Here in New Orleans, it's week two of the penalty phase of the civil trial related to the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest in U.S. history. The object of this exercise is determining how much BP should pay in fines associated with 11 violations of the Clean Water Act, which the oil giant admits to committing. The U.S. Justice Department wants BP to pay $13.7 billion, BP wants to pay $3.19 billion. The final number will likely fall somewhere in between.

I wrote a blog back in 2012 in which I was criticized by some for stating that members of BP’s executive suite should be held accountable for criminal negligence that led to the loss of 11 lives for fostering what U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer called, “BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence.” I went on to say that fining BP was taking from it what it had the most of — money. While the company puts a high value on profits, it’s a hell of a lot easier to give up some money, particularly when you have a lot of it, than to give up your freedom.

Some said that BP is an integral part of the workboat industry, providing work for offshore service vessel operators and WorkBoat has no business being critical of BP in any way. I know I’m splitting hairs here, but WorkBoat wasn’t critical of BP, I was. I think 11 dead, 11 violations of the Clean Water Act, and an almost immeasurable amount of negative publicity gave the oil and gas industry an unwanted black eye (no pun intended). What about BP’s obligation to the industry it represents?

Anyway, we can debate that point another time. My point today is that The Times-Picayune reported last week that Ian Ratner, a partner at Atlanta-based GlassRatner Advisory & Capital Group, testified that BP's financial position is “better today than it was prior to the oil spill.”

There you go.  


Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.