You are hereTruthout: BP Faces Fines of Up to $10 Billion, Plus Jail Time for Guilty Officials

Truthout: BP Faces Fines of Up to $10 Billion, Plus Jail Time for Guilty Officials


February 18, 2011- For its huge oil spill last summer in the Gulf of Mexico, BP is facing "the largest criminal fine ever paid in the United States," according to the man who worked for 17 years in the Environmental Crimes Section at the Justice Department and ran the Crimes Section for seven.

These days, David Uhlmann is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. He recently authored an article -- "After the Spill Is Gone: The Gulf Of Mexico, Environmental Crime, and the Criminal Law" -- scheduled for publication this spring in the Michigan Law Review.

In the article, Uhlmann says it's a sure thing that the Justice Department will bring criminal charges against BP, Transocean and in all likelihood, Halliburton.

The charges will include criminal violations of the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Act -- two of the environmental crimes charged in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case.
But what is probably prompting sweaty palms and atrial fib in the relevant corporate suites is that in an interview with the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime

Reporter, released Feb. 16, Uhlmann predicts there'll be federal manslaughter charges for the deaths of the 11 workers who died when the Deepwater Horizon well exploded in April 2010.

Last month, BP gave a muted sigh of relief after the Obama-appointed national commission to investigate the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico said it stemmed from a "failure of management" but didn't build an overwhelming case for "gross negligence" -- which would mean much higher fines and kindred penalties.

But a criminal prosecution requires only that the violation was negligent. Grossness is not mandatory. A criminal prosecution would be separate from the civil action, but the Justice Department can launch it while a civil action is under way. With criminal sanctions, the penalties facing BP would be far harsher, including possible jail time for individuals.

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