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10 Largest Criminal Fines in History

Largest Criminal Fines

Some of the crimes do damage to such an extent that can not be reconciled even in billions. History is filled with such crimes and is heavily charged by government authorities and courts for such criminal offenses. Large criminal fines were charged by the government for violating laws, damaging the environment, causing disasters, costing lives, invading private information, unlawful marketing, and for many severe wrongdoings which cost the perpetrators billions. Let’s find out about the 10 largest criminal fines in history.

1. TEPCO – $450 Billion

In 2011, after the Fukushima disaster, critics blamed the energy company for the lack of safety measures for this kind of event. Later, the court cleared the three executives of TEPCO from a criminal case of negligence. However, the company TEPCO had to face compensation claims worth 5trillion yen (£330billion).

Tepco
The Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant. Image credits: Kyodo via japantimes, Shutterstock

The Fukushima disaster, which took place in 2011, was the worst nuclear disaster after Chernobyl. The disaster was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami which resulted in three nuclear-reactor meltdowns and three hydrogen explosions which released radioactive contamination from different units. Due to this, a large area was evacuated around the nuclear power plant.

The Fukushima power plant was constructed, designed, and in combination with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and General Electric. After the disaster, critics blamed the company for negligence and a chaotic response.

Tsunehisa Katsumata, TEPCO’s chairman, and two others were charged with professional negligence. The panel said, even after being aware of the risk of a tsunami near the Fukushima plant, these three executives didn’t take precautionary measures. 

However, a Japanese court cleared the three executives of TEPCO from the criminal case of negligence in 2019. The company had to pay a huge penalty of $450 billion after various lawsuits filed by 12,000 people who fled because of radiation and class-action lawsuits filed for demanding compensation from the government. (1, 2)

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2. British Petroleum – $64 billion

In 2010, the largest marine oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico covered around 60,000 square miles and even poured into the sea for months. The petrol company, BP, had to pay more than $15 billion in 2016 for the largest US industrial environmental disaster. After decisions by the US Justice Department, their fines eventually exceeded $64 billion.

Oil spill
Weeks after the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a pelican mired in oil struggled to survive in Louisiana. Image credits: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via latimes, FotograFFF/Shutterstock

On April 20, 2010, a massive explosion in the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig operating in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and spewed over 4 million barrels of oil. The oil from the damaged Macondo well which was located 70 miles off the coast of Louisiana kept flowing for over an 87-day period until July 12 when it was finally controlled.

During this three-month time, the oil already covered 1,000 miles of coastline in six states and over 40,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico. This was the largest marine oil spill in history and was the worst US industrial environment disaster.

The petrol company, British Petroleum (BP), paid dearly for this environmental damage, they were charged more than $60 billion for cost-cutting and implementing risk-taking measures which eventually caused the spill. The company settled with the US Department of Justice with a total fine of $64 billion which included criminal and civil penalties, economic claims, natural resource damages, and cleanup charges. (1, 2)

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3. Volkswagen – $34.69 billion

In 2015, the industry giant Volkswagen was hit by a huge fine of around $14 billion for altering cars to beat the emission testing which was increased to more than $30 billion by 2020. The civil and criminal penalties were imposed by the US over the emission scandal.

Volkswagen
Image credit: askarim/Shutterstock

In 2015, Volkswagen, which is a famous German car-manufacturing company, admitted to producing 11 million cars that were fitted with software called “defeat devices” that were used to cheat emission tests.

This device changed the performance of the car to improve results when it was being tested. The company was caught hiding high levels of toxic diesel. Thousands of cars were recalled from around the world which also included 1.2million UK diesel vehicles. These were 393,450 Audis, 508,276 Volkswagens cars, 131,569 Skodas, 79,838 Volkswagen commercial vehicles, and 76,773 Seats.

Because people are precautious over climate change, this scandal was bad news for the automotive industry. Volkswagen was charged with around $14 billion in civil and criminal penalties from the US Department of Justice. By 2020, this emission scandal had cost the company more than $30 billion in fines and settlements. (1, 2)

4. Bank of America – $17 billion

During the 2008 financial crisis, banks were under scrutiny looking for dodgy dealings. Banks were giving loans to people with little chance of paying them back. These financial practices led to economic meltdown but were not illegal. However, Bank of America had to pay a whopping $17 billion fine.

Bank of America
Image credit: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock

The 2007-2009 financial crisis was an epic economical and financial collapse that cost people their life savings, homes, and jobs. During the crisis, new regulatory bodies were appointed, and the banks were put under scrutiny from dodgy dealings.

The main reason for this crisis was cheap credit and lax lending standards. Financial institutions were holding trillions of dollars worth of investments with little hope of repayment, a subprime loan. Millions of American homeowners owed more debt than the worth of their homes.

Barack Obama stated these financial practices, which lead to a meltdown of the economy, as “immoral, inappropriate and reckless,” but these were not illegal, so, they were difficult to punish.

Later, all the banks involved in this crisis paid a whopping penalty. Bank of America paid $17 billion in 2014, JP Morgan paid $13 billion, and BNP Paribas paid $8.9 billion. Major fines were also collected from Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and HSBC Holdings for money laundering, tax evasion, retail practices, and rate manipulation. (1, 2)

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5. Deutsche Bank – $10 billion

In 2015, Deutsche Bank was fined $2.5 billion for its involvement in an interest-rate scam it ran between 2003 and 2007. The bank was charged by British and US authorities for fixing interest rates. Between 2005 and 2007, the bank also signed settlements worth $7.2 billion for selling bad, mortgage-backed securities to investors.

Deutsche Bank
Image credit: testing/Shutterstock

In 2015, Deutsche Bank, which is a leading German bank, paid $2.5 billion for its participation in the interest rate scam between 2003 and 2007. Its secondary bank in London pleaded guilty to criminal wire fraud and was accused of involvement in fixing interest rates like Libor, which used to charge heavy loans and contracts around the world.

Around 29 Deutsche Bank employees were involved in this interest-rate scam, according to British banking authorities. The bank was ordered by US regulators to fire seven employees who were part of the scam including directors and vice-presidents.

Between 2005 and 2007, Deutsche Bank was also accused of selling bad, mortgage-backed securities to investors to which they paid a hefty amount of $7.2 billion in 2017 in a settlement with the Department of Justice of the United States. (1, 2)

Also read: 10 Intriguing Criminal Cases That Were Solved in Unexpected Ways

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