Money is not everything. But money is power, for sure. That is why huge corporations seem to feel tempted to abuse their power every now and then, presumably checking to see how much they can get away with. Therefore it’s somewhat comforting for the man on the street to know that even the big companies must pay for their irresponsible actions. Below you’ll find a list of companies that were forced to pay hefty fines after putting their nasty plans to rule the world into action.
#1 Wal-Mart, $82 Million
Have you seen the cult classic The Toxic Avenger by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman? Walmart’s board probably skipped it. That’s why they were a bit too careless when handling hazardous waste in California and Missouri. Lack of knowledge about the potential consequences of the improper disposal of pesticide, fertilizers and other kinds of toxic waste is very dangerous. It’s costly as well. Although the investigation took almost a decade, justice was eventually served and Wal-mart had to pay $82M for its sins.
#2 Facebook, $120 Million
Facebook plans to take over WhatsApp raised some serious concerns about protecting the privacy of our very personal information. Before the takeover Facebook said that users wouldn’t be able to match user accounts on both platforms. Well, they ended up doing exactly the opposite to get even more insight into our everyday life. The European Commission found that from the very beginning Facebook was aware such a connection was possible. As a result, a hefty fine was imposed and a clear signal sent. Even the big guys must comply with EU competition rules. Approval for the merger has not been revoked though, so if you’re using both FB and WhatsApp keep in mind there is a serious threat to your control of how your WhatsApp data is shared.
#3 Microsoft, $731 Million
Microsoft had a simple strategy for how to make people use their Web browser. They gave users no choice. In software issued between May 2011 and July 2012, Microsoft failed to provide any other option to access the Web other than using their own software.That would not have been a major issue had the company in 2009 not made a commitment that consumers would have a choice. The European Union didn’t let that fly. As it turns out, not keeping your word is not only rude but can have costly consequences …
#4 Google, $2.7 Billion
How to make a perfect plan to take over the world? Ask Google! The only one that doesn’t have to ask Google is …Google. They know that the display order of search results has a huge influence on our decision making. Google tried to use that knowledge to trick people into favoring their own shopping service. But not on Margrethe Vestager’s watch. The European Commissioner for Competition announced her verdict after 7 long years of investigation. As a result, Google’s budget has been cut by $2.7 billion. Not that huge a chunk of their $90 billion yearly revenue but still an amount I’d totally not mind spending on my summer vacation.
#5 Apple, $15 Billion
They say that only the rich know how to save. Not really the case for Apple Inc. They had a sweetheart tax deal with Irish tax authorities allowing the tech company to pay tax at 0.005% when the usual rate is 12.5% – great savings indeed. Unfortunately, Margrethe Vestager said “no” again. Vestager is not really a fan of giving tax benefits to selected companies only. Her ruling made Apple pay the whole amount of tax arrears for the years falling between 1991 and 2015. Plus interest. Ouch.
Although those penalties look insanely high, when compared against the revenues of the companies, they’re not quite so impressive. It may turn out they are still not enough to keep us – the little guys – safe. However, we can hope they will at least delay the taking over of the world a bit so we can check out Facebook on our iPhones while shopping in Wal-Mart undisturbed.