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BP and Three Executives Facing Criminal Charges Over Oil Spill 238

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-spilling-lawyers-to-compensate dept.
New submitter SleazyRidr writes "Finally some news that will please a lot of the Slashdot crowd: a company has been charged with manslaughter! BP has been charged with manslaughter following the Macondo Incident. 'BP has agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle the criminal charges and related Securities and Exchange Commission charges.' Two of the rig supervisors and a BP executive are also facing jail time. The supervisors are charged with 'failing to alert on-shore managers at the time they observed clear signs that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well,' and the supervisor is charged with 'obstruction of Congress and making false statements to law enforcement officials about the amount of oil flowing from the well.' Is this the start of companies being forced to take responsibility for their actions?"
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BP and Three Executives Facing Criminal Charges Over Oil Spill

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  • by Toe, The (545098) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:11PM (#42122295)

    Who knew that could ever come back and bite them in the ass?

    • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Safety Cap (253500) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:21PM (#42122501) Homepage Journal

      When "BP" has to spend 180 days in prison like a regular person convicted of manslaughter then I'll believe it.

      Oh, and I'd want BP to be a registered felon, so no government jobs/contracts, no leaving the country and no crossing state lines without the court's okay.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Well guess what--BP is currently banned from government contracts. Would you like to add another condition to justify your outrage?

      • Re:Not really (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:37PM (#42122761)

        When "BP" has to spend 180 days in prison like a regular person convicted of manslaughter then I'll believe it.

        I'd settle for a fine equal to 180 days gross revenue (effectively the same).

        • It's only equivalent if the government pays BP's gross expenses for the 180 days as well.

          Prison beds, food and water are provided out of the government's budgets, after all. (Even if it's indirectly through a contractor)

          • Extending this analogy further, it would be gross expenses at the absolute minimum of remaining operable. In other words, minimal wage paid to a single guy who is the CEO. After all, when the government puts a guy in prison, it doesn't pay for his wife's bills or his car insurance.

      • Re:Not really (Score:5, Informative)

        by dave562 (969951) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:51PM (#42123029) Journal

        You got your second wish. The EPA denied BP the right to bid on oil contracts.

        http://blog.chron.com/lorensteffy/2012/11/in-suspending-bp-epa-does-what-drilling-regulators-would-not/ [chron.com]

        • Too bad. Now BP has to create a proxy to submit bids for them.

        • They don't need to worry - they have juicy contracts set up in Canada now to search for, and drill, oil off the coast of one of the most active fisheries in the world (CDN/US Atlantic coast). What could go wrong?!
    • by dougmc (70836)

      Who knew that could ever come back and bite them in the ass?

      Lots of people knew -- it's not like this is anywhere near the first time it's been an issue.

      For example, many (most?) states prohibit a felon from owning a liquor license, and when a corporation pleads guilty to a felony -- they lose their license, which can put them out of business if their business is selling liquor.

      That said, when Romney made his infamous "corporations are people, my friend" statement, context made it pretty clear that he wasn't talking about the legal status of corporations (even thoug

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        "Corporations are people, my friend . . . Of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People's pockets. Human beings, my friend."

        Of course, he was wrong. If the money went into people's pockets instead of into various tax dodges like the ones he uses, it could be taxed.

  • Removing caps on civil lawsuits will force firms to behave more responsibly.
  • The company has escaped charges, only a few people are actually facing actual charges. I would guess that lots of people behind the company execs who were actually writing the lies will collect their big pay packets and not actually give a shit.

    • Re:Scapegoats (Score:5, Insightful)

      by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:23PM (#42122525) Homepage Journal

      The larger damage was not to manslaughter but to destroying a complete ecosystem - Privatizing profits and socializing losses in action. Companies trifle with natural resources because they know if it all fails, we will have to pull together to get out of it.

      On the same note, why can people put a price on a pirated mp3, but not on a long-term damaged ecosystem?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by operagost (62405)
        The ecosystem is not destroyed. The oil that entered the water is organic and constantly enters the oceans naturally. BP's negligence caused it to enter far more rapidly than the ecosystem could handle. This resulted in great immediate harm to sea life, but not permanent.
        • by Quila (201335)

          I calculated the amount of oil once. Based on the size of the Gulf of Mexico, and the high estimate for how much oil was pumped in, IIRC it came out to the equivalent of about a teaspoon or so in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Not exactly devastating.

