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Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer Speaks at the BP Press Conference


New Orleans, LA
United States

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.

The 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.

Thank you.

Updated September 17, 2014