It totally depends on the company and what sort of issue was related to a problem in the past.
At one financial company I had to work with, having a suspended driving license is a disqualification because they had one really bad apple who also had a suspended license. Therefore, all future candidates with a suspended license are presumed to be bad risks. This particular person also had been fired from a previous job, so they disqualify everyone who has ever been fired. That particular person had lied about working for companies they never worked for - so any company that says "Who? We have no records of them" is a disqualification. My credit score was in the 500s back then, so they sure weren't looking for someone to lend money to. One of my coworkers worked at a place where his ex-wife is now the HR person, so when she said "he is not eligible for rehire" that coworker was disqualified from working with the large financial client.
The federal government takes the viewpoint that credit reflects the trustworthiness of an applicant. Someone who is careless with repaying money is likely to be careless when handling classified information, and is additionally a risk for selling classified materials to pay off debts. This argument derives from their claim that a person accessing classfied information holds a fiduciary responsibility, and that repaying debt is another fiduciary responsibility; and if you can't be trusted (by someone else) to do the little things correctly, you won't do the large things correctly (for the feds). The boilerplate that they use is:
A person who seeks access to classified information enters into a fiduciary relationship with the Government predicated upon trust and confidence. This relationship transcends normal duty hours and endures throughout off-duty hours as well. It is because of this special relationship that the Government must be able to repose a high degree of trust and confidence in those individuals to whom it grants access to classified information. Decisions include, by necessity, consideration of the possible risk the applicant may deliberately or inadvertently fail to safeguard classified information. Such decisions entail a certain degree of legally permissible extrapolation as to potential, rather than actual, risk of compromise of classified information.
Sample (for public trust, not classified data). Companies that have other divisions handling classified details and public trust positions have a tendency to try to minimize the different HR policies, so it is likely that they'll use a similar reasoning/standard even for the other divisions. Even though you specifically excluded this sort of thing in your question, the company might not have done so. A friend of mine is a programmer, and since the project involves working with a federal agency, all the developers and IT staff had to pass a public trust background check in addition to the regular employment check.
From my chatting with other companies that have asked me to "pass" background checks, they tell me that they're looking to make sure that:
- I'm not a criminal, and if I am, is the conviction something relevant to the job at hand? My brother is a convicted felon (if he pays off his restitution and stays clean on his probation, it gets downgraded to a misdemeanor), but his crime is totally unrelated to his job delivering stuff for a big-box store, they know about it and keep him employed there. Some companies don't want any sort of felony, others care if it is relevant.
- That my identity checks out, which is what comes from the license check. There have been a lot of lawsuits where some company hires someone with a history of DUI, and then they get in a bad crash, the plaintiff's lawyers feast on the corpse of the company and the tens of millions from the lawsuit (only a slight exaggeration). Insurance companies pretty much require this check - even if you never drive on company business.
- That I didn't lie on my resume. If I said I worked for BigHugeLargeCo, that company says basically "yes, Tangurena worked here". Some past employers have since gone out of business. A couple of those is not a problem, a persistent background of defunct corporations may be fake. I had one problem when a company's online records didn't go that far back (and the paper records were in a different state in a storage shed), but that I still had my money in the company's 401k plan showed I had been an employee and was good enough for that background check. My advice is to always keep your first and last paycheck stub from every place you worked, and keep this separate from tax records.
I have also encountered employers who preferred to hire only bad credit risks, as those people were too desperate to keep working, and so the boss could apply all sorts of pressure to them. Anyone who was not in dire financial straits would quit.
Sometimes legal regulations change and previously acceptable past history becomes retroactively unacceptable:
Richard Eggers, 68, was fired in July from his job as a customer service representative for putting a cardboard cutout of a dime in a washing machine nearly 50 years ago in Carlisle, the Des Moines Register reported Monday.
Warren County court records show Eggers was convicted of operating a coin-changing machine by false means. Eggers called it a "stupid stunt," but questions his firing.
Source. Eggers had worked for the bank for 7 years before the 50 year old conviction became an issue.