        • Re:Scapegoats (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @06:59PM (#42123925) Journal

          This was falsified a long time ago. Natural seepage into the Gulf nowhere equals what was puking out of that damaged well. The ecosystem has not returned to normal, and with the added known of the dispersal chemicals, no one can actually say what is happening or how long it will take for the oil to be absorbed. But this belief that bacteria just magically eat oil and in turn leave behind no deleterious side effects is pretty much akin to claiming that women's reproductive systems magically expunge rapists' sperm.

          But you would have made a great member of the group at the beginning of Thank Your Smoking; the oil company representative who insists that oil spills just get eaten up by the ecosystem, and even vaguely hints that ecosystems actually benefit from it.

          Actually, what you're post reminds of is a great and sadly departed Seattle comedy show called Almost Live, where there was fantastic sketch featuring a pro-tobacco lobbyist who said bizarre things like "Three out of four chiropactors agree that not only does smoking not harm you, but in fact places a protective coating on the lungs!" You could have done the followup sketch; "Three out of four industry 'researchers' insist that only do oil spills not harm the environment, they in fact feed the bacteria and make the environment even better!"

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        The larger damage was not to manslaughter but to destroying a complete ecosystem - Privatizing profits and socializing losses in action. Companies trifle with natural resources because they know if it all fails, we will have to pull together to get out of it.

        On the same note, why can people put a price on a pirated mp3, but not on a long-term damaged ecosystem?

        Copyright or patent the Gulf of Mexico then.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        Privatizing profits and socializing losses in action.

        Spending in excess of $20bn of your profit sheet fixing the environment while local councils make interesting claims then squander the money which should have been destined at fixing the problem is exactly the opposite of what you say.

        The Exxon Valdez is an example of what you say. But so far the profits and losses have been fully privatised. That's kind of how it works when the government gives you fines on top of your cleanup efforts.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:28PM (#42122601)

      It's escape goats, dude.

    • But, people being held responsible nonetheless. The next time an edict comes down the "pipe" to start drilling without proper precautions, the folks on point are more likely to CYA and either get official clearance from above (absolving them of blame) or just outright refuse to follow orders.

  • by SoupGuru (723634) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:17PM (#42122403)

    You can settle criminal charges with a load of cash? That doesn't seem right to me.

    • A company's... ahem... "life" would be money. In jail, basically part of your lifespan is given up. It kinda makes sense that criminal charges would result in a fine.

      And by "kinda makes sense" I mean in the insane worlds of the judicial system and business.
      • by vlm (69642)

        A company's... ahem... "life" would be money. In jail, basically part of your lifespan is given up. It kinda makes sense that criminal charges would result in a fine.

        And by "kinda makes sense" I mean in the insane worlds of the judicial system and business.

        From a back dated way of looking at the balance sheet, that kinda makes sense. The problem is looking at historical balance sheets for BP I don't think it took them very long to accumulate $1B on the balance sheet, so you're only taking away a small part of the companies life.

        Now if you decided a human would go to prison for 10 years, and found a balance sheet from 10 years ago for BP and did the delta... of course this logic doesn't work so well with dying companies, HP or Kodak or places like that would

      • Finn warned us that the matrix was full of mambos 'n' shit.
        Looks like the demons are escaping into the real world now.
        How much longer until we're worshiping disencarnate beings in boxes and supplicating for their guidance?
      • by Kergan (780543)

        Then again, sentencing its executives makes a lot of sense too.

        There should be a fine and jail time for the execs who were responsible in the case of BP.

        The same for banksters, for that matter.

      • by JohnFen (1641097)

        A company's... ahem... "life" would be money

        No, a corporation's "life" is its corporate charter. A death sentence to a corporation is the revocation of the corporate charter. This used to be the way we punished even huge corporations that egregiously misbehaved. It's way past time to bring those days back.

  • by Synerg1y (2169962) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:18PM (#42122445)
    Doesn't mean conviction and punishment. The reason corporations tend to get fined rather than individuals getting charged is stuff like distributed responsibility and less than stellar organizational hierarchies & less than clear job responsibilities. Basically, it's like playing pin the tail on the donkey.

    A judge also may set bond conditions and other restrictions on the defendants, but the workers don't face arrest ahead of time, their lawyers said.

    Not your typical criminal manslaughter treatment.

  • "...take responsibility for their actions?"

    No. This is just to appeal to environmentalists and the general populace, and will be a very rare occurrence. I verily doubt you'll see a single company in the next 10 years being forced to "take responsibility."

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:29PM (#42122621) Journal

    Why can't we hold the financial industry accountable and start putting bankers in Federal pound-me-in-the-ass prisons?

