Oil Spill

Criminal Fines Could Boost BP’s Legal Costs to Nearly $63B, Analyst Says

Criminal fines against BP for violations of environmental laws for the Gulf oil spill could boost the company’s legal costs to $62.9 billion, a legal analyst says.

The New York Times reports on the estimate by analyst Pavel Molchanov of Raymond James and the potential for environmental prosecutions. Yesterday BP agreed to pay $20 billion into an escrow fund to compensate those harmed by the oil spill, but the agreement doesn’t foreclose prosecutions or individuals’ right to go to court. The Washington Post notes that Attorney General Eric Holder attended the talks that led to creation of the $20 billion fund, calling his presence “a sign of the potential criminal liability the oil company may face.”

University of Michigan law professor David Uhlmann told the Times that even misdemeanor convictions under environmental laws could result in large fines under the Alternative Fines Act, which authorizes fines for twice the gain or loss of an offense. A misdemeanor conviction requires only a showing of negligence under the Clean Water Act, he said. Other avenues for prosecutions include the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Holder has previously said the government is investigating possible violations of those environmental statutes in the oil spill along with other traditional criminal laws.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “BP Could Face Civil Fine as High as $4,300 for Each Leaked Barrel of Oil”

ABAJournal.com: “Federal Criminal and Civil Probes into Gulf Oil Spill Are Under Way, Holder Says”

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