Eight large corporations have each been penalized more than $1 billion in environmental, health and safety cases brought by federal regulatory agencies since 2010. Forty have paid $100 million or more. The list is topped by BP, whose $25 billion total—coming mostly from cases relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster—far exceeds that of any other company. “Penalty” as used here includes not only federal fines but also related state fines and the cost of supplementary environmental projects companies are often compelled to undertake as part of settlements.
These are among the findings of BP and Its Brethren , a report analyzing information in Violation Tracker, a new database of corporate misconduct. Both were produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First and are at violationtracker.org.
The database includes 100,000 cases with penalties of $5,000 or more initiated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and 11 other agencies, including cases referred to the Justice Department. Additional violation categories will be added later.
“Violation Tracker is an important step in creating a comprehensive database of corporate crime,” said Good Jobs First Research Director Philip Mattera, who led the work on Violation Tracker. “The endless cases of corporate wrongdoing, seen most recently with Volkswagen, make it essential to have systematic information.”
Using a system developed by Good Jobs First for its Subsidy Tracker, Violation Tracker links companies named in violations to 1,600 parents.
- Corporations with the most penalties: BP ($25.4 billion), Anadarko Petroleum ($5.2 billion) and GlaxoSmithKline ($3.8 billion).
- Industries with the most: oil (thanks to BP) and pharmaceuticals, due to cases involving promotion of medications for uses not approved as safe.
- Fortune 500 and Global 500 companies account for 81% of penalties.
- Foreign companies represent a larger share of penalties than domestic firms: $34 billion vs. $21 billion.
- Some penalized parents have reincorporated abroad to dodge taxes. The tax runaway with the most penalties: Transocean, which leased the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to BP and was fined $1.4 billion.
- Of the 100 largest federal contractors, ten are among the 100 most penalized firms.
“The fact that so many companies in Violation Tracker are repeat offenders,” Mattera added, “highlights the need for stronger measures to deter corporate recidivists.”