SEC claims insider trading by BP executive after Deepwater Horizon spill

The head of BP’s cleanup following the Deepwater Horizon spill sold off his stake in the company before the severity of the spill was known, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The financial regulator charged Keith Seilhan, a long-time BP employee who coordinated the containment of the spill and resulting clean-up effort, with insider trading during the crisis.

According to the SEC, Seilhan quickly learned of the severity of the spill after heading to the Gulf of Mexico, and was privy to nonpublic information about the estimates on oil flow and how much oil was on the surface of the Gulf. While BP was publicly saying at the time oil was spilling at a rate of 5,000 barrels per day, the actual flow rate was later determined to be more than 10 times that.

With this information, Seilhan sold off his family’s $1 million stake in BP securities, days before the company’s stock fell roughly 48 percent. He agreed to settle the charges without admitting guilt.

“Seilhan sold his family’s BP securities after he received confidential information about the severity of the spill that the public didn't know,” said Daniel M. Hawke, chief of the Division of Enforcement’s Market Abuse Unit. “Corporate insiders must not misuse the material nonpublic information they receive while responding to unique or disastrous corporate events, even where they stand to suffer losses as a consequence of those events.”

The settlement comes just days after BP announced it was wrapping up its cleanup efforts, over four years after the spill first began. The spill would last more than 85 days, and the company ended up spending $14 billion to clean up miles of coastline and the Gulf. The company also paid $12.9 billion in damage claims and other payments tied to the spill.

Under the settlement, Seilhan agreed to return $105,409 of allegedly ill-gotten gains, as well as $13,300 in interest and a civil penalty of $105,409.

Seilhan’s attorney, Mary McNamara, said in a statement he agreed to the deal because after four years, he “wants to avoid further distraction and protracted litigation.”

“Mr. Seilhan is widely respected for his work helping to lead the cleanup and containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010,” she added.