Fine for Marring Deepwater Horizon Evidence
(CN) - Halliburton will pay a $200,000 fine for destroying evidence related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in a plea agreement approved by a federal judge in New Orleans.
The fine approved by U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo is the statutory maximum, the U.S. Justice Department said in a written statement.
In addition, a bill of criminal information was filed Tuesday charging a former Halliburton manager, Anthony Badalamenti, with one count of destruction of evidence.
A bill of information usually signals a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors.
Halliburton Energy Services was BP's cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf in April 2010, the uncontrolled blowout causing the nation's worst offshore oil spill; 11 workers on the rig were killed in the blast.
Prosecutors said Badalamenti, who was Halliburton's cement technology director, directed two other employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP's blown-out well.
The company pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized destruction of evidence, a misdemeanor, involving a post-spill review of the cementing done on the Macondo well.
The plea deal, which was announced in July, also calls for Halliburton to be on probation for three years and to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
"Halliburton destroyed evidence during the investigation of the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, and now both the company and the Halliburton manager who ordered the destruction are being held to account," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department's Criminal Division.
During the guilty plea and sentencing proceeding today, Judge Milazzo found, among other things, the sentence appropriately reflects Halliburton's offense conduct.
Milazzo also noted that the statutory maximum fine and three year probationary period provide just punishment and appropriate deterrence, and noted that Halliburton notified investigators of the deletion of data, and later made "substantial efforts" to recover it.
The Justice Department said these efforts to forensically recover the destroyed computer simulations during ensuing civil litigation and federal criminal investigation by the Deepwater Horizon Task Force were unsuccessful.
In a written statement, Halliburton said, "In connection with the resolution, the DOJ's investigating Task Force characterized the company's cooperation in the case as 'exceptional,' as well as 'forthright, extensive and ongoing since the outset of the investigation.'