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Deepwater Horizon, 2 years later
November 28, 2012 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Earlier this month, British Petroleum agreed to plead guilty to 14 violations of law, including negligence causing death and the Clean Water Act.

The formal guilty plea agreement. A hearing is scheduled for December 11 to get approval by a judge. The plea agreement includes a penalty of approximately $4.5 billion.

In the meantime, the EPA has suspended BP from new contracts, although it is unclear for how long this suspension will last.
posted by Lemurrhea (59 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
British Petroleum should go to jail for his crimes.
posted by Windopaene at 9:21 AM on November 28, 2012 [16 favorites]


There will be lots more crimes against clean water if current exploration and extraction trends continue: it's a fracking disgrace.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:26 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just a note that BP no longer stands for British Petroleum (it's now an empty acronym à la "SAT").
posted by andrewesque at 9:29 AM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whoops, yeah. Thanks andrewesque!
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:44 AM on November 28, 2012


Nope. Won't be satisfied until there's a moratorium on all offshore drilling and Tony Hayward is drawn and quartered in Jackson Square.
posted by Token Meme at 9:47 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Token Meme: Tony Hayward is drawn and quartered in Jackson Square.
Ah, you read my Christmas wish-list! No fair peeking!

Seriously, let each person harmed by him take a gram of flesh. That oughta do it.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:53 AM on November 28, 2012


In all sincerity, if a corporation is found to have systematically and purposefully violated criminal law, they should be forced to suspend all business (or perhaps yield up all profit beyond operating expenses) for a time. Call it prison for corporations, to go in hand with corporate personhood.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:58 AM on November 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


Can someone clarify for me how this ties into what I heard on NPR this morning, about two of the execs being charged separately? The link mentions that they'll be arraigned, but I thought I heard that the two under separate charges were already found guilty.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:04 AM on November 28, 2012


Corporations are the only persons who should be subject to the death penalty.
posted by Sternmeyer at 10:04 AM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


(or perhaps yield up all profit beyond operating expenses)

If that was my business I would reinvest every dollar I made back into the business in capital works, expenses and my own salary so it would make $0 that year.
posted by Talez at 10:05 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just a note that BP no longer stands for British Petroleum (it's now an empty acronym à la "SAT").

So they officially say.

Yet when the Deepwater blew up David Cameron was on the phone to the White House pleading for the protection of BP from the liability fallout because of the impact it would have on the shareholders.

So yeah, It is an empty acronym yet with the full backing of the British kingdom. Wink, wink.
posted by srboisvert at 10:42 AM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just a note that BP no longer stands for British Petroleum (it's now an empty acronym à la "SAT")

You know what? If you have a company called British Petroleum, and you commonly use BP on signs and whatnot, and then you say one day that BP doesn't stand for British Petroleum any more because "British Petroleum" has cooties... you and your marketing flacks are lying, because it still does.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:44 AM on November 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


I expect that BP will take Exxon's example to heart, and spend a few million on lawyers constantly appealing all penalties until they are reduced to time served money already spent.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:52 AM on November 28, 2012


Actually, those symbols don't even stand for the letters B and P anymore. The name of that company is pronounced by opening your mouth as wide as it can go and making a gargling sound.
posted by fleacircus at 10:52 AM on November 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


Corporate death penalty.
posted by Slinga at 10:55 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I expect that BP will take Exxon's example to heart, and spend a few million on lawyers constantly appealing all penalties until they are reduced to time served money already spent.

Not if they make this guilty plea, that's kind of the point. No collateral attacks, no appeal of penalties are able. And honestly, $4.5B is a pretty harsh penalty. Not saying it's not appropriate (or even necessarily enough), but this wasn't just a slap on the wrist.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:56 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to make all those highly paid BP apologists who stood in front of TV cameras early in the disaster claiming it was the gummint's fault or Obama's fault or the enviornmentalists' fault or some subcontractor's fault stand up in front of those same cameras with the same huge audience and declare themselves to be the craven, lying scumbags they are.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:10 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]



ROU_Xenophobe: "You know what? If you have a company called British Petroleum, and you commonly use BP on signs and whatnot, and then you say one day that BP doesn't stand for British Petroleum any more because "British Petroleum" has cooties... you and your marketing flacks are lying, because it still does."

It doesn't though. There is no company called British Petroleum. It disappeared when it bought Amoco in 1998. Indeed the new company was originally touted as BP Amoco but eventually became just BP. As much as I share everyone's disdain for BP's actions (as well as those of other big oil companies), this isn't a marketing trick--it's just the truth.

