2023: Violation Tracker records $43 billion in penalties

January 18, 2024

In 2023, Violation Tracker published nearly 25,000 new cases totaling $43 billion in penalties. Here’s what we found.

Highest Individual Penalties

Bitcoin image
Source: Unsplash, Andre Francois McKenzie

The largest penalty of the year was an $8.9 billion settlement in a product safety class action case. It resulted from an announcement by Johnson & Johnson that its subsidiary, LTL Management LLC, re-filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to obtain approval of a reorganization plan that will resolve all claims arising from the long-standing accusations of contaminated baby powder (this plan has been contested and is awaiting a final settlement cost). J&J agreed to contribute up to a present value of $8.9 billion, payable over 25 years, to resolve all the current and future talc claims.

The second largest penalty overall—and the largest involving a government enforcement action—was paid by Binance Holdings, the entity that operates the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance.com. It pleaded guilty and was fined a total of $4.3 billion in a case brought by the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, and other agencies. Binance was accused of violating the Bank Secrecy Act, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act to profit from the operation of an illegal digital assets derivative exchange.

Penalties by Offense Category

construction worker safety
Source: Unsplash, Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa

Workplace health and safety violations resulted in the highest number of cases overall last year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration resolved nearly 12,000 cases with penalties totaling $198 million (we include only those cases with fines of $5,000 or more). Two cases resulted in penalties above $1 million. Wagner Construction faced $1.8 million in fines for failing to protect workers from trenching hazards. The Dollar Tree chain paid $1.35 million as part of a corporate-wide settlement.

Environmental violations made up the next most numerous offense category with nearly 3,000 cases, most of which were handled by the Environmental Protection Agency. At the state level, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection brought 310 cases totaling $7.5 million.

In 2023, there was over $1 billion in recovered wages and penalties for workers across the country through collective action lawsuits and government enforcement actions. Many of the latter came from the U.S. Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division and state attorneys general. The California Labor Commissioner’s Office, however, resolved almost 1,000 cases totaling $81 million in penalties.

We significantly expanded our nursing home enforcement actions last year. We captured over 33,000 nursing home violations at the federal and state levels dating back to 2000. This data, with almost $1 billion in penalties, was analyzed for a report outlining the worst violators of resident health and safety, found here. The bulk of these cases came from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, along with 34 state agencies that share responsibility for nursing home oversight with the federal agency.

Violation Tracker documents over 200 class actions lawsuits resolved last year with $15.2 billion in penalties. Despite making up less than 1% of cases, private litigation accounts for more than a third of our penalty total from 2023.

After eight years of cataloging corporate misconduct, Violation Tracker’s coverage is nearly complete! With the forthcoming addition of cases from state-level cannabis and gambling agencies, the database will include all significant state as well as federal agencies.  We look forward to continuing documenting the battle against corporate misconduct.