The US Justice Department has accused oil giant BP of "gross negligence and willful misconduct" in the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, in court documents obtained Wednesday.
In its strongest language yet against BP, the Justice Department leveled the accusation in a 39-page document filed with a US district court in Louisiana, in response to a proposed $7.8 billion settlement between the oil company and victims of the disaster.
It accused the British company of promoting a "culture of corporate recklessness," and accused it of giving the court a "misleading presentation" of the explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon offshore platform.
"BP did not act alone, by any means, and its gross negligence and willful misconduct are inextricably joined with the acts and omissions of Transocean," it said, referring to the owner of the offshore rig.
But it said, "The behavior, words, and actions of these BP executives would not be tolerated in a middling size company manufacturing dry goods for sale in a suburban mall."
An explosion on April 20, 2010 killed 11 workers and ultimately sank the rig, unleashing the biggest marine oil spill in the industry's history and what many consider the worst US environmental disaster ever.
BP reached an agreement in April to settle claims from fishermen and others affected by the disaster for $7.8 billion, but it must be approved by a federal judge and does not affect claims brought by the government.
In its filing, the Justice Department said it was not giving an opinion one way or another on the proposed settlement, but used the opportunity to challenge BP's version of events.
"The court should ignore BP's one-sided argument that the natural resources of the Gulf are undergoing a robust recovery," it said.
"BP's cherry-picked assertions of robust recovery are at best premature judgments on the health of the overall Gulf ecosystem."
Explore further: US may file civil complaint against BP over Gulf spill