BP Deferred Prosecution Agreement: What You Need to Know

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon disaster caused one of the worst oil spills in history, and BP found itself embroiled in numerous legal battles. One of the most significant legal documents to emerge from these battles was the BP Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), a legal settlement reached between BP and the US Department of Justice.

So, what is a Deferred Prosecution Agreement?

A Deferred Prosecution Agreement is a legal agreement between a prosecutor and a criminal defendant. Under a DPA, the prosecutor agrees to defer prosecution of the defendant for a certain period, usually 2-5 years, while the defendant fulfills certain obligations. These obligations can include paying fines, cooperating with investigations, and implementing stronger compliance procedures.


The BP DPA was signed in November 2012, and it required BP to fulfill a number of obligations. These included paying $4 billion in penalties and fines, implementing new safety procedures, and establishing an independent safety monitor to oversee its operations. The DPA also required BP to cooperate with ongoing investigations and to pay $525 million over the next four years to a newly created Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which would fund projects aimed at repairing the environmental damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The DPA also outlined the potential consequences if BP failed to fulfill its obligations. If BP violated any of the terms of the agreement, the DOJ could pursue criminal charges against the company.

Why is the BP DPA significant?

The BP DPA was a significant milestone in the ongoing legal battles between BP and the US government. It allowed BP to avoid criminal charges and a lengthy trial, while also providing a roadmap for the company to improve its safety procedures and to address the environmental damage caused by the disaster. The DPA also sent a strong message to other companies that the US government takes safety and environmental issues seriously, and that it will not hesitate to pursue criminal charges in cases of serious noncompliance.


The BP Deferred Prosecution Agreement was a landmark legal settlement that provided a way forward for BP after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The DPA required BP to take concrete steps to improve its safety procedures and to address the environmental damage caused by the spill, while also helping to rebuild trust between the company and the US government. While the legal battles between BP and the US government are far from over, the BP DPA remains an important milestone on the road to accountability and justice.