15 Biggest Bribery Cases in Business History

In this article we are going to list the 15 biggest bribery cases in business history. Click to skip ahead and jump to the 5 biggest bribery cases in business history.

Bribery is part of human life, and it is a part of civilization. No matter where you live, you will see bribery happening, either on a small scale or on a large scale. For example, if you live in a developing country, you will see breaking laws such as traffic signals or not wearing seatbelts with impunity. They're not afraid of their license being cancelled or being hauled off to jail, as the traffic cops who are stopping them are susceptible to small bribes of only a few dollars each, and the person breaking the law can get off scot-free. This may seem like a small thing but these people then don't see any reason to follow laws and this can result in increased traffic accidents, which in turn can result in death. As you can see, small actions have large consequences. Large actions have even larger consequences.

Throughout history, large companies have always shown a disdain of the laws and regulations. You can find numerous examples about companies breaking laws, and profiting off these activities by billions or even tens of billions of dollars in some cases. After all, when GSK (NYSE:GSK) was fined $3 billion for misleading people and unlawfully promoting several drugs. And while you may think that $3 billion is a really major amount, the fact is that many people thought this was a very small fine since the company generated around $25 billion from the sale of these drugs. So basically, the net revenue that the company earned from breaking regulations was around $22 billion.

As I mentioned before, it has always been part and parcel of major corporations to flaunt rules and disregard authority, and bribery falls within this ambit as well. Even up to a few decades ago, laws weren't even close to as stringent as they are today, and companies weren't as closely monitored or regulated. In fact, back then, it was the norm to pay officials, especially foreign officials bribes in money and gifts to get them to expedite the process and reduce the expenses of the company. It was a worthwhile trade, though still completely illegal; the company got to save time and money and the officials pocketed the extra amount.

15 biggest bribery cases in business history

Copyright: carlosyudica / 123RF Stock Photo

Over the past decade or so, laws have started to tighten, especially after the financial crisis which ruined lives, careers and the economy of the entire world. That financial institutions were able to manipulate the market to such an extent and mostly escape without major repercussions was a major blow to the trust held in the financial system of the company. Hence, new rules and regulations were quickly drafted and brought into law, to ensure that banks didn't do anything like that ever again. Many financial institutions were fined for billions of dollars, though again, while that may seem like a major achievement, it's a drop in the bucket for these companies with hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue annually.

Of course, bribery and corruption isn't just a United States thing. It is a global phenomena and present everywhere in the world. However, most of the biggest companies in the world are present in the United States, which is why when there is a scandal related to these companies, it hits headlines all across the world. All, major companies in the US are well-known to everyone across the world which is why whenever any incident related to them occurs, it piques the interest of everyone, even if they're not located in the US or have ever engaged in business with these companies.

The biggest bribery cases are extremely interesting reads on their own. And these are just the ones we know about. Some of these are epic sagas that don't care about borders and involve many companies as well as many countries. So sit back, grab some popcorn and learn about the biggest bribery cases in history, which should and often do have movies made about them, starting with number 15:

15. Inter-American Water and Utility Society

The company ended up paying around $1.5 million in fines for bribery cases in Columbia.

Pixabay/Public Domain

13. Troika Laundromat

Troika isn't a single company, or even 10 companies. The collective term Troika Laundromat was given to around 70 shell companies which were formed to launder massive amounts of money. Billions of dollars ended up moving from Russia to the West, with bribes being paid to mix black and white money, and ensure that no one could differentiate anymore.

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12. Daimler

The producers of one of the most famous brands in the automobile industry, Mercedez-Benz, paid $185 million to the United States against charges of bribery and corruption in 2010. Foreign officials were provided with money and gifts between the time period of 1998 and 2008 to get government contracts, and more than $56 million were paid on around 200 occasions in at least 22 countries.

Copyright: felker / 123RF Stock Photo

11. Titan

It is now owned by L3 Technologies (NYSE:LHX), but when it was independent, Titan, a defense company, received the biggest fine in history at the time by the FCPA, which totaled more than $28.5 million back in 2004. $13 million of this pertained to foreign bribery including in Benin, where the bribery took place to get a contract and establish business within the country. $2 million in bribes were directly sent to the President of Benin.

L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:LLL)

10. GlaxoSmithKline

We mentioned earlier that GSK earned a fine of $3 billion for its role in the scandal related to misrepresenting its drugs including Wellbutrin and Paxil. However, that's not all. The company also paid kickbacks to physicians to prefer their drugs over those of the competition and promoting it for situations the drug was not intended for.

GlaxoSmithKline plc (ADR) (NYSE:GSK)

Pixabay/Public Domain

9. Lucent Technologies

To win lucrative contracts from China, Lucent Technologies, which doesn't exist anymore, would pay for more than 1,000 Chinese officials to travel to destinations such as Las Vegas. The company paid $2.5 million in fines. Later, when the company had been absorbed by Alcatel, there were even more such cases, which are mentioned in more detail below, in our list of the biggest bribery cases in business history.

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8. Kellogg Brown and Root (NYSE:KBR)

The American engineering company has been involved in several controversies throughout its existence, one of which was the Justice Department charging the company with paying bribes worth billions of dollars to Nigerian officials to earn foreign contracts. The company ended up paying $402 million in fines while its former CEO was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Biggest Construction Companies in the US

7. BAE Systems

One of the biggest defense companies in the world, BAE Systems was engaged in controversy in 2006, where it was accused of using corruption to sell arms to various countries across the world including Chile, Qatar, Tanzania, South Africa, Romania, Saudi Arabia and Czech Republic. Even though it was investigated and later charged by the Serious Fraud Office, BAE refused to concede that it had used bribery, which is why it was not banned from future contracts. However, the company ended up paying $400 million to the US and 30 million pounds to the UK against charges of overseas corruption.


Pixabay/Public Domain

6. Alcatel-Lucent SA

The company was a French American telecommunications company, and among the biggest in the world in this industry. However, in 2010, it was engaged in a massive scandal where it ended up having to pay at least $137 million in fines after bribing officials in several countries including Malaysia, Honduras and Taiwan.

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Disclosure: No position. 15 biggest bribery cases in business history is originally published at Insider Monkey.