The US Department of Justice has given the starkest indication yet that it is looking for the maximum punishment for BP's part in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
In documents filed with the New Orleans court hearing the civil case, the oil company was accused of "gross negligence and wilful misconduct" and of fostering a "culture of corporate recklessness" in advance of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill which flowed unstoppably for three months.
BP denies gross negligence and said it "looks forward to presenting evidence on this issue".
The trial in New Orleans is set for 14 January.
The toughness of the justice department's statement disappointed markets and, according to a note issued by Oriel Securities,"hope of an out-of-court settlement is fading".Reuse content