Oil giant BP has agreed to pay a criminal penalty amounting to billions of dollars for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the US coast, according to a person close to the deal.
Two BP employees face manslaughter charges over the death of 11 people in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the massive spill, said the source.
BP will plead guilty to obstruction for lying to Congress about how much oil was pouring out of the ruptured well, said the source, who asked not to be named.
The Deepwater Horizon rig, 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, sank after the April 2010 explosion. The well on the sea floor spewed an estimated 206 million gallons of crude oil, soiling sensitive tidal estuaries and beaches, killing wildlife and shutting vast areas of the Gulf to commercial fishing.
The spill exposed lax government oversight and led to a temporary ban on deepwater drilling while officials and the oil industry studied the risks, worked to make it safer and developed better disaster plans.
BP's environmentally friendly image was tarnished, and independent petrol station owners who fly the BP flag claimed they lost business from customers who were upset over the spill.
BP chief executive Tony Hayward stepped down after the company's repeated gaffes, including his statement at the height of the crisis: "I'd like my life back."
The cost of BP's spill far surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska in 1989. Exxon ultimately settled with the US government for one billion US dollars (£630 million), which would be about 1.8 billion dollars (£1.14bn) today.
The government and plaintiffs' lawyers also sued Transocean Ltd, the Deepwater Horizon rig's owner, and cement contractor Halliburton, but a string of pre-trial rulings by a federal judge undermined BP's legal strategy to pin blame on them.