It really stuck in my craw the way the US media suddenly kept calling it British Petroleum in what seemed (to me) as a conveniently xenophobic means to blame the disaster on Brits (not helped by the CEO being British and impersonal) even though most of the US staff is American (that is an assumption but valid I believe, see next sentence).

Amoco was nearly the same size as British Petroleum at the merger and retained most of its US employees (two companies employ a total of 99,450 workers worldwide. Amoco, with 43,450 total employees, expects to cut 5,000 to 6,000 jobs, but none in its Chicago headquarters).

Rant over.
posted by NailsTheCat at 11:13 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd like to make all those highly paid BP apologists who stood in front of TV cameras early in the disaster claiming it was the gummint's fault or Obama's fault or the enviornmentalists' fault or some subcontractor's fault stand up in front of those same cameras with the same huge audience and declare themselves to be the craven, lying scumbags they are.

I'd love to see a comprehensive apology from BP, but I would receive no satisfaction from witnessing highly paid scapegoats apologizing for back when they were highly paid apologists.
posted by elsp at 11:42 AM on November 28, 2012


4.5 billion is small potatoes to a behemoth like BP. Itsy, bitsy, little potatoes. The damage that spill did was far worse, the amount of money they rake in from unsafe operations is far more.
posted by Catblack at 11:45 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity, will this fine be paid by their insurance?
posted by srboisvert at 11:54 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


As much as I share everyone's disdain for BP's actions (as well as those of other big oil companies), this isn't a marketing trick--it's just the truth.

You make a good point. But really all name changes are marketing tricks. That's why name changes are usually managed by PR or marketing firms.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:54 AM on November 28, 2012


4.5 billion is small potatoes to a behemoth like BP.

It's almost 1/5 of their 2011 net income, according to stats compiled in teh wiki. Strikes me as a significant blow. It'll be down to 30 corporate helicopters from 32. Imagine the hardship.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:56 AM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


The fact that BP merged with Amoco is also the reason that close to half the shareholders are US citizens, either directly or indirectly via US pension funds.

If you want to criticise the company, perhaps it's worth looking in the mirror. The total failure of the Deepwater Horizon was a mess made in US territorial waters by a 50% US owned multinational, which was being watched over (ha!) by US regulatory authorities.

It was sadly predictable to watch the US news anchors busily empahsising British Petroleum every time the accident was on the news, as if somehow the very name would act as some kind of magical signifier to deflect blame to the other side of the Atlantic.
posted by pharm at 12:27 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


It doesn't though. There is no company called British Petroleum.

Sure there is: BP. That's what it means and stands for, no matter what the marketing flacks say.

If they didn't want to be called British Petroleum from time to time, all they had to do was choose a new name that was actually different from the old name. Compuhyperglobalmart, for example, or International House Of Oil. Instead, they chose the same name as the old name, but combined with loud shouting that it's different because we say so even though it's not different at all.

Or, differently, the only possible reason they could have called themselves BP was to draw on the value of the name of the original BP. To complain that you're being linked to the old name that you took pains to maintain the links to is pure marketing dipshittery.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:28 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


(I get being upset about it being used for xenophobic purposes when it may well have been all Amoco people who actually fucked it up, though. But that doesn't change that BP means "British Petroleum.")
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:31 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seems to me that if its legal name is BP, you call it BP. Do you keep calling your friend Bob, even after he changes his name to Steve?
posted by djgh at 12:34 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure there is: BP. That's what it means and stands for, no matter what the marketing flacks say.

BP is an orphan initialism. If AT&T drilled through a gas pipeline in Europistan and caused an explosion and everyone suddenly reverted to referring to them as 'American Telephone and Telegraph' that would be equally ridiculous. Likewise no one insists on calling G4S, Group 4. Nor KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I will agree to disagree--and I disagree vehemently :)--to avoid a derail however.
posted by NailsTheCat at 12:39 PM on November 28, 2012


"Do you keep calling your friend Bob, even after he changes his name to Steve?"

Well, for a while I'd be calling him, "Bob- uh, er Steve . . . sorry."
posted by Phyllis Harmonic at 12:39 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Likewise no one insists on calling G4S, Group 4. Nor KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Maybe I am weird but I hear Kentucky Fried Chicken all the time. Or old. Maybe I'm weird or old. If they didn't want to be called Kentucky Fried Chicken sometimes why the effing eff would they pick "KFC" as a name?
posted by Justinian at 12:47 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe I am weird but I hear Kentucky Fried Chicken all the time.

