America's largest corporations profited immensely from President Donald Trump's actions during his first year in office, from his deregulatory bonanza to his $1.5 trillion tax cut. But according to data compiled by Good Jobs First (GJF), corporate America has also benefited from the Trump administration's inaction—specifically, its failure to impose financial penalties on companies for criminal behavior.
"Along with the massive tax cut, the Trump administration has given the largest corporations billions of additional dollars of benefits in the form of reduced penalties for misconduct."
—Philip Mattera, Good Jobs First
Through its Violation Tracker tool—described as "the country's first wide-ranging database of corporate crime and misconduct"—GJF shows that federal penalties imposed on America's most profitable corporations for wrongdoing absolutely "plunged" during Trump's first 12 months in office.
Whereas the nation's 100 most profitable companies paid around $17 billion in penalties per year during the Obama administration, "Fortune 100" companies only paid a combined $1.1 billion in Trump's first year.
"Along with the massive tax cut, the Trump administration has given the largest corporations billions of additional dollars of benefits in the form of reduced penalties for misconduct," Good Jobs First Research Director Philip Mattera said in a statement.
Acknowledging that the penalty totals under former President Barack Obama are inflated due to the flood of settlements that followed the financial crisis, Good Jobs First research director Philip Mattera observed that "Trump's $1.1 billion total through January 19 is still far below the annual average of more than $9 billion for the Fortune 100 during Obama's final two years in office."
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"It also trails behind the $3 billion total during Obama’s first year," Mattera added.
GJF's finding fits with a broader trend that has been observed throughout Trump's first months in the White House. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis published last August, Wall Street regulators imposed "far lower penalties in the first six months of Donald Trump's presidency than they did during the first six months of 2016."
Politico similarly found that "publicly traded companies have been hit with fewer and much less costly penalties by the Securities and Exchange Commission since Donald Trump became president" in an analysis of federal data published last October.
GJF's Violation Tracker gives users access to a vast database documenting a wide-range of corporate crimes—and the federal penalties imposed in response—going back as early as 2000. The tool's newest feature allows users to track corporate misconduct by administration, as well as by company, industry, and type of violation.
In total, the tool's database covers "300,000 civil and criminal cases with total penalties of more than $400 billion."