AG Holder: Investigation of BP spill to continue

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two men who worked for BP

during the 2010 Gulf oil spill disaster have been charged with

manslaughter and

a third with lying to federal investigators, according to

indictments made public Thursday, hours after BP announced it was

paying $4.5 billion in a settlement with the U.S. government over

the disaster.

A federal indictment unsealed in New Orleans

claims BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine acted

negligently

in their supervision of key safety tests performed on the

Deepwater Horizon drilling rig before the explosion killed 11 workers

in April 2010. The indictment says Kaluza and Vidrine failed to

phone engineers onshore to alert them of problems in the drilling

operation.

Another indictment charges David Rainey, who

was BP's vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico, on

counts of obstruction

of Congress and false statements. The indictment claims the former

executive lied to federal investigators when they asked

him how he calculated a flow rate estimate for BP's blown-out well

in the days after the disaster.

Earlier in the day, BP PLC said it would plead guilty to criminal charges related to the deaths of 11 workers and lying to

Congress.

"This marks the largest single criminal fine and the largest total criminal resolution in the history of the United States,"

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference in New Orleans.

Holder said the settlement and indictments aren't the end of federal authorities' efforts and that the criminal investigation

is continuing. Holder says much of the money BP has agreed to pay will be used to restore the environment in the Gulf.

The day of reckoning comes more than two years after the nation's worst offshore oil spill. The settlement includes nearly

$1.3 billion in criminal fines — the biggest criminal penalty in U.S. history — along with payments to certain government

entities.

"We believe this resolution is in the best interest of BP and its shareholders," said Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP chairman. "It

removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims."

The settlement, which is subject to approval

by a federal judge, includes payments of nearly $2.4 billion to the

National

Fish and Wildlife Foundation, $350 million to the National Academy

of Sciences and about $500 million to the Securities and

Exchange Commission. The SEC accused BP of misleading investors by

lowballing the amount of crude spewing from the ruptured

well.

London-based BP said in a statement that the

settlement would not cover any civil penalties the U.S. government

might seek

under the Clean Water Act and other laws. Nor does it cover

billions of dollars in claims brought by states, businesses and

individuals, including fishermen, restaurants and property owners.

Holder also said a civil lawsuit will go ahead in February seeking billions more in civil penalties.

A federal judge in New Orleans is weighing a

separate, proposed $7.8 billion settlement between BP and more than

100,000 businesses

and individuals who say they were harmed by the spill.

BP will plead guilty to 11 felony counts of

misconduct or neglect of a ship's officers, one felony count of

obstruction of

Congress and one misdemeanor count each under the Migratory Bird

Treaty Act and the Clean Water Act. The workers' deaths were

prosecuted under a provision of the Seaman's Manslaughter Act. The

obstruction charge is for lying to Congress about how much

oil was spilling.

The penalty will be paid over five years. BP made a profit of $5.5 billion in the most recent quarter. The largest previous

corporate criminal penalty assessed by the U.S. Justice Department was a $1.2 billion fine imposed on drug maker Pfizer in

2009.

Before Thursday, the only person charged in the disaster was a former BP engineer who was arrested in April on obstruction

of justice charges. He was accused of deleting text messages about the company's response to the spill.