BAD BUSINESS

If you are like me and the folks at New Jersey Appleseed and have an interest in keeping tabs on corporate crimes and other misdeeds, I have just the website for you.

The Violation Tracker database has about 300,000 entries that reflect more than $394 billion in fines and settlements. It was compiled by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First—a national group based in Washington, D.C. that describes itself as “a national policy resource center for grassroots groups and public officials, promoting corporate and government accountability in economic development and smart growth for working families.”

The entries come from the major divisions of the U.S. Justice Department (Antitrust, Civil Rights, Criminal, Tax, etc.) and more than 40 federal regulatory agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Federal Trade Commission, Food & Drug Administration, National Labor Relations Board, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Occupational Safety Health Administration. Good Jobs plans to add cases handled solely by individual U.S. Attorney offices as well.

Originally, the database covered from 2010 onward but in September, it was announced that it has been expanded to include matters dating back to 2000.

It is searchable by company name, industry, offense type, agency, home state, year and other variables.  And it encompasses a broad range of civil and criminal offenses, such as violations of environmental, workplace safety, drug safety, consumer product safety regulations; banking, securities, and accounting fraud; price-fixing; collective bargaining and fair labor standards violations; employment discrimination; False Claims Act cases; foreign bribery; money laundering; and corporate tax evasion.

The top five corporate miscreants, listed by parent company, and the total penalties against them are Bank of America ($57.6 billion), JP Morgan Chase ($29.5 billion), BP ($27 billion), Volkswagen ($19.3 billion) and Citigroup ($16.7 billion).

Other well-known names in the top 100 include Wells Fargo ($11.3 billion), Goldman Sachs ($9.5 billion, UBS ($4.9 billion), Toyota ($1.3 billion), Verizon ($1.2 billion), General Motors ($955 million), Moody’s ($864.2 million), Boeing ($789.7 million), Alcoa ($736.1), Exxon-Mobil ($714.6), Koch Industries ($656.8 million) and Western Union ($624.4 million).

New Jersey based business are well—or not so well—represented in the top tier. Its three largest companies all appear, led by Johnson & Johnson with $2.5 billion in the 20th spot. Merck was 24th with $2 billion and Prudential Financial 76th, with $600.5 million.

A New Jersey law firm even made the list. Collections firm Pressler & Pressler, located in Parsippany. It was hit with a $1 million civil penalty by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2016 and required, via consent order, to cease practices that violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Among other problems, the CFPB found that it was suing people based on unreliable or false information.  It client, debt buyer New Century Financial Services, had to pay another $1.5 million.

Corporate wrongdoing is not evenly distributed throughout the universe of businesses but is concentrated within the largest ones. According to Good Jobs First, 95 percent of the penalty values listed were assessed against only 2,800 large parent companies whose subsidiaries are linked together in the database. The other five percent are spread among roughly 200,000 smaller businesses.

 

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