Oil stained beach in Louisiana after the Deepwater Horizon disaster

Halliburton Inc. will not be held accountable for criminal acts committed by its employees under a plea agreement with the Department of Justice now accepted by a judge – the firm will pay a fine for a misdemeanor.

Unlike BP and rig owner Transocean Ltd., Halliburton was not charged with a crime related to the causes of the disaster. The fine Halliburton agreed to pay is the statutory maximum for the misdemeanor charge of unauthorized destruction of evidence.

The deal announced in July also calls for Halliburton to be on probation for three years and to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, but that payment was not a condition of the deal.

Weak does not even begin to describe this deal. Not only was Halliburton instrumental in causing the disaster, the firm then destroyed evidence of their involvement in helping cause the spill.

But in a move reminiscent of the Fabrice Tourre and Goldman Sachs case – where a small fish stands in for the big fish that got away – one of Halliburton’s employees will face prosecution.

Anthony Badalamenti, who had been the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., was charged in federal court with instructing two other employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP’s blown-out well.

Halliburton was BP PLC’s cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf in April 2010, killing 11 workers and triggering the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Another pathetic prosecution under Eric Holder’s Justice Department where no matter how horrendous the crime the big players get to walk away unscathed. But if the PR is bad enough a small time fall guy can be found. Which of course means there is no disincentive for further criminal conduct by the big players who know they will never be held accountable.

This is what happens when you make a corporate lackey Attorney General. PR prosecutions and no justice.

Photo by Lagohsep under Creative Commons license.