Court approves BP’s $525M SEC settlement in Gulf disaster case

A federal judge has approved BP’s $525 million settlement of Securities and Exchange Commission violations stemming from statements the company made about the amount of oil flowing from its blown-out well following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans this week entered a final judgment against BP, which had agreed to the fine and waived its right to appeal, court records show. BP had said when the settlement was announced in November that the money would be paid over three years. Barbier’s order says it will be paid in three payments over 20 months.

The SEC charges alleged that BP misstated the range of possible rates at which oil was flowing into the Gulf, data  that could inform investors’ decisions about buying or selling BP stock.

The judgment in the SEC matter is separate from BP’s proposed settlement of criminal charges related to the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and resulting oil spill. BP has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges, including manslaughter and obstruction of Congress, and pay a $4 billion criminal penalty.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance has set a hearing for Jan. 29 to announce whether she will accept or reject the criminal settlement. Relatives of some of the 11 men who were killed on the rig oppose the settlement and believe BP should be forced to go to trial.

Four individuals face criminal charges stemming from the disaster.