Halliburton pleaded guilty in a Louisiana district court on Thursday to charges of intentionally destroying evidence of its role in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history—the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
One of the company's employees was also charged with ordering destruction of evidence.
However, the company's punishment, or lack thereof, is a "travesty," said Public Citizen energy expert Allison Fisher, as it pales in comparison to the crime.
"U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo in New Orleans accepted the company's guilty plea from Halliburton legal counsel Marc Mukasey, imposed the agreed-upon maximum fine of $200,000 and placed the company on a three-year probation term," Reuters reports.
Following the news, Fisher stated, "It is incomprehensible that the Eastern District of Louisiana district court today accepted a plea deal calling for a $14 billion company to pay just $200,000 for intentionally destroying evidence related to the worst offshore oil spill in our country’s history."
"In failing to punish this criminality," said Fisher, "the court has abdicated its responsibility to protect the public interest."
Halliburton provided cementing services for BP's deepwater Macondo well in the lead-up to the 2010 catastrophe—services that BP and the government contend were at least partially to blame for the well blowout. Halliburton admitted in court that employees erased computer-based simulations of its centralizers, which help seal wells.
"Rather than rubber stamp the plea agreement between Halliburton Energy Services Inc. and the Department of Justice," Fisher stated, "the court should have rejected the bargain–basement deal because it fails to hold the corporation accountable for its criminal acts and will not deter future corporate crime."