General Lanny A. Breuer Speaks at the BP Press Conference
November 15, 2012
Thank you, Attorney General Holder.
In April of 2010, the nation witnessed an unimaginable tragedy, when the
Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people
onboard the rig died, and oil began pouring out of the Macondo well, and
onto the sea floor, for months, causing immense damage to the Gulf
region and to our ecosystem.
The communities here in New Orleans, and around the Gulf, have waited
patiently for justice to be done. Today, their wait is over.
The Deepwater Horizon Task Force filed a 14-count information and guilty
plea agreement, in New Orleans federal court earlier today. The
information charges BP Exploration and Production Inc. with 11 counts of
felony manslaughter; violations of environmental laws, including the
Clean Water Act and Migratory Bird Act; and obstruction of Congress. BP
has agreed to plead guilty to each of these 14 counts and to pay the
highest criminal fine in U.S. history.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that the deaths of the 11 men onboard
the Deepwater Horizon could have been avoided. The explosion of the rig
was a disaster that resulted from BP’s culture of privileging profit
over prudence; and we allege that BP’s most senior decisionmakers
onboard the Deepwater Horizon negligently caused the explosion. We hope
that today’s acknowledgement by BP of its misconduct – through its
agreement to plead guilty to 11 counts of felony manslaughter – brings
some measure of justice to the family members of the people who died
onboard the rig.
As the oil spill continued, BP made a tragic situation worse: it began
misleading Congress and the American people about how much oil was
pouring out of the Macondo well. As BP now admits, in responding to
Congress, the company lied and withheld documents, in order to make it
seem as though less damage was being done to the environment than was
actually occurring. Acknowledging those lies, BP has agreed to plead
guilty to felony obstruction of Congress.
Make no mistake: While the company is guilty, individuals committed
these crimes. And we have also unsealed today a 23-count indictment
charging BP’s two highest-ranking supervisors onboard the Deepwater
Horizon with manslaughter and violation of the Clean Water Act. The
indictment charges these two BP well site leaders with negligence, and
gross-negligence, on the evening of April 20, 2010. In the face of
glaring red flags indicating that the well was not secure, both men
allegedly failed to take appropriate action to prevent the blowout.
A separate indictment was also unsealed today charging a former senior
BP executive, David Rainey, with obstructing a congressional
investigation and making false statements to law enforcement officials.
The indictment alleges that Rainey, on behalf of BP, intentionally
underestimated the amount of oil flowing from the Macondo well. Rainey
allegedly cherry-picked pages from documents, withheld other documents
altogether and lied to Congress and others in order to make the spill
appear less catastrophic than it was.
Attorney General stood near here when the Department first opened its
criminal investigation into the oil spill and promised that we would
thoroughly investigate and hold to account those responsible for this
horrible tragedy. Today, we have begun doing exactly that; and tomorrow,
and in the months to come, the Deepwater Horizon Task Force will
continue its tireless pursuit of justice in this matter.
I would like to personally thank Task Force Director John Buretta, who
has done an absolutely remarkable job leading this investigation, as
well as the many fine prosecutors from the Criminal Division,
Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney community,
and the many talented federal and state law enforcement agents, who have
worked so hard, for so long, to develop these cases. I would also like
to thank our colleagues at the Securities and Exchange Commission for
their important parallel investigation.