October 27, 2007
BP Takes a $373 Million Hit
BP plc settled three government investigations by agreeing to pay a total of $373 million in fines, restitution, and civil penalties. The company pleaded guilty to a violation of the Clean Air Act, a subsidiary pleaded guilty to a violation of the Clean Water Act, and another subsidiary agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement on a charge of conspiracy to violate the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA). According to a Department of Justice press release (here), the payments include:
$50 million in criminal fines to be paid as part of an agreement to plead guilty in the Southern District of Texas to a one-count felony violation of the Clean Air Act. The agreement resulted from the prosecution of BP by the Department of Justice for a catastrophic explosion that occurred at the BP Texas City refinery on March 23, 2005, that killed 15 contract employees and injured more than 170 others;
$12 million in criminal fines, $4 million in payments to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and $4 million in criminal restitution to the state of Alaska, as part of an agreement to plead guilty by British Petroleum Exploration (Alaska), Inc. (BPXA) to a violation of the Clean Water Act to resolve criminal liability relating to pipeline leaks of crude oil onto the tundra as well as a frozen lake in Alaska;
A criminal penalty of $100 million, a payment of $25 million to the U.S. Postal Inspection Consumer Fraud Fund, and restitution of approximately $53 million, plus a civil penalty of $125 million to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, as part of an agreement to defer the prosecution of a one-count criminal information filed in the Northern District of Illinois charging BP America Inc. with conspiring to violate the Commodity Exchange Act and to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.
The deferred prosecution agreement calls for the appointment of a monitor for three years to oversee the company's compliance with its terms and to ensure no future violations of the CEA. In addition to the charges against BP, four former commodities traders at its BP America subsidiary were charged in a twenty-count indictment (here) with conspiracy, violations of the CEA, and wire fraud. According to the press release, the traders conspired
to manipulate and corner the TET propane market in February 2004, in violation of the Commodity Exchange Act, and to sell TET propane at an artificially inflated index price in violation of the federal mail and wire fraud statutes. The indictment further charges the defendants with substantive violations of the Commodity Exchange Act and the wire fraud statute. According to the proposed indictment, from Feb. 5, 2004, through March 15, 2004, the defendants allegedly agreed to manipulate the market for February 2004 TET propane.
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