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BP to Plead Guilty in Oil Spill Case; Civil Settlement Pending

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on November 15, 2012 1:14 PM

It's been more than two years since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and BP has finally reached a settlement with prosecutors.

The London-based company has agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges including manslaughter, and will pay $4 billion in fees and fines over the next five years, The Washington Post reports. That's in addition to a $525 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that will be paid over the next three years.

The plea will settle many of the criminal charges against BP, which has also moved to settle thousands of of civil claims brought by individuals, Reuters reports.

On Thursday, BP pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts including misconduct or neglect of ships' officers, one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act, one misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and one felony count of obstruction of Congress.

If the plea deal is approved by a federal court, that should take care of the criminal case against BP. But those weren't the only claims against the company.

In the wake of the Gulf oil spill in 2010, many individuals and businesses suffered economic damages. A large number of those people banded together in a class action suit against BP.

That civil case has now reached a provisional $7.8 billion settlement that represents more than 100,000 claims, reports Reuters. A federal judge is currently considering whether to sign off on the class-action settlement.

Still remaining are a group of civil claims against the oil company. They include violations of the Clean Water Act, damage to natural resources, and some private civil claims not included in the class action. While BP has agreed to settle other claims, the company intends to defend itself with regard to the remaining charges, according to the Post.

As part of the criminal plea, BP will also be responsible for enhancing the safety of drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. So far, the company has paid out $23 billion in the aftermath of the spill.

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