Violation Tracker, produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First, brings together enforcement data from more than 400 federal, state and local regulatory agencies with responsibility for banking, consumer protection, environmental, wage & hour, unfair labor practice, health and safety, workplace discrimination and other matters. A list of the agencies and the online locations of their data can be found here. We also collect data from federal and state court dockets on selected categories of class action and multi-district lawsuits.
We have put all the information into a standardized set of categories to allow users to search across many types of cases at the same time. The companies named in the violations are linked to more than 3,000 parent companies.
Searching and displaying search results can be done free of charge, but downloading search results and viewing several data fields are limited to subscribers. More information on subscriptions can be found here. When a subscriber is logged in, subscriber-only content is marked with a green star.
Violation Tracker was created with the invaluable help of Rich Puchalsky of Grassroots Connection. Rich created the system that generates the parent-subsidiary matches (which we also check manually); he built the underlying databases; and he programmed and designed the search pages.
For all agencies we use revised penalty amounts rather than those initially proposed, in order to account for cases in which companies were able to negotiate reductions in the penalties or those in which regulators decided on their own to adjust the amounts.
We eliminate entries with penalty amounts below $5,000 as well as those with no dollar penalties at all. The latter is frequently the case for agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, which generally does not use dollar penalties but instead compels companies to suspend sales of dangerous products. (The FDA, however, does refer serious cases to the Justice Department, which may negotiate settlements or obtain verdicts involving financial penalties. We include those.)
We also eliminate entries, regardless of the penalty amount, brought against government agencies or publicly owned entities. Also excluded are cases against individual executives unless the firm was also a defendant. We include criminal as well as civil cases brought by the agencies and DOJ.
For cases brought by the EPA or referred by that agency to the Justice Department, we include both civil or criminal penalties paid to the federal government and those penalties the company was required to pay to state or local government agencies. In addition, our penalty amounts include the stated costs of supplementary environmental projects companies are frequently required to undertake as part of the settlement of environmental cases. We exclude Superfund cases, most of which are clean-up agreements and often involve parties that do not own the sites, unless the company was also being charged with violations. Numerous bank settlements include amounts designated for consumer relief.
The agency enforcement records and Justice Department or court settlements/verdicts used in Violation Tracker usually do not indicate whether the company involved is part of a larger corporate entity. To make it easier for users of this database to get a full picture of the penalties paid by companies with numerous operations, we identify many of those parent entities using a variety of sources.
Violation Tracker currently displays aggregated data for more than 3,000 parent companies. These parents are either large corporations, regardless of penalty amount, or selected smaller companies with large penalties. The cased linked to a parent account for more than 90 percent of the total dollar value of our penalty universe.
The parents we cover come from matching efforts involving the companies on the following lists, among others: the Fortune 1000, the Fortune Global 500, the S&P 500, the Russell 3000, the Forbes list of the largest private companies in the United States, the Uniworld list of the 1,000 largest foreign firms operating in the United States, and the Private Equity International list of the 100 largest private equity firms.
We primarily match entities to their current parent, even if they were part of a different corporate “family” at the time the penalty was imposed. An acquiring company typically takes on the liabilities and responsibilities of a purchased business. In Violation Tracker we have numerous cases in which a parent company was required to pay a penalty for actions that occurred before an acquisition took place.
In 2022 we supplemented the information on current parents with data on the parent company at the time the penalty was announced--as well as a summary of ownership changes that occurred between the time of the announcement and the present. We treat this as premium data available only to subscribers.
Joint ventures are treated like subsidiaries when one of the owners has a stake of more than 50 percent; those in which no owner has a majority interest are treated like independent companies. Portfolio companies of private equity firms are treated the same way.
The company totals are adjusted to avoid double-counting of penalty amounts reported both in agency enforcement records and in settlement announcements. They are also adjusted to account for the fact that in numerous EPA cases involving multiple facilities owned by a single company, an overall penalty or settlement amount covering all the facilities is reported in the individual records for each facility. Adjustments are also made in instances in which both federal and state entities participated in a case and the same outcome appears in separate Violation Tracker entries.
There are three main ways of accessing the data in Violation Tracker: using the basic search page; viewing a variety of summary pages; or constructing a custom search using numerous variables listed on the Advanced Search page.
The homepage of Violation Tracker contains three search boxes. The first allows you to enter all or part of a company name, including current parents. Type in the text and hit Search. A list of results will appear. You can click on any of the individual items to see the full entry (see details below). You can combine the company name with one of a list of broad offense groups and/or the name of the regulatory agency that brought the action.
The second way to access Violation Tracker data is by viewing various summary pages that are linked in dropdown menus on the Summaries page.
