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The JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) $13 billion settlement finalized Tuesday tops the list of the biggest corporate fines ever in the United States.
The Department of Justice, attorney general, and other agencies have said that the JPM deal will serve as a framework for resolving other lender issues, meaning more record-breaking fines could be on the way.
That means the financial sector will make up a larger part of the list of the biggest corporate fines in the United States. Right now the top companies include energy and pharma giants.
Here’s a look at the historic corporate/government settlements that round up the four largest after JPM. All are indeed hefty, yet none come close to the landmark $13 billion amount.
The Biggest U.S. Corporate Fines Ever
- BP plc (NYSE: BP), $4.5 billion: On Nov. 15, 2012, BP plead guilty to manslaughter charges stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion (which killed 11) and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil giant also agreed to pay $4.5 billion in government penalties. Of those penalties, $4 billion worth were earmarked to resolve criminal charges. Meanwhile, $525 million worth were paid to resolve claims bought by the Securities and Exchange Commission that BP lied to investors by understating the amount of oil that flowed into the Gulf. The fine was on top of the $20 billion BP agreed to pay a trust fund to meet damage claims from the millions of gallons of oil spilled into Gulf waters. Total discharge, which seeped for some 87 days, has been estimated at a massive 4.9 million barrels (210 million U.S. gallons). BP’s penalty was the largest single fine on record until JPM took the crown this week.
- GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE: GSK), $3 billion: On July 2, 2012, in what has been called the “biggest healthcare fraud in history,” GlaxoSmithKline paid the U.S. government a $3 billion penalty to settle charges involving offenses related to some of GSK’s best-selling drugs between 1997 and 2004. The UK-based drug firm admitted to paying U.S. physicians to prescribe potentially dangerous medicines to adults and children. The company doled out piles of cash, as well as everything from Madonna concert tickets to pheasant hunting trips. According to the suit, GSK bribed doctors to prescribe Paxil to children even though authorities had not approved its use for anyone under the age of 18. The controversial treatment for depression has been linked to an elevated risk of suicide. Main charges were also related to Wellbutrin, another drug used to treat depression, and Avandia, a diabetes treatment. The $3 billion U.S. government fine is the largest ever for a drug firm.
- Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE), $2.3 billion: On Sep. 2, 2009, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer agreed to pay $2.3 billon to settle civil and criminal allegations that it illegally marketed its painkiller Bextra. The U.S. government charged that executive and sales representatives throughout Pfizer planned and executed schemes to illegally market Bextra, approved in 2001 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat arthritis and menstrual cramps. The drug was not approved to treat acute pain, nor was it shown to be any more powerful than ibuprofen. However, Pfizer instructed its sales reps to tell doctors the drug could be used for the treatment of acute and surgical pain, and at doses well above those approved. This, in spite of the drug’s dangers (kidney, skin, and heart risks) that increased with the dose. Bextra was withdrawn in 2005 because of its heart and skin risks. The government hailed the fine as a record sum, yet the $2.3 billon fine accounted (at the time) for less than three weeks’ worth of Pfizer’s sales.
- Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), $2.2 billion: On Nov. 4, 2013, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $2.2 billion to settle charges that the company marketed drugs for unapproved uses and paid “kickbacks” to doctors and nursing homes. The penalty involved fines and forfeitures to the federal government and several states. At issue in the suit were JNJ’s schizophrenia drug, Risperdal, and Natrecor, a heart failure drug. Risperdal was approved by the FDA to treat schizophrenia, but was marketed to doctors and nursing homes as a treatment for elderly patients with dementia. Additionally, JNJ knew patients on the drug were at increased risk for developing diabetes, but never made that public. In the case of Natrecor, the drug was marketed as a treatment for patients with less severe heart failure than mentioned in its FDA approval. Johnson & Johnson “lined their pockets at the expense of American taxpayers, patients and the private industry,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. The case also resulted in the largest whistleblower payout in U.S. history. Whistleblowers in three states pocketed $167.7 million under the False Claims Act.
The most shocking aspect of the record $13 billion JPMorgan settlement? More than half of it is tax-deductible.
- The New York Times:
Johnson & Johnson Said to Agree to $4 Billion Settlement Over Hip Implants
- The Wall Street Journal:
J.P. Morgan, U.S. Settle for $13 Billion
- Reuters:BP Oil Spill Settlement: Fine for Deepwater Horizon Disaster May Be Largest Criminal Penalty in U.S. History