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DoJ Launches Criminal Investigation Into BP

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving company.

The U.S. government has launched a formal criminal and civil investigation into the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday […]

“We will make certain that those responsible clean up the mess they have made and restore or replace the natural resources lost or injured in this tragedy,” Holder said in his remarks. “And we will prosecute to the full extent any violations of the law.”

Holder delivered his remarks following a meeting in Louisiana with prosecutors from gulf coast regions, which have been affected by the aftermath of the ecological disaster.

“[A]s we have said all along, we must also ensure that anyone found responsible for this spill is held accountable,” Holder said. “That means enforcing the appropriate civil – and if warranted, criminal – authorities to the full extent of the law.”

As we know, civil penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act could total up to $4,300 a barrel. Holder didn’t stop with the Clean Water Act, but said his department would be looking into violations of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act, among other statutes. Holder said that “we have already instructed all relevant parties to preserve any documents that may shed light on the facts surrounding this disaster… we will be meticulous, we will be comprehensive, and we will be aggressive. We will not rest until justice is done.”

This is a break with the typical “look forward, not backward” approach of the Obama Administration to malfeasance and corporate crimes generally, but of course, what matters is the follow-through. It’s worth noting that the President backed Holder up on this today.

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David Dayen

David Dayen