Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice is opening a criminal probe into BP’s oil spill disaster. And today the New York Times reported that BP, Halliburton and Transocean have retained expensive legal teams with “deep Department of Justice and White House ties.”

“We have what we think is a sufficient basis for us to have begun a criminal investigation,” Holder said yesterday. Legal experts are speculating that the Department of Justice investigation will look into whether BP violated safety regulations in its practices or possibly tried to cover up evidence that they knew the accident was much worse than they initially let on.

Jamie Gorlick, a partner at BP-recruited firm WilmerHale who will lead their legal team, was a deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration. Seven congressional committees have opened up inquiries into BP’s conduct as well.

Today Credit Suisse estimated that the final tally for the spill could cost BP around $37 billion—around $20 billion for cleanup work and $14 billion claims. According to the Wall Street Journal, BP’s processed 25,000 claims from people affected by the disaster for their economic losses. The company says it has paid more than $29 million out in claims. No one’s been able yet to put a price of people’s lives—11 workers are still missing and presumed dead after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, and untold masses of marine life have been killed by the crude oil and chemicals filling the Gulf Coast waters.

It seems that BP could be taken to court for its spokespeople’s offensive comments alone. In the last week, BP’s CEO Tony Hayward’s said that oil cleanup workers who’d gotten sick after working on the water had likely gotten “food poisoning or some other issue.” He also said: “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do,” adding, “I would like my life back.”

Hayward later took to Facebook to apologize, but not before the families of the eleven workers lost on the oil rig explosion sent him their condolences.

Photo: Creative Commons/Center for American Progress Action Fund

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