Current Parent Summary Pages. The largest of these menus contains the pages we have created to summarize information about the parents to which we link more than 100,000 individual entries in the Violation Tracker dataset. The parent universe is a mixture of large companies (regardless of penalty amount) and smaller companies with large penalties.
The parent pages include the following features:
Below the parent dropdown is a link to a Coverage page detailing the extent of the parent matching we have completed.
Industry Summary Pages. The second dropdown menu provides access to summary pages for about 50 industry groups into which we have divided the parent companies based on their major field of operation. These pages show aggregate penalty amounts for the parents assigned to that industry as well as a list of the ten parents in the group with the most penalties, with the amounts adjusted as described above. There is also a list of the individual records connected to all the parents in the industry. The default setting for the table is to show the individual penalties ranked by dollar amount, but it can be resorted by company name, parent name, facility state, year or agency.
Offense Group Summary Pages. The third dropdown menu provides access to summary pages for each of the nine broad offense groups into which cases have been divided. These pages show aggregate penalty amounts for cases tagged with penalty types that fall within the group. A list of which offense types have been assigned to which groups can be found here. Unlike the parent and industry summary pages, the amounts here include all entries in Violation Tracker, not only those linked to a parent company. There is also a list of the ten parents with the most penalties in the group as well as a list of the related individual records. The default setting for the table is to show the individual penalties ranked by dollar amount, but it can be resorted by company name, parent name, parent industry, year or agency.
Federal Agency Summary Pages. The fourth dropdown menu provides access to summary pages for each of the federal regulatory agencies covered in Violation Tracker as well as cases brought by the Justice Department, often after a referral by an agency. All these pages show aggregate penalty amounts for cases originating with the agencies, including those referred to the Justice Department. Like the offense group and type pages, the amounts here include all entries in Violation Tracker, not only those linked to a parent company. There is also a list of the ten parents with the most penalties stemming from cases brought by the agency as well as a list of the individual records connected to the agency. The default setting for the table is to show the individual penalties ranked by dollar amount, but it can be resorted by company name, parent name, facility state, or year.
State and Local Agency Summary Pages. The fifth dropdown contains similar content for state agencies (environmental, financial, etc.), as well as state AG offices and selected local prosecutors. State AGs are treated as agencies but cases brought by multiple states have their own page.
Headquarters Summary Pages. The final dropdown menu provides access to summary pages for each state (for U.S. firms) or country (for non-U.S. firms) in which Violation Tracker parents are headquartered. These pages show aggregate penalty amounts for the parents headquartered in each place as well as a list of the ten parents with the most penalties, adjusted as described above. There is also a list of the individual records connected to all the parents based in the place. The default setting for the table is to show the individual penalties ranked by dollar amount, but it can be resorted by company name, parent name, facility state, year or agency.
To the right of the dropdown menus on the Summaries page are links to four list pages:
Most Penalized Current Parent Companies. A list of the 100 parents with the most total penalties based on current ownership relationships.
Parent Industry Totals. A list of the penalty totals for each of the industry groups into which we have divided the parent companies.
Offense Group Totals. A list of the penalty totals for each of the nine offense groups used to tag all entries.
Largest Individual Penalties. A list of the 100 largest individual penalties included in Violation Tracker.
Most Penalized Historical Parent Companies. A list of the 100 parents with the most total penalties based on ownership relationships at the time each penalty was announced. (Available to subscribers only).
This option allows the user to enter a single variable or multiple ones in searching for penalties. The variables are as follows:
After choices have been made from the categories above and the search button has been pressed, the site will display an intermediate search results page with up to 100,000 entries. The page contains the following fields:
The company name is hyperlinked to the individual entry for the award, which contains additional information (see below). If a parent name appears, it is linked to the summary page for the parent company. The table can be sorted by any of the columns.
Note: Searches done by subscribers via the historical parent option will display the names of both the current and the historical parent linked to the entity.
Some penalty entries are partial or complete duplicates of other penalty records, because a Justice Department settlement duplicates an agency record, because EPA listed the full penalty for a company in the records for each of the firm's relevant facilities; or because a settlement was announced both by a federal agency and a state one. Penalty amounts marked with an asterisk have been identified by us as duplicating other penalty amounts. Company penalty totals are adjusted to account for these duplicates.
There is no standard set of data fields used by all regulatory agencies in their violation reporting. We thus had to re-arrange and re-label the data we collected in order to conform to a standard set of fields we chose. Penalty records usually not provide data for every one of our fields. Individual entries display only those fields for which we have data.
The following is the full set of data fields that may appear for any given individual entry:
Company: The name of the company as it appears in the original agency records, with some obvious typos corrected.
