It isn't every day that a company as well connected as Halliburton Energy Services admits to having committed criminal acts. Last week, the Justice Department said the company agreed to plead guilty to destroying information sought by investigators on the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
In exchange for admitting that it had deleted evidence about the disaster that claimed the lives of 11 workers and dirtied beaches in several states, the Houston-based company agreed to plead guilty to one criminal count.
Halliburton will pay $200,000 and submit to three years of probation. It will also donate $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. In exchange for Halliburton's admission of guilt, the Justice Department won't pursue additional charges.
Although Halliburton has admitted its role in the BP/Transocean well disaster, the fine it will pay once the deal is approved by a court is absurdly small, given the impact of the spill on the economy and the environment.
Halliburton's work as BP's cement contractor on the drilling rig contributed to the well blowout that resulted in the explosion that spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. The company's review of its own work, including 3-D simulations made before and after the accident, were destroyed, depriving investigators of crucial information needed to assign blame.
The company still faces civil suits from its handling of the disaster, so its time in court is not over. Still, learning to tell the truth about destroying evidence is a step in the right direction.