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SEC, Justice Department probing BP

WASHINGTON — BP says the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are conducting informal inquiries into securities matters arising from the Gulf oil spill.

BP disclosed the probe yesterday in a filing with the SEC, marking the latest development in the evolving government investigations following the April 20 explosion and fire on the BP-operated drilling rig Deepwater Horizon that touched off the environmental disaster.

The oil company’s disclosure came at the end of a written summary of events that have taken place since June 1, when the Justice Department announced it is conducting criminal and civil investigations.

In its latest filing, the company said it is possible the Justice Department will seek to charge BP with violations of U.S. civil or criminal laws.

BP’s filing at the SEC added that other federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, are expected to seek penalties under the Clean Water Act and other laws.

Citizens groups have sued or have issued notices of intent to do so under the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws, the BP filing said, and other agencies, including the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, may begin or already have begun probes.

Separately, The Washington Post reported that a law enforcement official said criminal investigators will look for evidence that inspectors from the Minerals Management Service were bribed or promised industry jobs in exchange for lenient treatment.

Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the former MMS, which is now called the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, declined to comment.

A spokeswoman in the office of U.S. Attorney Jim Letten in New Orleans declined to comment Tuesday night.

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