  • The whole point of the justice system isn't to punish people for making mistakes. It's to punish them for intentionally making mistakes as a deterant.

    In this case, the problem wasn't the spill -- it's certainly not something that they did intentionally, and hence they needn't be discouraged from spilling again. The problem is that they didn't follow through with the obvious safety procedure of screaming "fire!" and "get out of the way!" and "the oil is coming!".

    Not screaming -- or not screaming soon enoug

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      I would say blaming them for a spill is fine as well. You are still responsible for cleaning up the mistakes you make even if they are not intentional.

  • Drop, meet Bucket (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:37PM (#42122767)

    With over $150 Billion in equity* it's a laughable settlement considering the gross negligence BP should be cited for.

    [*] - http://www.bp.com/extendedsectiongenericarticle.do?categoryId=9021229&contentId=7039276 [bp.com]

    • by epp_b (944299)
      Would be nice if us proles could get out of a manslaughter charge by relinquishing a mere 3% of our equity.
    • by abigsmurf (919188)
      Fine a multinational company too much and eventually it'll be cheaper for them to abandon the country and skip on the fine.

      40,000 people out of a job and the 2nd largest source of oil and gas for the US being shut down (even if the assets were seized, it would take a long time for production to start up again).
  • They should have followed ConocoPhillips and their plans in China [nytimes.com]. Not only will they not face criminal charges, the government decided not to let the state controlled media report on it until it slipped out via a blog. Darn it! If only the government could control everything, we wouldn't have to worry about everyone else finding out about a little 320 square mile oil spill.
  • by Squirmy McPhee (856939) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:46PM (#42122929)
    Has Rep. Joe Barton apologized to BP for this yet?
  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:47PM (#42122949)

    Does this mean rich people can just kill the poor and pay fines now?

    Taking a life illegally should at least warrant some jail time.

    • by pearl298 (1585049)

      Does this mean rich people can just kill the poor and pay fines now?

      Taking a life illegally should at least warrant some jail time.

      I agree, in tthe case of a corporation the equivalent would be to hand over all operations (below the executive suites) to a consortuim of competotors to run for the length of the sentence, under court supervision of course. Just like what would happen to you and me in the same situation!

      Any profits for that period would go to "reasonably compensate" the consortium.

      The evidence is that this arose out of corporate decision making so a corporate wide penalty would appear to be approprite.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:55PM (#42123075) Journal

    The more important and related story is that due to this, the EPA has suspended BP from any further contracts with the Federal government.

    http://blog.chron.com/lorensteffy/2012/11/in-suspending-bp-epa-does-what-drilling-regulators-would-not/ [chron.com]

    I'm sure it will not be long before BP is crying about unions and regulation and it being too expensive to do business in America.

  • by Sydin (2598829) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:59PM (#42123133)
    That's nice. So go right ahead and take up that manslaughter hobby you've always dreamed of! After all it was only what, 11 people killed? so $4.5 billion divided by 11: that means you can murder anybody you want for the low low price of only ~$409 million!. What are you waiting for!? ...I fucking hate this country.
    • That's nice. So go right ahead and take up that manslaughter hobby you've always dreamed of! After all it was only what, 11 people killed? so $4.5 billion divided by 11: that means you can murder anybody you want for the low low price of only ~$409 million!. What are you waiting for!? ...I fucking hate this country.

      To be fair, they qualified for the bulk discount.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      So go right ahead and take up that manslaughter hobby ... that means you can murder anybody you want ... I fucking hate this country.

      Don't worry mate I hate your country too. Mainly because your education system gives you the idea that manslaughter and murder are the same thing.

      No child left behind my arse.

  • "Corporations have no souls to damn; no bodies to kick." They've been an issue for centuries.
    But it's extremely hard to get minions to testify against their capo. A murder charge is a wonderful incentive.
  • So just admit that. Kill all the executives? Fine them a petatrillion dollars? Outlaw all oil? Pay everyone who lives on the Gulf a billion dollars a head? Arrest charge and imprison everyone on the planet who can spell "BP"?

    Feel free.

  • A couple middle managers implementing policies given to them from on high are gonna get in dutch! Wow, the System works! USA! USA!

    On another note, until we start fining these companies out of existence and holding CEOs as accountable as engineers this will go on. When profits from crime > fines folks it doesn't take a genius to figure out what you're gonna do. Once again though I'll remind everyone that we can't do that because at the end of the day, the people really responsible for this are our rule

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