In the final months of the Obama administration, Walmart was under pressure from federal officials to pay nearly $1 billion and accept a guilty plea to resolve a foreign bribery investigation.
Barclays faced demands that it pay nearly $7 billion to settle civil claims that it had sold toxic mortgage investments that helped fuel the 2008 financial crisis, and the Royal Bank of Scotland was ensnared in a criminal investigation over its role in the crisis.
The three corporate giants complained that the Obama administration was being unreasonable and stood their ground, according to people briefed on the investigations. After President Trump took office, they looked to his administration for a more sympathetic ear — and got one.
Federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission have yet to charge Walmart, and the Justice Department reached a much lower settlement agreement with Barclays in March, for $2 billion. R.B.S. paid a civil penalty, but escaped criminal charges altogether.