04 August 2013 – US Republican Senator John McCain has expressed scepticism about what might be a “paltry” punishment for service provider Halliburton as part of a guilty plea agreement involving one criminal count of destroying evidence at BP’s fateful Macondo well.
McCain, two-time presidential candidate and 2008 GOP nominee, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder questioned the penalty and requested further details.
On 25 July the US Justice Department said Halliburton had agreed to plead guilty to one criminal count of destroying evidence and pay up to a maximum statutory fine of $200,000 on claims that a company manager had ordered employees to run simulations of Macondo scenario and later delete them.
“If the fines do not adequately deter companies, they may begin routinely destroying unfavourable evidence as an acceptable cost of doing business,” wrote McCain, also the top Republican on the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
“In matters like the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which tragically killed 11 people, devastated our treasured shores, and dramatically disrupted the economy in the region, plea agreements warrant maximum transparency,” he added.
McCain has generally been supportive of the oil business and during his 2008 campaign visited Chevron’s Genesis oil platform and pledged to open new areas to drilling.
McCain, according to the letter, also asked whether the DOJ is “pursuing further criminal prosecutions of Halliburton or its managers or employees” and whether the agreement precludes further prosecution.
“Why did DOJ settle this case for such a relatively small fine rather than choose to prosecute Halliburton to the full extent of its culpability in the Deepwater Horizon disaster?” the McCain letter read.
Halliburton is still working out various liability issues surrounding the spill, with a verdict expected within weeks from a marathon civil trial taking place earlier this spring which will hash out blame between BP and its contractors.
But so far it has seen less of a criminal impact than other major players on the spill.
Well operator BP late last year previously agreed to the largest such criminal fine in US history over the Macondo incident, valued at $4.5 billion, according to the DOJ.
It was part of a deal which included responsibility for 11 counts of manslaughter for workers killed in the blast.
In January rig contractor Transocean agreed to pay $1.4 billion to settle civil and criminal charges related to the spill, including $400 million in criminal penalties and a guilty plea to to one misdemeanor count of violating the Clean Water Act.
*Kathrine Schmidt, Upstreamonline