Who Paid the Largest Criminal Fine in History?

Do you know who paid the largest criminal fine in history? If not, you’re about to find out!

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Company Profile

BP, short for British Petroleum, is one of the world’s six “supermajor” oil and gas companies. It is the third-largest energy company and fourth-largest company in the world measured by revenues. As of December 31, 2019, BP had operations in 70 countries and produced around 3.6 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.


The company who paid the largest criminal fine in history is none other than German-based automaker Volkswagen AG (Volkswagen). In 2016, the company plead guilty to violating the Clean Air Act and was required to pay a $2.8 billion fine. This does not include the $1.2 billion that was paid to settle environmental claims or the $17.5 million that was paid to settle consumer protection claims.


The company at the center of the world’s largest criminal fine in history is French oil giant Total SA. In 2013, Total agreed to pay $398 million to U.S. authorities to settle allegations that it violated sanctions against Iran and Sudan. The settlement included a $245 million criminal fine—the largest ever imposed in connection with export controls and sanctions violations.

Total is one of the world’s six “supermajor” oil companies, with operations in more than 130 countries and a market capitalization of nearly $160 billion as of 2017. The company produces 2.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day and has nearly 100,000 employees worldwide.


PNC is located at 249 Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The mailing address is PNC Bank, National Association, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. PNC Bank’s phone number is 412-762-2000.

The Offense

On November 28, 2012, JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to pay $920 million to settle federal civil charges related to the firm’s involvement in the Bernard L. Madoff Ponzi scheme. The settlement included a $211 million criminal fine, which was the largest ever imposed on a financial institution at that time.

What happened?

In July of 2012, HSBC agreed to pay a record $1.92 billion to settle charges with U.S. regulators that it had systematically violated money-laundering rules and failed to guard against terrorist financing.

The London-based bank was accused of poor anti-money laundering controls, failing to monitor potentially suspicious transactions and violating the Trading With the Enemy Act. The settlement included a deferred prosecution agreement, in which the Justice Department agreed not to prosecute HSBC for its criminal activity if it complied with the terms of the agreement.

HSBC also agreed to pay $665 million to settle a separate civil suit brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

When did it happen?

In July of 2002, Enron Corporation was ordered to pay a $350 million fine for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This criminal fine was, at the time, the largest in history. The next closest was a $100 million paid by Lockheed in 1976.

Enron’s violation related to attempts to bribe officials in India in order to secure contracts for the construction of two power plants. Enron also falsified its books in order to hide the payments from shareholders and regulators.

This fine is notable not only for its size, but also because it represented a turning point in the government’s attitude towards white collar crime. Prior to Enron, most companies caught breaking the law were able to negotiate civil settlements without admitting any wrongdoing. Enron, on the other hand, was required to plead guilty as part of its settlement.

This case signaled a new era of potential accountability for corporate wrong-doing and helped pave the way for future investigations into corporate corruption, such as those involving Tyco and WorldCom.

Where did it happen?

It happened in the United States. The largest criminal fine in history was levied against BP, an oil and gas company headquartered in the UK, for its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The spill occurred in 2010 when a BP-operated offshore drilling rig called the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 workers and causing one of the worst environmental disasters in US history.

The Aftermath

On November 15, 2019, Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals agreed to pay $1.72 billion to settle criminal and civil investigations into the company’s marketing of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal. The settlement is the largest criminal fine ever imposed in the United States.

How much was the fine?

In July of 2014, British bank HSBC was fined $1.92 billion by U.S. authorities for violating money-laundering regulations. This settlement amount is the largest ever paid by a bank in U.S. history, and marks the end of a nearly five-year investigation into the bank’s practices.

How many people were affected?

In 2015, BNP Paribaspled guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA). The bank was fined a record $8.9 billion and agreed to forfeit an additional $1.1 billion. The total amount of the fine was the largest ever imposed on a financial institution.

Although no individuals were charged in connection with the case, BNP Paribas agreed to cooperate with authorities and overhaul its compliance practices. The scandal led to the resignation of several high-level executives at the bank, including Chairman Jean-Laurent Bonnafe and Chief Executive Officer Gerhard Gribkowsky.

What were the long-term consequences?

In the years following the financial crisis, a number of large banks were hit with heavy fines for their role in the crisis. The largest of these was a $25 billion settlement between JPMorgan Chase and the Department of Justice. This was the largest criminal fine in history, and it included a $2 billion penalty for JPMorgan’s role in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.

The settlement was just one part of JPMorgan’s legal troubles. The bank also paid $13 billion to settle allegations that it sold faulty mortgage-backed securities in the lead-up to the crisis. And in 2014, the bank agreed to pay $1.7 billion to settle claims that it manipulated energy markets in California and Michigan.

All told, JPMorgan has paid more than $50 billion in fines and settlements since the financial crisis. The bank has also set aside billions of dollars to cover potential future settlements.

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