Covering Louisiana

Nov 8, 2013 4:34 PM by AP

Okla. company to pay $6.4M in Gulf drilling probe

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - An Oklahoma-based drilling company has agreed to pay a $6.4 million criminal penalty to resolve a federal probe of allegations that its employees falsified records on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Company pleaded guilty Friday in New Orleans to a misdemeanor charge and was sentenced by a federal magistrate as part of a plea deal with Justice Department prosecutors. The Tulsa, Okla.-based company was charged in a court filing last month.

Prosecutors said several employees working on the company's rig in 2010 deliberately avoided testing valves on a key safety device because they believed they would leak. Then they allegedly created false testing records and provided them to rig inspectors in an effort to minimize downtime and reduce repair costs.

The company fired four employees who allegedly played a role in falsifying test results and demoted another employee who also engaged in the conduct but reported it to the company, according to prosecutors.

The National Academy of Sciences will receive $1 million of the $6.4 million in penalties. The payment will fund research for improving the offshore drilling industry's safety culture.

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