Halliburton pleaded guilty today of destroying evidence in the wake of the 2010 Gulf oil spill. It's agreed to pay the maximum fine for a misdemeanor: $200,000. On a slightly more heartening note, it's also agreed to donate $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The company wasn't charged with a crime for having anything to do with causing the disaster, just for how it dealt with the aftermath. From Reuters, here's exactly what it did wrong:
Halliburton provided cementing services for BP at the ill-fated Macondo drilling operation. Those services included placing "centralizers," or huge plugs, at various points in piping as it was placed inside the drilled well. Centralizers help ensure cement properly seals a well.
Halliburton had recommended BP use 21 centralizers in the Macondo well, and BP chose to use six. Halliburton later claimed that if BP had followed its recommendation to use more, the well would have been more stable.
According to court documents, the government alleged that in May 2010, as part of Halliburton's review of the disaster, [former Halliburton cementing technology director Anthony] Badalamenti directed another manager to run computer simulations comparing performance of 21 centralizers with that of six. In June that year, Badalamenti allegedly directed a second manager to run a similar comparison.
Both times, the simulations indicated there was little difference between use of 21 centralizers as opposed to six. Prosecutors allege that both times, Badalamenti ordered the managers to delete the simulation results from their computers, and both complied.
Badalamenti was also charged today for his complicity in the coverup.