According to multiple news outlets, British Petroleum has reached a settlement with the Justice Department on criminal charges related to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill.

According to the Associated Press:

Oil giant BP has agreed to pay the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history, totaling billions of dollars, for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a person familiar with the deal said Thursday.

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The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the deal, also said two BP PLC employees face manslaughter charges over the death of 11 people in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the massive spill.

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The person said BP will plead guilty to obstruction for lying to Congress about how much oil was pouring out of the ruptured well.

The BBC puts the expected settlement amount at between $3 billion and $5 billion.

This is a stunningly harsh settlement, particularly given that it wasn’t handed down from a judge, but instead agreed to by BP. An admission of lying to Congress? Billions in fines? Manslaughter? If these details are accurate, it still won’t be the end of liability for the company that pulled in $25.7 billion in profits in 2011.

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[T]here are still other claims against BP from financial institutions, casinos and racetracks, insurance companies, local governments and losses caused by a government-imposed moratorium on drilling after the spill.

None of those are covered by BP’s proposed settlement with the private lawyers.

The timing of the settlement is interesting, coming just a little over a week after the reelection of Barack Obama. While BP appears not to have contributed heavily during the presidential race, it’s interesting to speculate whether the settlement would have happened had last Tuesday turned out differently.

It’s worth bearing in mind that these are early, unsourced reports — meaning that they’re subject to update, clarification, and change. But if they hold up, it’s a staggering — and entirely appropriate — rebuke for the deadliest and most destructive offshore incident in U.S. history.

Update: The AP has more info.

Update: The names of the men charged with manslaughter have been released.