Oil giant BP is preparing to plead guilty to criminal misconduct related to the 2010 Gulf Oil spill later today, according to two sources familiar with the case. The sources said the settlement deal will also include the largest-ever penalty in a criminal case, topping the more than $1 billion payment by pharmaceutical maker Pfizer in a drug marketing prosecution (Pfizer also paid about $1 billion in civil penalties).
London-based BP confirmed it is in "advanced discussions" with the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission to put an end to the long-running criminal investigation. The agreement will not cover civil environmental damages under the Clean Water Act, BP said.
Eleven people died in an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon mobile rig in April 2010, touching off one of the largest environmental disasters in history. The damage to fish, birds, and water in the Gulf and along the borders of four states is still being studied by scientists.
The two sources close to the case said a formal announcement is likely later today in New Orleans. One said that individual executives could face prosecution as well. To date, only one person, former BP engineer Kurt Mix, has been charged with a crime. Mix is fighting allegations he obstructed justice by deleting messages that reflected how much oil was gushing out of the Macondo well after the disaster.
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