From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
With the start of the civil trial against global oil giant BP only a week away, the company’s senior trial lawyer said Monday that he doesn’t expect his client to be declared grossly negligent for the 2010 Gulf oil spill, a finding that would result in a four-fold increase in the fines BP would have to pay.
Rupert Bondy, BP’s general counsel, also said he’s confident the company will pay much less than the maximum $5 billion to $22 billion in Clean Water Act fines often cited by the media.
Why not? In part because Halliburton and Transocean fucked up, too.
The key is understanding the narrow legal definition of gross negligence that must be considered by Barbier, he said. “There is a very high bar for gross negligence,” he said, and in the case of the Deepwater Horizon accident “there were multiple causes involving multiple parties, including Transocean and Halliburton.”
Indeed, a joint memo Transocean filed with Justice Department lawyers supporting the company’s plea deal labels its actions as negligent, but not grossly negligent, and not as negligent as BP’s actions. …
The memo also points out that Transocean officials followed BP’s recommendations to ignore the readings, instead of refusing to comply with orders from BP officials.
A key component of the government’s claim of negligence is that BP’s errors didn’t stop after the explosion. A large part of its $4 billion criminal judgment against the company stemmed from the amount of oil spilled and BP’s efforts to cover up the actual amount. To which BP has this clever response:
“[W]e went to pretty extraordinary lengths and efforts to seal the well” and limit the amount of oil reaching the surface, [Bondy] said. “At one point, we had 48,000 people working on the response,” with so many ships and airplanes involved that the fleets were larger than many nations’ armed forces.
Yes, it took months to fix, but BP sure had a lot of people not fixing it!
BP could see damages under the Clean Water Act in excess of $20 billion, calculated on a per-spilled-barrel basis — one reason the company is disputing how much was spilled. The actual levied civil fine will probably be more in the range of $5 billion — or just under half of what BP earned in profits last year.
But then, we’re probably blowing those profits out of proportion, too.