Visualizing The 20 Biggest Bankruptcies In US History
Companies in caps are sorted by total assets at the time of bankruptcy.
Here are the 20 biggest bankruptcies in U.S. history, and what triggered them
The data set on the biggest bankruptcies is organized by assets at time of bankruptcy. Therefore, they are not in inflation-adjusted terms, meaning the list skews towards more recent events.
In total, nine of the 20 biggest bankruptcies on the list occurred in the 2008-2009 span.A Dubious Distinction. You may also notice that one company was on the list twice, and this was not an accident.
Pacific Gas & Electric, a California company that is the nation’s largest utility provider, has the dubious distinction of going bankrupt twice in the last 20 years. The first time, in 2001,
resulted from a drought that limited hydro electricity generation, forcing the company to import electricity from outside sources at exorbitant prices.
Here is an article from 2017 with moar on some of these
10 Biggest Recent Accounting Scandals in America
(missing from this list is the aforementioned PG&E)
10. Qwest Communication
2001 – $44 million
Qwest Communication allegedly boosted its stock price through manipulation. The telecommunication
9. Weatherford International (NYSE:WFT)
2012 – $900 million
The accounting executives of the oil services company were blamed for using deceptive income tax accounting which led to the company’s earnings increasing by more than $900 million between 2007 and 2012. The company agreed to pay a $140 million penalty and restated its financial statements.
8. American International Group (NYSE:AIG)
2005 – $3.9 billion
The CEO of the multinational insurance company was alleged to be the mastermind of a major accounting fraud and stock price manipulation that rank 8th in our list of biggest recent accounting scandals in America.
A series of fraud investigations conducted by the SEC in 2005 led to the restatement of the company’s financial statements for several years. Though the CEO did not face any criminal charges during that time, he recently admitted to the accounting fraud and has agreed to pay $9 million to New York.
7. Freddie Mac
2003 – $5 billion
An SEC investigation probed whether top executives intentionally misstated financial statements issued by the mortgage financing giant. A fine of $125 million was imposed on the President, Chairman, CFO and VPs.
2002 – $7 billion
WorldCom, then the second-largest phone company in America ranks sixth on our list of the 10 biggest recent accounting scandals in America, with an accounting scandal worth $7 billion. The chief financial officer and controller were arrested and face 65 years of imprisonment. The company claimed $3.8 billion in expenses as capital investment and $3.3 billion in accounting errors.
5. Fannie Mae
2004 – $11 billion
Top executives at the mortgage firm were found guilty of misstating financial statements from 1998 to 2004. A fine of $400 million was imposed by the SEC, which charged the officers not only for violating accounting and corporate governance standards,
but also with poor risk management.
4. Merck & Co (NYSE:MRK)
2002 – $14 billion
Medco, a subsidiary of Merck & Co., recorded $14 billion in revenue over a three-year period beginning in 1999. These were actually co-payments made by customers to its pharmacy. .
3. Lehman Brothers
2008 – $50 billion
In 2008, global financial services firm Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. The executives and their auditor Ernst & Young sold assets worth $50 billion of investors’ funds to banks in the Cayman Islands, which they masked as revenue.
Though Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy was the largest in U.S. history, the SEC has yet to file any charges due to lack of evidence.
2. Bernie Madoff
2008 – $65 billion
Bernie Madoff and his accountant accumulated $65 billion from investors through a Ponzi scheme. Madoff’s sons were the whistleblowers. The fraud was unveiled a few months after the Great Recession.
2001 – $78 billion
With $78 billion in losses of shareholder funds, Enron ranks first on our list of the 10 biggest recent accounting scandals in America. Sherron Watkins, Enron Corp’s whistleblower, exposed details of the financial scandal to the world, leading to the company’s bankruptcy.
Deutsche Bank's stated value, in 'assets' would eclipse the combined total of all of these.