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BP to pay $4B to settle criminal charges over Gulf oil spill

Back on Nov. 8, we brought readers in Las Vegas the story of oil giant BP reaching a settlement with businesses and individuals who say they were harmed by the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill. That settlement, which needs to be approved in federal court, would distribute billions of dollars to more than 100,000 plaintiffs.

In another front in the litigation related to the disaster, BP announced on Nov. 15 that it had also reached a settlement with the federal government over criminal charges filed by the U.S. Justice Department. The company will plead guilty to 14 charges and pay $4.5 billion in fines and penalties.

Of that money, almost $4 billion with be paid to the Justice Department over the next five years. Some of that money will go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences, while $1.256 billion is a criminal fine, one of the largest ever paid by a corporation to the federal government. Another $525 million will settle claims by the Securities and Exchange Commission that BP executives publicly underplayed how much oil was gushing from the well, misleading investors in the process. BP also agreed to allow government inspectors to monitor its safety procedures for four years.

Despite the settlement, BP's dealings with the U.S. government over the oil spill are not over yet. Trial is scheduled for February to determine if BP violated the Clean Water Act. That could cost the company as much as $21 billion if found guilty.

Source: The New York Times, "BP to Admit Crimes and Pay $4.5 Billion in Gulf Settlement," Clifford Krauss and Stanley Reed, Nov. 15, 2012

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