This discussion reminded me of this Jack Dee stand-up about resistance to changing brand names. (The British passport bit follows that too.)
posted by NailsTheCat at 12:55 PM on November 28, 2012


Just out of curiosity, will this fine be paid by their insurance?

At least in Canadian law (with the caveat that I don't practice insurance law and am speaking off-the-cuff), you can not gain any benefit from a punitive fine such as this. So you can't take out insurance against criminal fines, against tax fines, etc. It doesn't happen.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:59 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


4.5 billion is small potatoes to a behemoth like BP.

Yes. Wasn't the damage fund they were forced to set up immediately after the spill something like US$20B? I would think the fine should at least double the cost to BP.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:21 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


BP is an orphan initialism.

And I care what they think about as much as I care about any of the other bullshit examples you cite. If they want a new name they should come up with a name that is actually new, and not just pretend that they have the same name but that somehow it doesn't stand for the same thing it used to stand for, even though it's the same company with what appears to be the same name.

If AT&T drilled through a gas pipeline in Europistan and caused an explosion and everyone suddenly reverted to referring to them as 'American Telephone and Telegraph' that would be equally ridiculous. Likewise no one insists on calling G4S, Group 4. Nor KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken

Eh, what? I have no idea what "group 4" is but as far as I'm concerned KFC is still the initialism for Kentucky Fried Chicken and AT&T is still the initialism for American Telephone & Telegraph. That's where those initialisms came from, that's what they stand for, that's still the first thing that comes up in my head when I think about what those initials mean, therefore that is, in fact, what they mean. To me.

Do you keep calling your friend Bob, even after he changes his name to Steve?

If my friend is actually not my friend, but is an asshole I neither know nor care about, and who is blatantly trying to manipulate my opinion of him by pulling bullshit semantic games with his name, then I'll bloody well call him Bob if I feel like it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:30 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


but this wasn't just a slap on the wrist

Of course it is. It's a meagre fraction of the company's revenue, about 1% or so. Statistical noise.

I suspect that the real crime will be that some or all of the fines may not be handled through the Clean Water Act, which is not clear from what I've been reading, but remediated through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, which will allow BP to write off some or all of the damages through its yearly tax bill.

So the US taxpayer may likely still get stuck paying for British Petroleum's crimes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:35 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


djgh: Seems to me that if its legal name is BP, you call it BP. Do you keep calling your friend Bob, even after he changes his name to Steve?
Apples and oranges.

Do you keep calling some prick who just backed into your car and ran over your foot "Bob", even after he changes his name to "B."?

(A: Yes, except in legal documents.)
posted by IAmBroom at 1:38 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just started out writing this:
I'm not saying that when I hear KFC I don't think of Kentucky Fried Chicken: I do. And that's why I chose that example. (Aside: perhaps younger folk don't?) And I'm sorry you find those bullshit examples. My issue is that the media were deliberately calling them British Petroleum. And then we're justifying it saying well it's their real name.

Had they been called "Banana Petroleum" and then gone through the same rebranding process I don't believe people would have insisted on calling them Banana Petroleum.

I've never heard anyone refer to AT&T as American Telephone & Telegraph. Therefore I think it's down to xenophobia. That doesn't mean I don't think BP aren't assholes. I do.
However, I thought I could probably Google news by date range for Brit Pet (I'm bored of writing it in full) before and after the disaster to see if there was a trend. The result? Well I think there's probably a minor uptick in Brit Pet usage afterwards--but that would be difficult to account for really.

I see that even my beloved Guardian referred to BP in 2008 as Brit Pet, so I will retract my accusations of xenophobia. Thanks.
posted by NailsTheCat at 2:03 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course it is. It's a meagre fraction of the company's revenue, about 1% or so.

But revenue isn't the same as profit, so it's more than statistical noise to BP.

I see that even my beloved Guardian referred to BP in 2008 as Brit Pet, so I will retract my accusations of xenophobia.

This, I am glad to see. Such accusations seem a bit extreme.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:22 PM on November 28, 2012


In all sincerity, if a corporation is found to have systematically and purposefully violated criminal law, they should be forced to suspend all business (or perhaps yield up all profit beyond operating expenses) for a time. Call it prison for corporations, to go in hand with corporate personhood.

Well, you know, corporations really are people in the end. There are people there making the decisions for the corporation, right?

