In response to the April 20, 2010 oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, BP recently settled 14 criminal charges with the U.S. Department of Justice. In a June 17, 2010, hearing of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Stearns questioned BP's CEO, Tony Hayward. Stearns asked, "Would it be appropriate to say that its because of BP's reckless behavior that this occurred, yes or no?" Hayward eventually responded, "There is no evidence of reckless behavior."
At a House Energy & Environment Subcommittee hearing on June 15, 2010, Stearns got input from senior executives of ExxonMobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, and Shell Oil. Stearns inquired, "Knowing what we know today, from hindsight, about the inconsistent well pressure test readings, would you have proceeded with withdrawing the drilling fluid from the well?" All four executives answered no. Stearns again asked the executives if, based on reports, BP failed to follow industry standards. They answered yes.
Added Stearns, "This settlement underscores that we demand accountability from any company or individual engaged in reckless behavior. Although BP has admitted to criminal recklessness, it continues to deny responsibility for civil negligence. As this continues to proceed through the legal process, we will continue to see that justice is served."