchange for the plea and the fine, future prosecution of the company on these charges will be waived.
According to Reuters sources, the fine will be the largest ever paid and BP will plead guilty to criminal misconduct. The largest penalty ever paid in the United States is $1.3 billion, the fine levied on Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) in 2009 for fraudulent marketing of one its pain medicines.
According to a BP press release this morning, the reported agreement will resolve “all U.S. federal government criminal and SEC complaints against BP: in connection with the Deepwater Horizon incident.” The company notes that any agreement must be approved by the federal courts.
The reported agreement resolves only the criminal charges against BP. Civil charges against the company have not yet filed, but BP faces the possibility of up to $21 billion in damages related to violations of the Clean Water Act if the company is found to have been negligent.