Who Paid the Largest Criminal Fine in History?

The largest criminal fine in history was a record-setting $3.5 billion that was levied against BP in 2015 in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

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On December 2, 2001, Enron Corporation filed for bankruptcy. This was the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history at that time. The company had been involved in a massive accounting scandal. As a result of the scandal, Enron paid the largest criminal fine in history.

The Enron scandal

The Enron scandal was a major political and financial scandal that occurred in the United States in the early 2000s. The scandal, which came to be known as “the Enron scandal,” involved the fraudulent accounting practices of Enron Corporation, an American energy company based in Houston, Texas, and its auditor, Arthur Andersen LLP.

The scandal resulted in the bankruptcies of Enron and Arthur Andersen, as well as the turnover of federal investigations, prosecutions, and congressional hearings. It was one of the largest corporate bankruptcies in American history, costing investors billions of dollars.

In addition to the financial impact, the Enron scandal also had a major political impact, as it led to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act being passed in 2002. The act was designed to improve corporate governance and prevent accounting scandals such as Enron’s from occurring in the future.

The Enron criminal fine

Enron, once America’s seventh-largest company, became the biggest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history after it was revealed that the Houston energy giant had used creative accounting to hide giant losses. The company’s fall led to the bankruptcy of its auditor, Arthur Andersen, and shook confidence in the U.S. financial markets.

In 2006, Enron’s former chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, was sentenced to 24 years in prison after he was found guilty of conspiracy, insider trading and securities fraud. In May 2006, Enron founder Kenneth Lay was convicted of conspiracy and fraud but died before he could be sentenced.

In 2008, former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow plead guilty to conspiracy charges and was sentenced to six years in prison. Fastow admitted that he masterminded a scheme to hide Enron’s debt and make the company appear more profitable than it actually was.

As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Enron agreed to pay a $350 million fine – the largest criminal fine ever imposed on a corporation at the time.


In 2012, BP agreed to pay the largest criminal fine in U.S. history, totaling $4.5 billion, as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The spill, which is considered to be the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, released approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the course of 87 days.

The BP oil spill

The BP oil spill began on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect.1 The well is located about 41 miles (66 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast.

On April 20, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 people and injured 17 others. The well continued to spew oil into the Gulf for 87 days, until it was finally capped on July 15. An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil were released into the water.2

The spill was devastating to both the environment and the economy of the Gulf Coast region. It was also one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history.

In 2012, BP agreed to pay a record $4 billion in fines and pleaded guilty to 14 counts related to the spill.3 The company also agreed to pay $20 billion to a fund that will be used to compensate victims of the spill.

The BP criminal fine

In 2012, BP paid the largest criminal fine in history to the U.S. government for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The company agreed to pay $4 billion in fines and pleaded guilty to 14 counts of manslaughter, two counts of lying to Congress, and one count each of obstruction of justice and environmental crimes.


GlaxoSmithKline, a British multinational pharmaceutical company, was fined a record-breaking $3 billion in 2012 for charges related to the company’s illegal marketing, promotion and sale of prescription drugs. This was the largest criminal fine ever imposed in the United States.

The GlaxoSmithKline scandal

In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) agreed to pay a record-setting $3 billion to settle criminal and civil charges related to the company’s unlawful marketing of prescription drugs, failure to report safety data, and falsification of data.

This was the largest criminal fine ever imposed in the United States for any matter. GSK also agreed to plead guilty to three counts of criminal information. As part of its guilty plea, GSK admitted that it unlawfully promoted its antidepressant Paxil for use by children and adolescents, and that it failed to report certain safety data about its diabetes drug Avandia to the FDA. In addition, GSK admitted that it made false and misleading statements about the efficacy of Paxil in treating depression in children and adolescents.

The GlaxoSmithKline criminal fine

In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s second-largest pharmaceutical company, paid a $3 billion criminal fine—the largest in U.S. history—to settle federal charges that it had illegally marketed drugs and failed to report safety data, according to The New York Times.

The charges included promoting the antidepressant Paxil for unapproved uses in children, adolescents and adults; promoting the diabetes drug Avandia despite knowing of its heart risks; and failing to report safety data about the allergy drug Willem like the fact that it could cause skin rashes.

The company also agreed to plead guilty to health care fraud for seeking reimbursement from Medicaid for Paxil prescriptions written for children even though the drug was not approved for that age group.

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