Tepco or Tokyo Electric Power Company was forced to compensate the victims of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident with a staggering £330 billion which is currently the largest criminal fine to date.
A lot of regulators around the world are trying to catch up with companies in industries like finance and technology. Large fines are becoming one of the most effective ways to hold big companies with huge profits to account.
Here are some of the largest criminal fines ever paid, as well as who had to pay them and why.
Who paid the largest criminal fine in history?
Pfizer is often said to have paid the largest criminal fine in history. The pharmaceutical company fell into trouble with US regulators in 2009.
But other big companies have paid out bigger fines before and after Pfizer.
People who were hurt in 2011’s Fukushima disaster have been told that Tepco, which stands for Tokyo Electric Power Co, must pay £330 billion in damages.
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan had the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. It was caused by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 and was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Following an investigation into the Fukushima disaster, three Tepco CEOs were charged with not making sure safety requirements were met. A Japanese parliamentary panel said the disaster was “profoundly man-made.”
The three Tepco executives were later found not to be responsible for the disaster, but the company was still forced to pay more than £300 billion in damages to people who were hurt by the leaks in the pipes.
In 2012, BP was also hit with a criminal fine of $2.8 billion for its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But the cost of BP’s costly compensation process later pushed the bill up to about $47 billion.
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There were 11 deaths and a $4.5 billion fine from U.S. regulators because of an environmental disaster in 2010.
In the end, Buzzfeed found out that BP only paid $25 million to Mexico because of the accident.
The Bank of America, which has paid out an estimated $82.7 billion since 2000, also paid about $11 billion in damages for its role in the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis and financial crash.
How much was Pfizer’s criminal fine, and why did it have to pay it?
While the criminal fine of £1.7 billion ($2.3 billion) imposed on Pfizer in 2009 was somewhat smaller than the massive penalties imposed on firms such as Tepco, BP, and Bank of America, the fine nonetheless established a new record at the time as the largest healthcare fraud settlement and criminal fine to date.
US authorities ordered Pfizer to pay the fine after it was shown to have committed fraud by mispromoting the now-withdrawn painkiller Bextra.
The corporation pled guilty to accusations of promoting the medicine for ‘off-label’ uses not permitted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Pfizer removed Bextra off the market in 2005, however it had been pushed for applications and doses that the FDA had expressly denied due to safety concerns about the medicine.
Which industries pay the largest fines?
According to Diggity Marketing, the financial services business has received the highest penalties to far.
As of February 2021, the industry, which included banks and payment companies, had accrued penalties totaling $331,558,339,161 spanning more than 6,000 fines.
The pharmaceutical business came in second with 944 penalties totaling slightly more than $56 billion, while the oil and gas industry came in third with fines totaling around $45 billion.
Bank of America topped the list of firms that have paid the most in penalties to far, with JPMorgan Chase coming in second, having paid more than $35 billion in fines.