The Most Expensive Criminal and Civil Fines: Who paid the largest fine in recent history and why?

In the US, Pfizer paid $2.3 billion in criminal and civil fines, the largest in recent pharmaceutical history. Across the ocean, TEPCO has already paid billions in fines for failing to meet nuclear powerplant safety requirements in Japan, and may end up paying much more. Class action lawsuits and individual claims against TEPCO continue to date, meaning that figure will continue to rise.

In July, 2022 a Tokyo court has found 4 TEPCO executives to be responsible and ordered them to pay 13 trillion yen ($90 Billion USD) in restitution to shareholders.


Tip: If you have been injured, financially, physically, or in any other way by a corporation. Below is how to file a civil or class-action lawsuit against the company.

Quick take: who paid the largest criminal and civil fine in recent history?

Find out why Pfizer paid the largest criminal and civil fine in US history.

Who paid the biggest fine in recent history?

According to estimates, TEPCO  may pay up to $134 billion in compensation claims.

How much did TEPCO pay in fines and retribution?

Following the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, TEPCO, a Tokyo-based electric company, faced multiple civil lawsuits totalling up to 11 trillion yen. The lawsuits were based on the findings that the energy giant was ill-prepared for the tsunami. The same year, a Tokyo court ordered TEPCO to pay $10 million for damages as well as ¥1 Million Yen to every family within 30 km of the nuclear powerplant. Add to that the multiple lawsuits still in court from cleanup crews and residents affected by the fallout, some of whom developed cancer. And you have one of the largest fines ever paid.

Estimates are that this cost could exceed $143 Billion USD. Additionally in July of 2022 4 executives were found responsible and orders to pay ~$90 Billion USD in damages (¥13 Trillion Yen).

Was TEPCO at fault for Fukushima?

According to the Japanese parliament, Fukushima nuclear disaster was a man-made disaster. Why? TEPCO failed to meet safety requirements or plan for a tsunami.

Because of that, victims of the disaster had the right to take civil action against the company.  

What you need to remember is. In Corporate Law, a corporate crime refers to any crime committed by an employee through the venue of his employment to benefit the business. In TEPCO’s case, the crime committed was failing to adequately prepare for a disaster and risking the lives of citizens.

Examples of corporate crimes that may result in civil and criminal fines include:

  • Violation of environmental laws.
  • Breach of contract
  • Insider trading
  • Bribery  
  • False claims
  • Embezzlement.

What was BP’s Fine for Deepwater Horizon?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in 2013, BP paid a record $4billion in criminal fines after the company pled guilty to fourteen criminal charges. The energy giant pled guilty to crimes including:

  • Multiple counts of felony manslaughter.
  • Environmental crimes
  • Obstruction of congress

Two of the highest-ranking supervisors on Deephorizon faced manslaughter and obstruction of Congress charges.

The company also had to pay 2.4 billion for natural resource restoration.

Did Deepwater horizon survivors get a settlement?

The Deepwater Horizon tragedy resulted in the loss of life, businesses were affected, and livelihoods were destroyed. Consequently, the company faced multiple lawsuits. By December 2013, the company had paid at least $13 billion as compensation for the victims and businesses, plus federal fines.

See court orders and rules in the attachments below.

First Amended Order Creating Transition Process
Order and Reasons Granting Final Approval of the Economic and Property Damages Settlement
Order and Judgement Granting Approval of the Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement
Order Regarding Settlement Implementation

In 2012, BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion to the US Department of Justice.

Remember. When the company pled guilty to criminal and negligence charges, it opened itself to civil lawsuits.

The exact figure BP has paid in both civil and criminal fines is still up for debate, but estimates put the figure at -at least 47 billion. There are plenty of pending civil lawsuits in courts worldwide (related/unrelated), so the figure could be much higher than that.

What we know:

How did ‘diesel gate’ affect VW?

“Diesel gate” OR VW’s emission scandal has cost the carmaker at least $34.9 billion in criminal and civil fines. Why?

