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Fraud, Corruption, And Lies: The 13 Largest Corporate Fines This Decade

Over the last decade, corporations caught breaking the law paid hundreds of billions in settlements to governments and people. Here are the 13 largest corporate fines in that period.

All cases, except for #1, were settled in U.S. courts, which see the largest fines and settlements globally.

1. $1.6 billion, 2008: Siemens bribed officials for contracts

For a decade, the German engineering company Siemens routinely bribed government officials in at least a dozen countries so they would be awarded contracts, according to Bloomberg. Projects included the UN’s oil-for-food program in Iraq, rail in Venezuela, and power plants in Israel.

Settlement recipients: the U.S. and German governments.

2. $1.9 billion, 2013: HSBC laundered money for cartels and terrorists

Hundreds of billions of dollars in wire transactions passed through HSBC from Mexico, free from any anti-money-laundering reviews. The bank also accepted more than $15 billion in cash, from both drug cartels, terrorists, and nations like Iran and Burma, according to the U.S. Treasury.

Settlement recipient: the U.S. government.

3. $2.2 billion, 2013: Johnson & Johnson promoted unsafe drug use

For more than six years, J&J promoted the off-label (i.e. not FDA-approved) use of powerful anti-schizophrenic drugs like Risperdal to treat anxiety and aggression in elderly dementia patients, children, and people with disabilities, according to Reuters.

Settlement recipients: the U.S. government.

4. $2.3 billion, 2009: Pfizer misbranded drugs and bribed doctors

The pharmaceutical giant promoted the off-label use of the anti-inflammatory drug Bextra in quantities that were specifically denied by the FDA for safety reasons, according to the Justice Department. Pfizer also bribed health care providers to prescribe off-label uses of Bextra and other drugs.

Settlement recipients: the federal government and state Medicaid programs.

5. $2.4 billion, 2005: AOL lied about its revenue

In order to push through the merger with Time Warner, AOL exaggerated its revenue numbers to stockholders – who later sued the merged Time Warner company for the misrepresentation, according to The Street.

Settlement recipients: AOL stockholders.

6. $2.6 billion, 2013: JP Morgan laundered money for Bernie Madoff

Billions of dollars from Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme went through JP Morgan, but even as the bank cut its ties to the large-scale fraudulent scheme, it failed to report any information to financial authorities, according to Reuters.

Settlement recipients: the U.S. government and Madoff’s Ponzi scheme victims.

7. $3.0 billion, 2012: GlaxoSmithKline misbranded drugs, bribed docs, lied about prices

The company failed to report safety info to the FDA on the diabetes drug Avandia, and promoted off-label use of antidepressants for children, as well as for treating weight loss, sexual dysfunction, and substance addiction. It also defrauded Medicaid by overreporting drug prices, according to the Justice Department.

Settlement recipients: the federal government and state Medicaid programs.

8. $4.5 billion, 2013: JP Morgan sold toxic mortgage-backed securities

In the lead-up to the financial crisis, JP Morgan knowingly sold financial products backed by risky mortgages that soon blew up and lost most of their value, according to the New York Times.

Settlement recipients: managers of mortgage-based securities trusts.

9. $9.3 billion, 2013: 13 banks foreclosed paid homes and charged illegal fees

A group of 13 banks were sued for foreclosing homes with paid mortgages, charging illegal fees and mishandling loan modifications, actions which affected millions of customers. Regulators settled for a $9.3 billion settlement, instead of completing a costly review process, according to the New York Times.

Settlement recipients: 4.2 million mortgage holders currently in foreclosure.

10. $13 billion, 2013: JP Morgan routinely overstated mortgage qualities

The bank – currently America’s largest – admitted to regularly overstating the quality of mortgages, selling risky loans at inflated prices to investors who thought they were safe, according to Reuters.

Settlement recipients: the U.S. government and borrowers seeking loans in areas hard-hit by the housing crisis.

11. $25 billion, 2012: Top five U.S. mortgage servicers committed massive fraud, abuse

The banks – Bank of America, JPMorgan., Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally Financial – abused house owners throughout the country, according to the Justice Department. For instance, they used false signatures to approve foreclosures, deceived customers about loan modifications, and failed to provide alternatives to foreclosure, which is required by law.

Settlement recipients: the federal government, as well as 49 state governments.

12. $42 billion+, 2013: British Petroleum devastates the Gulf of Mexico

An explosion at a BP oil rig killed 11 people and spilled billions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Now the company is paying not just for the cleanup but settlements in class action lawsuits, criminal charges, and even claims from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

And additional outstanding claims could add up by another $55 billion, to a total of $97 billion, according to the Guardian.

Settlement recipients: the U.S. government, state governments, and residents in the Gulf area.

13. $50 billion+, 2009: Top banks lied about securities they were selling

Firms such as Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and RBS lied to investors, claiming that the auction-rate securities (ARS) they were selling were safe, when in fact they were highly risk-prone. When the market for ARS’ went down, the banks started buying them up to artificially prop up the market, according to the SEC.

Settlement recipients: individuals, charities, and small or medium businesses that bought ARS’.

Bonus. $246 billion, 1998: Big Tobacco killed millions, lied and defrauded

While not in this decade, it’s a good case for comparison (and to show what the justice system is capable of): the top tobacco companies ended up settling for a total of $246 billion after being sued for selling and knowingly promoting dangerous products as safe and healthy.

The money is being paid out on a regular basis until 2025, according to the University of Maryland.

Settlement recipients: the federal government, as well as the Medicaid programs of 46 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories.

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Ole Skaar