BP Official Settles SEC Insider Trading Claims

April 17 (Bloomberg) — A former official of BP Plc will pay $224,000 to settle U.S. claims that he traded securities based on inside information about the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

Keith Seilhan, a crisis manager who directed BP’s oil-skimming operations and efforts to contain the 2010 disaster, sold his family’s entire $1 million holding of BP securities after receiving confidential information regarding the severity of the spill, the SEC said today in a statement. Seilhan agreed to the settlement, which requires approval from a federal judge, without admitting or denying the allegations.

“Corporate insiders must not misuse the material nonpublic information they receive while responding to unique or disastrous corporate events, even where they stand to suffer losses as a consequence of those events,” Daniel Hawke, chief of the SEC’s market abuse unit, said in the statement.

BP agreed in 2012 to pay $525 million to settle a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claim that the company publicly underestimated the size of the spill. The company also pleaded guilty to obstruction of Congress related to its spill size estimate, part of a $4 billion resolution of criminal charges brought by the U.S. BP pleaded guilty to 11 other felony counts related to the rig workers’ deaths and two misdemeanor environmental law violations.

Seilhan of Tomball, Texas, improperly directed the sale of his family’s BP shares over the course of two days in late April 2010, according to a complaint filed by the SEC in federal court in Louisiana today. The trades allowed Seilhan to avoid losses and “reap unjust profits” as the price of BP securities dropped by 48 percent, reaching their lowest point in June 2010, according to the SEC.

“Four years have passed and Mr. Seilhan wants to avoid further distraction and protracted litigation,” Mary McNamara, a lawyer for Seilhan at Swanson & McNamara LLP in San Francisco, said in an e-mailed statement. “Mr. Seilhan is widely respected for his work helping to lead the cleanup and containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.”- Bloomberg News