If you've ever gotten a speeding or parking ticket, you know the feeling of being fined - and you probably don't like it. But think of your $50-100 ticket, multiply that by 10,000 and you'll know the pain of the world's largest speeding fine. We look at some of the biggest personal fines in history, from $1 million dollar speeding tickets to multi-billion dollar fines for finance crimes.
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Ticket to Ride
How many times has this happened to you: There you are, minding your own business, driving down a Swiss highway at 290 kilometers per hour, when out of nowhere someone gives you a speeding ticket. I know what you're thinking: the nerve of some people! This happened in Switzerland in August, 2010, and the 37-year old driver of the Mercedes SLS faces up to a $1 million fine. In Switzerland, the fines are based on your income, so this amount may change when the driver's finances are assessed.
A Spammer's Payback
You don't always have to leave the house and risk people's lives with high-speed tricks to get big fines; you can do it from the confines of your comfy home. According to Canadian TV network CTV, Adam Guerbuez of Montreal, sent out more than four million Facebook spam messages over the course of two months, and when has was caught and fined in 2008, the courts really wanted to make an example of him. A California court ruled that Guerbuez had to pay more than US$837 million. A Quebec court upheld the ruling this year, but Guerbuez has since filed for bankruptcy, making the outrageous fine more of a symbolic gesture to spammers everywhere. (Find out how to protect yourself and your loved ones from financial fraudsters. See Stop Scams In Their Tracks.)
The Biggest Personal Fine in History
The dubious honor belongs to Societe General's ex-employee, Jerome Kerviel. According to the charges leveled against Kerviel by Societe General, Kerviel was a rogue trader who lost the company 4.9 billion euros in bad trades leading up to his being found out in early 2008. Kerviel insists that he was just one of many traders making similar trades and that he was a scapegoat. During his case, which he is now appealing, he was found guilty, sent to prison for three years, ordered to repay SG the full $6.9 billion and banned from trading for life.
Like Guerbuez's fine, however, it's impossible that Kerviel would ever be able to repay such an outlandish amount, and even SG claims that they don't expect Kerviel to ever fully repay it. According to his current earnings, the BBC estimates that it would take him 180,000 years to pay back SG.
High Cost of Oil
Keeping in the financial realm, we now turn to Mehmet Sepil, the head of Genel Enerji, a Turkish Oil Company. According to the New York Times, Sepil was fined $1.5 million by Britain's securities regulator, the Financial Services Authority, for insider trading. The charge related to Sepil and other employees of the company buying shares in Heritage Oil just days before Heritage announced positive results for its drilling project in Kurdistan. (The better you understand why insider trading can be criminal, the better you'll understand how the market works. Read Defining Illegal Insider Trading.)
The Price of a Big Mouth
In the sports world, there have been some big fines as well, and many of them were leveled against Mark Cuban. According to Fox Sports, Cuban's combined fines are nearing the $2 million mark, including a $100,000 fine for comments he made about Lebron James in May, 2010, that violated the league's anti-tampering rules.
Though Cuban's personal fine is incredibly high, it doesn't even come close to one of the largest sports organizational fines, which was $100 million levied against the McLaren Formula One race team in 2007 for a spying scandal related to gaining information from the Ferrari racing team.
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The Bottom Line
Though personal fines can affect everyone, some people commit crimes that warrant prices higher than what a normal person will make in a lifetime - in the case of Jerome Kerviel, it would take 180,000 lifetimes. From high-stakes financial trades to high-speed racing, personal fines can outstrip a person's lifetime earnings or a company's lifetime income. Next time you get a $50 parking ticket, just think of the Swiss motorist and his $1 million fine.
For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: Ghosts Of Economies Past.