Report: BP Managers May Face Manslaughter Over Gulf Spill

Bloomberg reports prosecutors are investigating what Tony Hayward knew

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BP managers presiding over 2010's devastating gulf oil spill may not be getting off as scot-free as the public once perceived.

According to a Bloomberg report citing anonymous sources, federal prosecutors are considering charging BP managers with involuntary manslaughter or seaman's manslaughter charges (a "more serious penalty of up to 10 years") for sacrificing safety for speed prior to the oil rig accident that killed 11 workers last year. Investigators are also combing through the Congressional testimony of the gaffe-prone former BP CEO Tony Hayward and other industry executives "to determine whether their testimony was at odds with what they knew."

Bloomberg's report points out how rare such a prosecution would be. "They typically don’t prosecute employees of large corporations,” Jane Barrett, a Maryland law professor and former prosecutor for environmental crime, tells the news service. She adds: "You’ve got to prosecute the individuals in order to maximize, and not lose, the deterrent effect." Another law professor cited the fact that "low-level people in these companies [were] responsible for making bad decisions," making it hard to try them because "it’s not clear they all knew what everyone else involved knew."

Even though BP has been held fiscally responsible for the accident to the tune of $20 billion, the possibility of jail time partly assuages concerns of "going easy" on the company and, as Barrett notes, would be "significant to environmental-safety cases because it might change behavior."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.