U.S. prosecutors are reportedly considering filing criminal charges against BP (NYSE:BP) employees over the U.K. energy giant’s role in the worst offshore oil spill in American history.
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According to The Wall Street Journal, federal officials may disclose felony charges early next year against employees who may have provided false information to regulators about the risks tied to the Gulf of Mexico well while drilling was ongoing.
The charges would mark the first criminal charges stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident, which killed 11 people, injured 17 and caused almost 5 million barrels of crude oil to spill. A conviction would call for up to five years in prison in addition to a fine, the paper said.
It’s not clear specifically which employees federal prosecutors are eyeing, but they are reportedly focused on several Houston engineers and at least one of their supervisors.
Prosecutors may still elect not to charge these employees criminally, the Journal reported.
At the same time, legal experts told the paper BP is likely to face broader criminal charges, including for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act.
U.S.-listed shares of BP slipped 0.05% to $42.34 ahead of the open, while the company’s London-listed stock gained 0.21%.
Exxon, which has since become ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), faced a slew of criminal charges over the infamous 1989 Exxon Valdez Alaskan oil spill, which involved 11 million barrels of oil.