NEW ORLEANS Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday's agreement with BP and the federal government represents a critical step forward in the company's effort to make things right along the Gulf Coast.
However, the criminal investigation will continue.
According to Holder, the $4 billion in fines can't be used to offset BP's civil fines or be counted as a loss when it comes to the company's corporate taxes.
It's the largest criminal settlement in history.
Holder said that in addition to the fines, the company has agreed to plead guilty to a 14-count Bill of Information, admitting to criminal wrongdoing in the deaths of 11 crew members on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig.
The platform exploded on April 20, 2010, sending a gush of crude into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months.
Under the terms of the agreement, $2.4 billion of the criminal recovery funds will be dedicated to the environmental restoration, preservation and conservation efforts throughout the Gulf Coast region.
In addition to the BP agreement, Holder also announced federal involuntary manslaughter charges against the company's two highest ranking supervisors on the rig at the time of the explosion, and charges against a former top BP executive who is now accused of lying to Congress.
According to the charges, David Rainey told Congress that oil was spilling at a rate of about 5,000 barrels a day when in fact BP had estimates of nearly 10 times that amount.
'As BP now admits in responding to Congress, the company lied and withheld documents,' said Lanny Breuer, the assistant U.S. Attorney General.
Legal analyst Chick Foret said that while historic, BP can afford the $4 billion in fines. 'When you look at BP's profits of over $5.5 billion in the third quarter, maybe it's not too much of a penalty as it relates to the operations of BP.'