Oilfield services giant Halliburton has agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the Justice Department announced Thursday evening.
Halliburton was the cement contractor on BP’s ill-fated Macondo well that blew out in April 2010.
The blowout and explosion of Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and ultimately dumped several million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Halliburton has agreed to pay the “maximum-available statutory fine,” will be subject to three years of probation and continue cooperating with the federal government’s ongoing criminal probe, the DOJ said in a summary of the case.
In addition, the company has also made a "voluntary contribution" of $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Justice Department said.
Halliburton confirmed the agreement with the DOJ in a statement late Thursday, saying a subsidiary "agreed to
plead guilty to one misdemeanor violation associated with the deletion of records created
after the Macondo well incident, to pay the statutory maximum fine of $200,000 and to
accept a term of three years probation."
"The Department of Justice has agreed that it will not pursue further criminal prosecution of the company or its subsidiaries for any conduct relating to or arising out of the Macondo well incident," Halliburton said. "The Department of Justice acknowledged the company’s significant and valuable cooperation during the course of its investigation, and the company has agreed to continue to cooperate with the Department of Justice in any ongoing investigation related to or arising from the incident."
The deal is subject to court approval
Tulane University law professor Edward Sherman told Reuters that Halliburton's plea could open the door to a settlement on civil penalties.
"Their willingness to plead to this may also indicate that they'd like to settle up with the federal government on the civil penalties," he said. "It may indicate a softening of their position."
BP and Transocean have previously pled guilty to criminal charges in connection with the 2010 accident. Click here and here for more about those pleas.
--This report was updated at 8:47 p.m.