Transocean Ltd. will pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal penalties and fines for the company’s role in the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion and spill, the U.S. Justice Department has announced. 

The Switzerland-based company agreed to pay $1 billion in civil penalties over three years for violations of the Clean Water Act, a record amount, DOJ officials said on January 3. The penalty eclipses the $70 million penalty that MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, a partner with BP Plc in the Gulf well that discharged oil, paid last year.

Transocean Deepwater, Inc., a Houston-based subsidiary of Transocean, will plead guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act rooted in the release of oil into the Gulf, according to the terms of the agreement filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Transocean agreed to pay $400 million in criminal penalties. Nearly half of that amount is dedicated to the acquisition, restoration and preservation of marine and coastal environment along the Gulf.

“This resolution of criminal allegations and civil claims against Transocean brings us one significant step closer to justice for the human, environmental and economic devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a statement. “This agreement holds Transocean criminally accountable for its conduct and provides nearly a billion dollars in criminal and civil penalties for the benefit of the Gulf states.”

Transocean was represented by a team of lawyers from the law firms Munger, Tolles & Olson; Sutherland Asbill & Brennan; and Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber.

Brad Brian, a trial attorney in the Los Angeles office of Munger Tolles and the lead negotiator in talks with DOJ, was not immediately reached for comment Thursday afternoon. DOJ’s civil and criminal settlements are subject to court approval.

Transocean said in a statement on its web site that “these important agreements, which the company believes to be in the best interest of its shareholders and employees, remove much of the uncertainty associated with the accident.”

Lanny Breuer, the assistant attorney general for the DOJ Criminal Division, said in a statement that “Transocean’s rig crew accepted the direction of BP well site leaders to proceed in the face of clear danger signs—at a tragic cost to many of them. Transocean’s agreement to plead guilty to a federal crime, and to pay a total of $1.4 billion in criminal and civil penalties, appropriately reflects its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”

The company agreed to cooperate with the Deepwater Horizon Task Force, led by John Buretta, in the ongoing federal investigation into the Gulf environmental disaster. DOJ remains locked in civil litigation with BP.

In November, DOJ officials announced BP had agreed to pay $4 billion in fines and penalties to resolve criminal allegations for the company’s role in the rig explosion, which killed 11 workers, and spill.

Contact Mike Scarcella at mscarcella@alm.com.