* Halliburton agrees to fine, probation
* Former manager facing charge of destroying evidence
NEW ORLEANS, Sept 19 Halliburton Co
pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal charges of destroying
evidence, stemming from its role in the 2010 BP oil disaster
that killed 11 men and sent more than 4 million barrels of oil
spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.
A former Halliburton cementing technology director in Texas
also was charged on Thursday with destroying evidence.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo in New Orleans
accepted the company's guilty plea from Halliburton legal
counsel Marc Mukasey, imposed the agreed-upon maximum fine of
$200,000 and placed the company on a three-year probation term.
Mukasey did not make a statement on the company's behalf.
The Macondo disaster, the worst-ever offshore oil spill in
U.S. history, so far has cost BP about $42.4 billion in charges
on its balance sheet from payouts, cleanup and restoration costs
and ongoing litigation.
The plea deal with Halliburton was first announced by the
company and the U.S. Department of Justice on July 25. The U.S
Justice Department revealed the single count of destroying
evidence filed against the former Halliburton manager, Anthony
Badalamenti, of Katy, Texas, on Thursday.
In its plea, Halliburton admitted to the misdemeanor charge
of "intentionally causing damage without authorization to a
Halliburton provided cementing services for BP at the
ill-fated Macondo drilling operation. Those services included
placing "centralizers," or huge plugs, at various points in
piping as it was placed inside the drilled well. Centralizers
help ensure cement properly seals a well.
Halliburton had recommended BP use 21 centralizers in the
Macondo well, and BP chose to use six. Halliburton later claimed
that if BP had followed its recommendation to use more, the well
would have been more stable.
According to court documents, the government alleged that in
May 2010, as part of Halliburton's review of the disaster,
Badalamenti directed another manager to run computer simulations
comparing performance of 21 centralizers with that of six. In
June that year, Badalamenti allegedly directed a second manager
to run a similar comparison.
Both times, the simulations indicated there was little
difference between use of 21 centralizers as opposed to six.
Prosecutors allege that both times, Badalamenti ordered the
managers to delete the simulation results from their computers,
and both complied.
The judge noted that a company executive had directed
employees to preserve material related to Macondo.
In an ongoing, multi-phase civil trial over the cause of the
well explosion in federal court in New Orleans, both the
government and BP contend that faulty cement work by Halliburton
contributed to the disaster.
BP also contends that Halliburton destroyed computer
evidence that would have shown those errors.