The American Association for Justice (AAJ) has come out with its report on the “Worst Corporate Conduct of 2018.” It looks at the companies that ended up in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons to pick the worst of the worst corporate actors.
The report also notes that we seem to be in an era of corporate apology. Americans heard apologies from United Airlines, Facebook, United Airlines again, Wells Fargo, Uber, and Papa Johns, just to name a few of the many. Several companies in the hot seat even switched out their CEO’s. But are these the only companies who should be apologizing? According to the report, they don’t even represent the worst of the bunch in 2018. According to the AAJ, the winners are:
- Theranos. Elizabeth Holmes founded her company in 2003 at the age of 19. Her company claimed a revolutionary blood-testing process. Unfortunately, the technology did not work. They lied about who was using the product, faked demonstrations and processed blood in a secret lab facility. Theranos now faces many lawsuits for false diagnoses and Elizabeth Holmes faces fraud charges.
- Navient. Navient is a for-profit student loan company. Borrowers have accused them of a long list of deceptive loan practices that brought them before the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The scandal that made the most headlines among lenders, including Navient, was a failure to apply the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program correctly.
- Nestle. Nestle is long-familiar with controversy and bad press. As the largest food company in the world, Nestle has faced many boycotts over the years. This time, the company faces a lawsuit accusing it of using a supply chain laced with child labor and slave labor in Ghana and Ivory Coast to boost its own profits.
- Energy companies. The report combined the five largest oil companies for the next spot due to their contributions to global warming. Royal Dutch Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and ExxonMobil have known about the effects their fossil fuels have on the environment since at least the 1980’s. They are now being sued by cities, counties and industry groups for misleading the country and investors about the threat posed by their companies.
- USA Gymnastics/MSU. When the story broke about Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of gymnasts in his role as team doctor, people were rightfully shocked. Unfortunately, USA Gymnastics knew about the conduct and allowed it to continue for decades. Not only were these girls victimized by the doctor, but also by the organization charged with their protection. As if this story could get any worse, Nasser’s other employer, Michigan State University, also spent years covering up Nasser’s conduct.
- General Motors/Takata. The saga continues for the airbag manufacturer, along with General Motors. Ten years after its first recall, Takata must recall millions more vehicles and replace airbags that have already been replaced once. GM has attempted to evade the recall, filing petitions to get out of it. GM also knew of the problem with Takata airbags years before other companies, yet did nothing about it.
- State Farm. State Farm recently settled a RICO claim for $250 million. The claim accused the company of conspiring to put a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court to rule in their favor in a billion-dollar lawsuit, which the justice did.
Some of these stories may shock you, and others may strike you as typical bad conduct from corporations putting profit over people. Either way, apologies are meaningless without action. Hopefully, people will hold the leaders of these companies accountable, whether in the courtroom, the boardroom or even with their wallets.