Staff and wire reports

NEWORLEANS - The Justice Department is nearing a $1.4 billion settlement with Transocean Ltd., the owner of the drilling rig that sank after an explosion killed 11 workers and spawned the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Two people with knowledge of the negotiations say Switzerland-based Transocean would pay the money to resolve the department's civil and criminal probe of the company's role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The announcement could come as soon as Thursday.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement hadn't been made.

One of the people, a law enforcement official familiar with the deal, said Transocean would pay $1 billion in civil penalties, $400 million in criminal penalties and would plead guilty to violating the Clean Water Act.

A few hours after the settlement, BP released a statement: 'Today's settlement between Transocean and the United States underscores what every official investigation has found: that the Deepwater Horizon accident resulted from multiple causes, involving multiple parties.'

BP pleaded guilty on Nov. 15, 2012 to 12 felony charges and agreed to pay $4 billion for the company's role in the Gulf oil spill.

'In settling, Transocean has acknowledged that it played a significant role and has responsibility for the accident. Transocean is finally starting, more than two-and-a-half years after the accident, to do its part for the Gulf Coast,' said the statement.

'Unfortunately, Halliburton continues to deny its significant role in the accident, including its failure to adequately cement and monitor the well.'

An attorney for a BP rig leader who has been charged with manslaughter in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon said his client looks forward to telling his story.

'The companies want to put this behind them and get on with business, the government wants a scapegoat, and Bob just wants his day in court. The truth will come out in the courtroom, not a government press release.'

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