Who paid the largest criminal fine in history and why?


Many of the biggest fines have been paid by big pharmas (Picture: Getty)

The world of big business is littered with lawsuits, and over the years a number of big corporations have found themselves having to pay billions in damages for mistakes that proved costly.

Cases which have involved everything from environmental disasters to loss of life have resulted in companies facing big payouts, often running into billions of pounds.

But who has paid out the largest criminal fine in history – and what was it for?

Here’s what you need to know…

Who paid the largest criminal fine in US history and why?

Although many big companies have been on the receiving end of fines in the past, there are a number of notable cases which have hit the headlines over the years.

One of the most high-profile billion dollar fines in history was given out to medical giants GlaxoSmithKline.

The company paid out $3bn (£2.1bn) in criminal and civil costs in the US after pleading guilty to two counts of promoting antidepressant drugs Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses, and one count of failing to report safety data on the anti-diabetic drug Avandia to the FDA.

Meanwhile Pfizer have also faced a fine in recent years, being slapped with a penalty of $2.3bn (£1.6bn) after pleading guilty to a US criminal charge over the anti-inflammatory drug Bextra.

The drug was pulled from the market in 2005 on the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration after it was linked to an increased risk of heart attack or serious skin reaction.

However the lawsuit stated that Bextra was promoted by Pfizer for several uses and dosages that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically declined to approve due to safety concerns.

GlaxoSmithKline were also in the spotlight in 2012 over ‘misbranded’ drugs (Picture Getty Images)

The case was at the time the largest health care fraud settlement and the largest criminal fine of any kind ever.

Pfizer later reached a settlement of litigation worth $486m (£257m) with shareholders who bought stock in the company between 2000 and 2005, after being accused of causing them to lose money by covering up the safety concerns.

However, it’s not just medical companies who have previously faced huge fines.

Volkswagen is another company which has faced the courts in recent years, over an environmental case, notably the 2015 emissions scandal.

The car giants paid $4.3bn (£3.1bn) in the US in criminal and civil charges after the Environmental Protection Agency discovered that many of the VW cars sold in the US had software fitted in diesel engines which allowed them to defeat emissions tests.

They also faced a penalty of 1bn Euros (£856m) from German prosecutors over the scandal.

Bank Of America was at the centre of a major case in 2014 (Picture: Getty Images)

Bank Of America also found itself on the receiving end of a fine worth almost $17bn (£12.3bn) in 2014.

That sum was to settle claims that it sold flawed mortgage securities in the run-up to the financial crisis of 2008.


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