The owner of the drilling rig that exploded leading to the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico would shell out $1.4 billion in criminal and civil penalties, the justice department has announced.
The company has agreed to accept part responsibility for its role in the Gulf disaster, which took place after its Deepwater Horizon rig caught fire and killed 11 people.
The company would pay $1 billion towards resolution of civil claims and $400 million in criminal penalties, and would plead guilty to one misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act.
According to analysts, Transocean's punishment was far less severe than that of British oil giant BP, which had leased the rig at the time of the blowout. BP had already agreed to a $4.5 billion payment in penalties even as it pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts of manslaughter and other criminal charges.
Additionally, the London-based oil giant also faced civil claims potentially worth billions of dollars from the US government.
The settlement marks a closure to the Department of Justice's criminal investigation of Transocean. ''This is a positive step forward, but it is also a time to reflect on the 11 men who lost their lives aboard the Deepwater Horizon,'' the Switzerland-based company said in a statement.
The responsibility for the spill, though has been a subject over which BP and the contractor have traded accusations and counter-accusations right from the day of the accident.
The hostilities started over the rig itself, with investigations revealing deep disagreements over operations in the run-up to the blow out. At one point BP's chief executive declared that it was not BP's accident, laying the blame on Transocean's systems, equipment and people.
Transocean later accused BP of not sharing results and information from its own investigation into the spill. The exchange prompted a subtle rebuke from president Obama who criticised both companies, and termed the dispute as a ''ridiculous spectacle.''
Transocean did not face felony charges at the personnel or corporate level, but BP has pleaded guilty to 12 felony counts including ''seaman's manslaughter'' and obstruction of Congress, as also as two misdemeanor counts under the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Two of BP' site leaders have pleaded not guilty to multiple felony counts of manslaughter and one executive has pleaded not guilty to misleading a congressional subcommittee. Additionally the oil giant could also be faced with $20 billion in civil fines under the Clean Water Act.