Who paid the largest criminal fine in history and why? Most expensive fines to companies including Pfizer 


Companies across the world have been forced to shell out millions – and sometimes billions – in criminal damages.

From radiation leaks to environmental disasters and pharmaceutical companies making false claims – these are the biggest fines issued.

Here’s a look at the largest criminal fines in history – including one paid by Pfizer, which companies had to pay them and why they were issued.

Who paid the largest criminal fine in history?

Tepco – £330bn

In 2011, a nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, led to an investigation looking into the plant operator’s preparedness and response of the event.

The investigation found that energy company Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) was to blame for a failure to meet safety requirements or to plan for such an event.

The nuclear outbreak at Fukushima was “a profoundly man-made disaster”, according to the independent investigation set up by Japan’s parliament.

Three former Tepco execs were cleared of negligence eight years after the disaster which cost the company £330bn in compensation claims.

Radiation leaks had forced tens of thousands of people to leave their homes. These people claimed compensation which the company paid out – in the largest criminal fine in history.

Most expensive criminal fines paid by companies

The criminal fine paid by Tepco in response to its failings regarding the Fukushima nuclear disaster is by far the largest paid by any company in the world.

Yet there are other companies that have been forced to shell out billions in damages, including BP, Bank of America and Volkwagen in recent years.

BP – £47bn

In 2010, the biggest marine oil spill in history occurred in the gulf of Mexico – Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

The spill covered 60,000 square miles and poured into the sea for four months in what is known as the largest industrial environmental disaster in US history.

A response to protect waters, beaches, wetlands and more began but the spill caused adverse damage to marine and wildlife habitats, as well as industry.

It is reported that the total compensation paid out by petrol company BP exceeded £47bn.

Bank of America – £11bn

For its role in the 2008 financial crisis, Bank of America paid £11bn in damages.

It was not the only banking institution to have to shell out with JP Morgan (£8bn) and BNP Paribas (6.5bn) among the companies to face similar charges.

The financial crash was sparked by banks lending to people who would be very unlikely to pay it back, known as a subprime loan.

Volkswagen – £10bn

An issue regarding emissions led to Volkswagen being fined £10bn for civil and criminal penalties in 2016.

The VW scandal saw cars recalled and refitted with the appropriate emissions parts and brought into focus the environmental impact of diesel.

What was the biggest pharmaceutical fine paid?

Pfizer – £1.7bn

In one of the biggest fraud settlements in US history, Pfizer paid $2.3bn (£1.7bn) for false claims relating to now withdrawn Bextra pain medicine.

Bextra was removed from the market in 2004. Pfizer Inc pleaded guilty to the charge in 2009.

According to the US Department of Justice, its marketing team promoted Bextra for acute pain, surgical pain and other unapproved uses, while its salesforce promoted the drug directly to doctors for those unapproved uses and dosages.


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