In Depth

BP faces $48m fine over market rigging

Latest ruling relates to loss-making trades made in the wake of Hurricane Ike in 2008

BP 'grossly negligent' over Deepwater Horizon oil spill

5 September 2014

A US judge has ruled that BP was "grossly negligent" in the lead-up to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, leaving the company open to $18bn in new civil fines.

The April 2010 disaster was the worst offshore oil spill in US history, with the explosion of an underwater well killing 11 oil rig workers and spewing four million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

BP has already agreed to pay $43bn in clean-up costs, criminal fines and compensation to people and businesses affected by the disaster, but the ruling now opens it up to further civil fines.

The company had pleaded guilty to criminal charges – but claimed its contractors, Halliburton and Transocean, should take on just as much, if not more, of the blame.

Yesterday US district court judge Carl Barbier rejected that argument and described the company's conduct as "reckless". He said the other companies acted with negligence but ruled that BP was "grossly negligent" and was the primary culprit, apportioning 67 per cent of the blame to BP, 30 per cent to Transocean and three per cent to Halliburton.

In his 153-page ruling, Barbier said BP made "profit-driven decisions" during the drilling of the well. "These instances of negligence, taken together, evince an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks," he wrote.

The New York Times says the ruling stands as a milestone in US environmental law and "casts a cloud over BP's future". BP's crucial holdings in Russia are at risk due to the Ukraine crisis and the company has had to divest more than ten per cent of its oil and gas reserves. Its shares fell by nearly six per cent yesterday.

BP has vowed to appeal the ruling, with which it says it "strongly disagrees". In a statement, the company said the decision was "not supported by the evidence at trial" and that the "very high bar" for proving gross negligence was "not met in this case".

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