Current Parent Company: The ultimate owner of the firm named in the enforcement record, as derived from research using outside sources such as 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These entries are hyperlinked to the summary page for that parent.
Parent at the Time of the Penalty Announcement: Using a variety of sources, we have identified the parent company at the time the penalty was announced. (Available to subscribers only.)
Recap of Ownership Changes: If the parent at the time of the penalty announcement was different from the current parent, we summarize the ownership changes that led from one to the other. Some records include multiple ownership changes. (Available to subscribers only.)
Penalty: The dollar amount of the penalty as reported in the agency or court docket source. For all agencies we use revised penalty amounts rather than those initially proposed, in order to account for cases in which companies were able to negotiate reductions in the penalties or those in which regulators decided on their own to adjust the amounts.
Year. The year contained in the agency record.
Date: The precise date, if available, contained in the agency record. We include this to allow the user to distinguish between entries in situations where a given company may have more than one penalty for the same dollar amount in a given year.
Offense Group: Each entry has been tagged with one of nine offense groups encompassing multiple offense types. A list of which offense types have been assigned to which groups can be found here.
Primary Offense Type: Each entry has been tagged with an offense type from a list of about 100 categories.
Secondary Offense Type: Some cases that overlap categories have been tagged with a secondary offense type from a list of about 35 categories, some of which do not appear on the list of primary offense types.
Violation Description: An explanation of the nature of the violation, if the information is included in the data source. Entries derived from press releases (which include all Justice Department cases) contain excerpts from the release in this field.
Level of Government: An indication of whether the case was brought by a federal, state or local agency or whether a lawsuit was filed in federal or state court.
Action Type: An indication of whether the entry involves an action brought by a government agency or a private lawsuit.
Agency: The regulatory agency that originated the case, even when the case was referred to the Justice Department. DOJ cases involving more than one agency display "Justice Department" in this field. State AGs are treated as agencies but cases brought by multiple states have their own designation.
Court: In litigation entries the name of the court in which the case was brought.
Civil or Criminal Case: An indication of whether the case was brought as a civil or criminal matter.
Prosecution Agreement: Indicates whether a criminal case with resolved with a deferred prosecution or non-prosecution agreement.
Case ID: The case identifier applied to the case by an agency or in a court docket.
Case Name: In litigation entries the name of the case as it appears in the court docket.
Private Lawsuit Resolution Type: An indication of whether a lawsuit ended in a settlement or a court verdict.
Facility State, Facility County, Facility City, Facility Address and Facility Zip: These relate to where the facility is physically located. This information is not available for many entries.
Facility NAICS: Some agency records include the facility's industry grouping, using the federal government's North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).
HQ Country of Parent: The country in which the parent company is headquartered.
HQ State of Parent: The state in which the parent company is headquartered (U.S.-based firms only).
Ownership Structure of Parent. One of the following ownership categories in which we have grouped our universe of parent companies: cooperative, employee-owned, government-owned, joint venture, mutual, non-profit, out of business, privately held or publicly traded.
Major Industry of Parent: One of the industries into which we have grouped our universe of parent companies.
Specific Industry of Parent: A more focused industry designation. These are not included in the industry dropdown on the Summaries page but are covered in the text search.
Source of Data: A link showing where the violation or lawsuit data was obtained. For many of those entries whose information was taken from individual agency documents or webpages, there is also a link to an archived copy preserved on our server. Entries derived from Freedom of Information Act requests also contain links to an archival copy of the document. Most litigation entries contain a link to an archived key document from the court docket.
Link to PACER Case Docket: Federal court dockets are collected in a database called PACER. This field contains a link to the PACER docket for the case. You must be logged in to your PACER account for this link to work.
Link to Archived Court Document: For many of our private litigation entries we have captured a key document such as a settlement agreement. (Available to subscribers only.)
Notes: Explanatory information about this entry only or a larger set of entries to which this entry belongs.
Source Notes: This is a standard insertion for each individual entry noting that in instances in which the online data source above is not working, the user should check the Violation Tracker data source page, which will be updated more frequently than all the individual entries.
Link to ECHO: For entries obtained from the EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database, there is a direct link to the facility's summary page on that site.
Link to OSHA Inspection records: For OSHA records there is a link to the page on the OSHA website with the inspection record relating to the case.
Other fields: The EPA, MSHA and OSHA records contain fields with other identifying information about the facility.
Downloading is available to subscribers only. The number of allowable downloads depends on the subscription tier chosen. Subscribers also have the ability to save searches and run them again after the database has been updated. The number of allowable saved searches depends on the subscription tier chosen.
If you have questions about the data, contact Philip Mattera