Local Viewpoints
1:10 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Public Citizen: Plea Deal Over Oil Spill Destruction Of Evidence A "Travesty"

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.

What a travesty.

Rather than rubber stamp the plea agreement between Halliburton Energy Services Inc. and the Department of Justice, 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.

We are appalled by the Department of Justice’s decision not to prosecute Halliburton to the full extent of the law for its intentional destruction of evidence related to 2010 BP disaster. By accepting the plea agreement, the court has legitimized this poor decision and normalized the slap-on-the-wrist approach the Department of Justice has taken recently toward corporate crime.

Further, the court’s decision today dismisses the seriousness of Halliburton Energy Services’ criminal act and the significance of the evidence. Knowing the conditions that led to the Macondo well blowout goes beyond cause and culpability. The ability to identify what went wrong – and why – will help remedy dangerous inadequacies in offshore drilling activity. In its attempt to cover up information, Halliburton not only is guilty of obstruction of justice but has undermined efforts to determine additional safeguards necessary to protect the American people and our resources. In failing to punish this criminality, the court has abdicated its responsibility to protect the public interest.

And while Halliburton Energy Service admitted guilt, it in no way means the corporation has demonstrated remorse for its actions. The employee directing the destruction of evidence, according to a report in the Washington Post, continues to work for Halliburton. Nor has the Department of Justice indicated that it will seek to indict the employee.

By failing to impose a fair, just and appropriate corporate punishment for Halliburton Energy Services, the court undermines trust in the integrity of the criminal justice system.