BP faced a grim future yesterday as its failure to stop a Gulf of Mexico oil spill prompted a plunge in the energy giant’s shares and the Obama administration opened a criminal investigation.


President Barack Obama, struggling to get on top of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, vowed an overhaul of U.S. laws and regulations needed to prevent a repeat of the April 20 rig explosion that killed 11 people and triggered the spill.


And after meeting co-chairs of a commission that will investigate the accident, Obama raised the prospect of criminal prosecutions and BP began a new strategy to end the 6-week-old drama.


“If our laws were broken leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region,” Obama said.


U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, on a visit to the region, said in New Orleans that the U.S. government has launched a criminal probe and that federal agencies, including the FBI, are participating.