The charges BP will plead guilty to are 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of a ship's officers, one felony count of obstruction of Congress and one misdemeanor count each under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Clean Water Act. The workers' deaths were prosecuted under a provision of the Seaman's Manslaughter Act. The obstruction charge is for lying to Congress about how much oil was spewing from the ruptured well.
Attorney General Eric Holder was scheduled to discuss the settlement at an afternoon news conference in New Orleans.
The penalty will be paid over five years. BP made a profit of $5.5 billion in the most recent quarter.
The largest previous corporate criminal penalty assessed by the U.S. Justice Department was a $1.2 billion fine imposed on drug maker Pfizer in 2009.
The Deepwater Horizon rig, 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, sank after the April 20, 2010, explosion that was later blamed on time-saving, cost-cutting decisions made by BP and its drilling partners. The well on the sea floor spewed an estimated 206 million gallons of crude, fouling marshes and beaches, killing wildlife and shutting vast areas of the Gulf to commercial fishing.
After several failed attempts that introduced the American public to such industry terms as "top kill" and "junk shot," BP finally capped the well on July 15, 2010, halting the flow of oil after more than 85 days and putting a stop to what became one of the most closely watched shows on TV and the Internet: the live spill-camera image of the gushing well.
Nelda Winslette's grandson Adam Weise of Yorktown, Texas, was killed in the blast. She said somebody needs to be held accountable.
"It just bothers me so bad when I see the commercials on TV and they brag about how the Gulf is back, but they never say anything about the 11 lives that were lost. They want us to forget about it, but they don't know what they've done to the families that lost someone," she said.