On Monday the Justice Department opened its case against the three companies to which it has assigned blame for 2010’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The Justice Department is mainly is seeking to prove the culpability of British Petroleum (BP), along with, to a lesser extent, the controversial oil & gas equipment and services provider Halliburton (HAL), and as the oil & gas drilling company Transocean Ltd. (RIG) in what is generally recognized as one of the largest man-made environmental disasters in the history of the United States.
The April 20, 2010 oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the already polluted Gulf of Mexico caused devastation and destruction that continues to affect the environment, economy, and communities of the area. The federal government will be making the case that a culture of “profits before safety and profits before the environment” that existed at BP as well as the other two companies was the main cause of the spill.
The outcome of the trial will determine how much more in damages the three companies should pay for the fallout from the catastrophe. Lawyers from all three companies will provide rebuttals later in the day.
By mid-day, however, the markets may have made preliminary signals that they will have their own verdict to deliver. BP’s shares are currently down 2.50 percent ($1.05) from an opening price of $41.17, while Halliburton has lost 1.07 percent ($0.44) from its $41.40 open. Transocean has lost 1.80 percent ($0.96) from its open of $53.05.
BP has already made the largest damages payouts of any company in U.S. history to find itself in such a position. The civil trial begins as The New York Times reported Sunday that federal and state officials have been working on a $16 billion settlement proposal that could limit the company’s fines to $6 billion with an additional $9 billion in penalties for damages and restoration, and another $1 billion for unforeseeable future damages that may yet result from the spill.