BP will pay the biggest criminal penalty in US legal history by some distance after reaching a $4.5bn (£2.9bn) settlement with American authorities over the Gulf of Mexico spill.
Two men who worked for the oil giant at the time of the disaster are facing involuntary manslaughter charges, while a third was charged with other offences.
The FTSE 100 oil giant agreed to plead guilty to 14 counts of criminal misconduct to resolve all federal criminal charges and claims by the Securities and Exchange Commission relating to the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, which killed 11 workers and spilled nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil.
Penalties agreed as part of the deal will see BP paying $4bn to the Department of Justice and $525m to the SEC and will increase the charge it is taking to cover the costs of the spill to $41.95bn.
Bob Dudley, right, BP's chief executive, said: "We apologise for our role in the accident, and as today's resolution with the US government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions."
The deal does not cover federal civil claims, including damages from the Clean Water Act, federal and state natural resources damages claims or outstanding private civil claims.Separately, a federal inducement unsealed in New Orleans charged the two highest ranking BP supervisors who were on board the ill-fated rig on the day of explosion with 23 criminal counts, according to US Attorney General Eric Holder. He said: "I want to be absolutely clear that today's resolution [with BP] does not mark the end of our efforts. In fact, our criminal investigation remains ongoing – and we'll continue to follow all credible leads and pursue any charges that are warranted."
The Department of Justice named the two supervisors as BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine. They are alleged to have "engaged in negligent and grossly negligent conduct". David Rainey, a former BP executive who was vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico, was also charged with allegedly lying to investigators and obstructed a Congressional inquiry. In its settlement, BP admitted that he "manipulated internal estimates to understate the amount of oil flowing from the well."
As part its agreement, BP is pleading guilty to 11 felony counts of "misconduct or neglect of ships officers" relating to the lives lost. It is also pleading guilty to one misdemeanour count under the Clean Water Act, one misdemeanour count under the Migratory Bird Treaty and one felony count of obstruction of Congress. BP has also agreed to take actions to improve the safety of its drilling. Its shares fell by 0.35p to end the day at 425.4p.
BP could be liable for a maximum penalty of $5.4bn under the Clean Water Act alone, a figure which could rise to $21bn if it is found to be grossly negligent, a claim it has denied.