In 2014, investigations found that VW intentionally installed faulty software and hardware in its vehicles. The “defeat devices” sensed when the car was tested and when a normal user was using the vehicle. During tests, the devices reduced emissions.

According to the EPA, VW violated the United States Clean Air Act.

42 U.S.C 7402 Seq (Clean Air Act) is a set of federal laws that regulate air emissions from vehicles and factories. Under the act, it is unlawful to sell products that do not comply with set emission standards in the US. The EPA reports that VW sold approximately 590,000 vehicles fitted with defeat devices. The models include Audi, Volkswagen Tuareg, Passat, golf SportWagen, Jetta SportWagen and VW beetle.

In short:

How much has Facebook been sued for?

 According to the Federal Trade Commission, Facebook must pay $5billion in penalties for user privacy violations. That is the largest fine ever imposed on a company in the US for a privacy violation. Before Facebook, Equifax paid $2785 million, British airways may have to pay $230 million, and uber paid $148 million for privacy violations.

Why did Facebook overpay?

According to Politico and other sources, Facebook overpaid the penalty to shield the owner, Mark Zuckerberg, from liability.

What crime did Facebook commit?

The FTC reports that Facebook failed to protect users from data harvesting company -Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica used the harvested data to target voters for presidential candidate Donald Trump.

In short, the FTC claimed that Facebook:

  •  Shared user data with third-party applications.
  • Repeatedly violated the FTC act/FTC’S 2012 order by deliberately misrepresenting the extent to which the platform users could control their data. One allegation is that Facebook used users’ mobile phone numbers for advertisement.
  • Facebook misled users on how the company uses its facial recognition technology.

How do I file a class-action lawsuit against a company in the US?

The wrongful actions of a company against its workers or others may result in class action lawsuits. For example, in 1998, RJ Reynolds and Phillip Morris, the two biggest tobacco companies at the time, paid at least $206 billion to 46 states that participated in a class-action suit. The companies also agreed to pay 1.5 billion to fund an anti-smoking campaign.

That means that if a company injures your health, business or injures you in another way, you may have grounds to take civil action. You also have the option to include others affected by the company’s actions in your suit. For example, in Florida, section 768.734 “capacity to sue” states that, quote:

“Before issuing a class certification order, the court hearing an action asserting the right to class-action status may expand a class to include any nonresident whose claim is recognized within the claimant’s state of residence and is not time-barred, but whose rights cannot be asserted because the claimant’s state of residence lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendant or defendants. 2. In addition, the claimant class may include nonresidents if the conduct giving rise to the claim occurred in or emanated from this state.”

That raises the question:

What is the capacity to sue?

‘Capacity to sue’ refers to your legal right to bring a suit. Remember, under the first amendment, quote:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

How to file a class-action lawsuit in the US

Suing a corporation or large business entity on your own is time-consuming and expensive. Think about it, the company probably has multiple lawyers on its side and enough resources to keep the case going for as long as it can. A class-action lawsuit is beneficial in that it allows multiple people or groups to come together against a common foe.

If a company participates in unlawful or injurious activities, including employee discrimination, breach of contract, false advertising, worker endangerment, and so on. The individuals affected may come together to share legal costs. Furthermore, lawyers will be more willing to work on contingency. Meaning you may not have to pay legal fees out of pocket.   

Steps: How to file a class action suit

  • Evaluate your case and meet a lawyer. A lawyer will help you evaluate the facts and advise if you have a case.
  • Find the right jurisdiction.
  • Find others. Once you have established that you have the Capacity to Sue, the next step is to find others affected by the company’s actions. It could be former coworkers, neighbours, and so on.
  • Get official certification. In the United States, a judge must certify a class action suit. Note that if you do not have valid grounds to sue, the judge will dismiss your claims.

It is worth mentioning that if you have valid grounds for a class action suit, most corporations may choose to settle the issue out of court.

Leave a Comment