Why we don't put those people in jail when the "corporation" violates the law is something I just don't understand... except, of course, when it comes to straight-up bribery. That's old hat.

Whether or not BP or Amoco or whoever wrecked the Gulf is irrelevant to me, 'cause somewhere in that giant corporate umbrella are people who made decisions that should have put them in jail when all this came to light.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:31 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you want to criticise the company, perhaps it's worth looking in the mirror.

OK, sure.

I see me. I see me not owning any BP stock either directly or through a mutual fund. I see me never buying any BP gasoline, or knowingly buying any other BP product. I do see me voting for some people in a government that did not rigorously regulate the oil-drilling industry, so - my bad, I guess. But it looks like that same government is going to use some of my money to ameliorate some of the damage that BP caused without any help from me.

You look in the mirror if you want. I had nothing to do with turning the Gulf of Mexico into a grease pit.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:47 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


In all sincerity, if a corporation is found to have systematically and purposefully violated criminal law, they should be forced to suspend all business (or perhaps yield up all profit beyond operating expenses) for a time. Call it prison for corporations, to go in hand with corporate personhood.
....Why we don't put those people in jail when the "corporation" violates the law is something I just don't understand... except, of course, when it comes to straight-up bribery. That's old hat.


I like the idea of just sucking a corporation's profits away and kicking the execs to the curb, but anything more extreme (like suspending operations or a "death penalty") would be needlessly harmful. Innocent lower-level employees would be out of a job and their competitors might end up turning into monopolies.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:56 PM on November 28, 2012


I see that even my beloved Guardian referred to BP in 2008 as Brit Pet, so I will retract my accusations of xenophobia.

Thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:57 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I have apparently sort of derailed this conversation. FYI, I'm not British (I'm American); the only reason I brought up the comment on BP's name is because I'm a little OCD about stuff like that -- I used to be a copy editor on my college paper, and these kind of nitpicky habits die hard. I have no opinion on "xenophobia" or lack thereof.

I don't, however, think that AT&T was a "bullshit example." Maybe it's because I grew up after the rebranding, but in my mind AT&T doesn't equal American Telephone and Telegraph* in the same way that KFC equals Kentucky Fried Chicken. It's just "AT&T." I think this kind of stuff changes with time -- the longer the acronyms get used, the less familiar what they previously stood for becomes.

*I mean, dude, what's a telegraph?
Just kidding...

posted by andrewesque at 3:11 PM on November 28, 2012


Why we don't put those people in jail when the "corporation" violates the law is something I just don't understand...

Actually, I have thought about this, and come to the conclusion that it is in fact best to fine/shut down the company itself. If, when a corporation commits crimes, the leaders go to jail but the actual profits stay put, investors and board members are incentivized to pick daredevil or self-sacrificial leaders. For the amount of money they pay them, they can find people who will happily commit crimes and risk personal jail time for corporate profits. On the other hand, if you get a tremendous fine or shut down instead, then the investors are incentivized to hire leaders who won't wantonly disregard regulations, since if they do so they might lose their investment.

Of course, you should go after the individual lawbreakers themselves if they were working on their own against corporate policy (without having been coerced or nudged into it by the corporation), and there's nothing saying you can't go after both, but institutional crimes need institutional penalties.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:04 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


and come to the conclusion that it is in fact best to fine/shut down the company itself.

I came to the same conclusion. With the addition that, if corporations truly are people (my friend, hint: they're not) then they need an equivalent to custodial sentences. Financial penalties, just as with people and criminal offences, aren't always sufficient.

In this case, British Petroleum (just kidding: BP) have actually been banned from new US contracts. That's definitely a step in the right direction. Fines are proven to not be sufficient discouragement so let's try strong punitive measures against the corporation.

As far as jail time for execs, I support that too--and it already occurs for financial crimes (e.g. Enron, Parmalat in Italy). But, as Mitrovarr notes, it's clearly not enough.
posted by NailsTheCat at 4:17 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


BP has its headquarters in London, is incorporated in the UK, has a British CEO, and was known for decades as British Petroleum. If you dare to criticize the company, UK politicians and press will jump all over you. Given all that, one doesn't have to be xenophobic to think of the company as British Petroleum.
posted by Area Man at 6:27 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


But that doesn't change that BP means "British Petroleum."

I wish people would put up this much resistance to all the other misguided attempts to needlessly change the names of things: Bombay, Ottawa-Hull, the Skydome, Burma, Sears Point, and so on.
posted by sfenders at 6:39 PM on November 28, 2012


4.5 Billion seems really small to me. Maybe if it had been 4.5 Billion every year for the next decade ...
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:11 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mars Saxman: "AT&T is still the initialism for American Telephone & Telegraph."

