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From yesterday's Gulf Watcher's diary written by Lorinda Pike; we learn that once again oil giant BP has slipped away with an incredible victory; this time at the hands of the courts.

After much delay, the judge in the current trial has decided to fine BP a "whopping" sum of: $4 billion.  I call that "Pocket Change".

More below...

Here is the detail revealed in the diary:

Judge okays $4 billion BP criminal settlement.

A federal judge on Tuesday approved an agreement for BP PLC to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges and pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties for the company's role in the 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Before she ruled, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance heard testimony from relatives of 11 workers who died when BP's blown-out Macondo well triggered an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and started the spill.
Vance said the plea deal was "just punishment" considering the risks of litigation for BP and the alternatives to the settlement. She told victims' relatives who were in court that she read their "truly gut-wrenching" written statements and factored their words into her decision.

(link provided in original diary)

Remember this is for the murder of 11 workers and the huge economic & environmental damage done to the Gulf....

So, why do I call that "pocket change"?

Here's why:

Because less than 3 months ago, BP released it's 3rd Quarter earnings:

BP today announced its financial results for the third quarter of 2012, reporting underlying replacement cost profit, adjusted for non-operating items and fair value accounting effects, of $5.2 billion. It also announced an increase in its quarterly dividend to 9c per share – an increase of 12.5 per cent – expected to be paid in the fourth quarter.
Release date 10/30/2012 (my emphasis)

So, the fine amounts to less than one quarters profits for these bastards!!
No wonder they accepted a plea bargain......

And, a US judge allowed it.....

Can't imagine that's going to do much to change the culture at BP.
Granted more is yet to come...but based on what we've seen so far; don't hold your breath for anything shocking.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar. Where are the judges that will stand up (13+ / 0-)

    and demand more accountability??

  •  Thanks for showing us what a pittance $4 billion (5+ / 0-)

    can be. Wow. Sometimes comparisons are indeed odious - or point out the odious.

    Washington, DC, climate rally on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. See you there.

    by DawnN on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 01:05:46 PM PST

  •  Not sure how much you think you would get... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    leu2500

    BP isn't an American company, only their American subsidiary would be liable in any case if they decided to fight it.  That's only about 20% of the total value of the combined company.

    This is very much a US government-dictated settlement.  

    It's what the administration wants (including the admissions about the well rate, which they would have never gotten had they gone to trial.)

  •  Further, I doubt that they'll ever get (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phil S 33

    around to paying it.

    And no one will much care.

  •  Glass half full/Glass half empty. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Villanova Rhodes, shanesnana

    My first thought, when the plea bargain was announced, was "11 lives come awfully cheap."

    But putting things into perspective: it wasn't just the judge who thought this was a good deal.  The DoJ agreed to it first.  And whenever there is a plea deal, both parties are weighing probability of sucess v. risk of failure.  So the prosecution (DoJ) gives something up to ensure a conviction v. the chance that a jury will not convict.  

    More perspective: this is a record penalty.  And then, I'm not a lawyer, but how large a penalty can the DoJ even seek, given the law?  

    And yet more perspective: civil charges are still to be settled for Clean Water Act violations, etc.  And this plea deal has BP being convicted of misleading Congress wrt the amount of oil being spilled.  That should give BP less leverage in the plea deal over the civil charges.

    So...would I like to have had the fine be larger?  Sure.  But IMHO that requires a cutural shift in this country, and given that I'll take something that is progress over status quo.  

    Republicans: if they only had a heart.

    by leu2500 on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 01:36:18 PM PST

    •  Most if not all counts got the maximum sentence. (4+ / 0-)

      I hope the statutory penalties will be increased for future events (though with congressmen apologizing to BP for all the trouble, I'm not optimistic), but neither DOJ nor the judge could do so on their own say-so. I don't know enough about the recovery/restitution aspects of it to say whether the judge could have reasonably rejected the deal to get that higher, but she knows this is a long way from over and there are billions yet to be assessed and paid.  

      As for the 11 lives, remember that charges against 2 individuals for manslaughter and other offenses are still being pursued.  BP's agreement acknowledges that the negligence of these individual defendants caused the deaths, so they've got a tough row to hoe. Nothing's enough if you're the surviving families, but I wouldn't want to be those guys.

      And, as you note, civil litigation is far from over.

      •  "these individual defendants" took the rap (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Phil S 33, shanesnana

        for a very corrupt corporate culture protecting the big boys at the top.

        This deal sucks and no amount of rationalization can change that.

        "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

        by rubyr on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 03:26:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Can you elaborate on what the judge (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shanesnana, leu2500

          should have done? Her option was to accept the deal or reject it.

          If one wants to argue that the case was undercharged, that's quite a different issue and I might well agree, given access to all the facts. But it's an issue that does not implicate the judge as a "willing partner" (in the words of the diary) -- only the executive branch.

          •  Judges CAN exert pressure...simply by indicating (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Villanova Rhodes

            an unwillingness to accept some of the terms...
            I think too often, they are pushed to accept what appears easy...to finish the case.

            •  OK. So you're arguing that Judge Vance (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              shanesnana, leu2500

              should have rejected the plea and substituted her judgment for the DOJ's about what the gov't could get. What should she have held out for? I assume you agree that she couldn't insist they settle for punishments beyond the statutory maximum for any count (do you?) so any change would have to be to the restitution ordered or some other non-fixed part of the agreement. If you were the judge, what would you have demanded as the price for approving the plea?

              Remember that the alternative -- going to trial -- carries the risk of acquittal on some or all charges, enormous expense, and potentially decades of appeals that could result in reversal or a gutted judgment as in Exxon. Weighing that against the current plea -- and a bunch of money going to the gulf states & others in 60 days -- and keeping in mind that there are multiple pending actions against the same pot of money, what's your recommendation? (I'm serious, not arguing.)

              Again, we are not talking about whether more or different charges should have been brought -- for purposes of assessing Judge Vance's action, that's irrelevant.

  •  Thanks, Phil, my friend. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phil S 33

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 03:27:14 PM PST

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