Halliburton Pleads Guilty To Destroying Oil Spill Evidence

Halliburton has admitted to destroying evidence in the Deepwater Horizon case. The company pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and will pay a $200,000 fine.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Today, a guilty plea in the case of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. A subsidiary of Halliburton has agreed to plead guilty to charges that it destroyed evidence connected to the disaster. The oil rig exploded in 2010, killing 11 workers, launching a massive oil spill. NPR's Jeff Brady tells us more.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Halliburton was BP's cement contractor on the well. Halliburton told investigators that it warned BP to use additional centralizers. These are devices that hold pipes in place in a well. To bolster its case, Halliburton ran two computer simulations after the accident, but those simulations showed the number of centralizers didn't make a difference.

Despite being told to preserve all evidence, Halliburton deleted the results. Ed Sherman is a law professor at Tulane University.

ED SHERMAN: They destroyed it, those computerized studies, even though they might have been favorable to BP.

BRADY: Halliburton declined an interview request, but in a statement the company says it will plead guilty to one misdemeanor count. It agreed to three years' probation and will pay the maximum fine of $200,000. The company also will make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Still, Sherman says this is a blow to Halliburton's reputation.

SHERMAN: It does, of course, leave a bad taste in terms of Halliburton's good faith.

BRADY: There's still a wide-ranging trial stemming from the Deepwater Horizon accident underway in New Orleans. The first phase has been argued, and a judge will decide how to allocate fault between BP, rig owner Transocean, and Halliburton. During that first phase of the trial, Halliburton said it only recently found cement samples that should have been turned over as evidence earlier.

This was nearly three years after the accident. Loyola University law professor Blaine Lecesne says the judge clearly was not happy about that.

BLAINE LECESNE: So what you have is a pattern of behavior which seemingly suggests deception by Halliburton in terms of withholding, hiding or actually destroying evidence that's relevant.

BRADY: The question now is whether the judge will decide to allocate more fault for the accident to Halliburton because of its behavior. Jeff Brady, NPR News.

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