In this particular case, it's really not. The current entity that styles itself at&t was formed when SBC, previously known as Southwestern Bell, which had previously purchased many of its fellow divestees after being divested from the entity that had once been known as American Telephone & Telegraph purchased said entity known as American Telephone & Telegraph. There was no management continuity.

If you wanted to insist they should still be called Southwestern Bell or SBC that would make more sense in this instance.

</dillettantishpedantry>

As far as the fine goes, that's great. It's much, much more than the pittance that is usually required, even considering differences in magnitude and comes with a guilty plea, so no legal wrangling. I would have liked to see a higher fine, but practically speaking, it's not a bad result. What I'm more interested in is the fate of any remaining part of the $20 billion pledged to recovery efforts. For all I know that could be where BP is getting the funds to pay the fine.
posted by wierdo at 1:35 AM on November 29, 2012


sfenders: I wish people would put up this much resistance to all the other misguided attempts to needlessly change the names of things: Bombay, Ottawa-Hull, the Skydome, Burma, Sears Point, and so on.
1. The people of Mumbai, who have always called it Mumbai in their native (Marathi-Hindi) tongue, but were forced by their British colonial overlords to refer to it by the name used by the previous slaveowners (the Portuguese), are making raspberry sounds at your historically-unaware claim that they are changing anything. That explains the spittle droplets all over your face.

2. Myanmar's natives are covering your backside similarly; thus, the wet butt.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:14 PM on November 29, 2012


The people of Mumbai, who have always called it Mumbai . . .

This doesn't necessarily invalidate the point that sfenders was making.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:23 PM on November 29, 2012



1. The people of Mumbai, who have always called it Mumbai in their native (Marathi-Hindi) tongue, but were forced by their British colonial overlords to refer to it by the name used by the previous slaveowners (the Portuguese), are making raspberry sounds at your historically-unaware claim that they are changing anything. That explains the spittle droplets all over your face.


Whoa slow down there; the confusion between "mu" and "bo" appears in a lot of other vernacular languages as well. There are many like me who grew up in the region are used to calling the town "Bombay" in English, "Mumbai" in Hindi / Marathi, and "bombaayi" in our vernacular's.

It's a bit like Munich in English and München in German, or Cologne in English and Köln in German, or even, Singapore in English, Singapura in Malay, Sin-ka-pho in Hokkien and Singai in Tamil. It's fine, really.

2. Myanmar's natives are covering your backside similarly; thus, the wet butt.

I have no idea what you're referring to, but Aung Sang Syu Kyi herself calls the country as Burma in English.
posted by the cydonian at 7:27 PM on November 29, 2012


So, um, where's the thread if we want to talk about the Deepwater Horizon ruling and NOT talk about "what names mean and why"?

Because I had a question about the two officers who were being charged separately and I think everyone missed it, and I'd really like to talk about that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:05 AM on November 30, 2012


More on the ban.

EC, this implies that the 2 officers charged separately (and, it seems a third on different counts) won't be covered by the guilty plea by BP. The plea goes after the company and its direction for the bigger-picture issues, whereas the individual indictments are going after things that can't really be said to be a "corporate decision"? Presumably the two for manslaughter could go to jail - I have no idea what the penalty is for Obstruction of Congress. My gut says serious fines but not jail (but my gut is used to Canadian law so, uh, I dunno?)
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:11 AM on November 30, 2012


Thanks - I thought I heard a couple days ago that they'd already been found guilty. Did I just mis-hear?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 AM on November 30, 2012


Yeah, looks like either you mis-heard or someone misspoke? This says that they just pleaded not guilty, with trials scheduled at the end of January-ish.

Makes sense - in an admittedly complicated situation like this, proving manslaughter will indeed be hard and a guilty plea to it would have surprised me.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:43 AM on November 30, 2012


IvoShandor: The people of Mumbai, who have always called it Mumbai . . .

This doesn't necessarily invalidate the point that sfenders was making.
It invalidates the words "needless" and "change" in his accusation of "needless change". Other than that, his point of "needless change" stands, I agree.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:10 PM on November 30, 2012


dammit, broom......
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:21 PM on November 30, 2012


BP's Dispersant Allowed Oil to Penetrate Beaches More Deeply
posted by homunculus at 2:25 PM on December 2, 2012


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