The 10 Worst Corporations of 2003 February 18, 2004
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
2003 was not a year of garden variety corporate wrongdoing. No, the sheer
variety, reach and intricacy of corporate schemes, scandal and crimes was
spellbinding. Not an easy year to pick the 10 worst companies, for sure.
But Multinational Monitor magazine cannot be deterred by such complications.
And so, here follows, in alphabetical order, our list for Multinational
Monitor of the 10 worst corporations of 2003.
Bayer: 2003 may be remembered as the year of the headache at Bayer. In May,
the company agreed to plead guilty to a criminal count and pay more than
$250 million to resolve allegations that it denied Medicaid discounts to
which it was entitled. The company was beleaguered with litigation related
to its anti-cholesterol drug Baycol.
Bayer pulled the drug — which has been linked to a sometimes fatal muscle
disorder — from the market, but is facing thousands of suits from patients
who allege they were harmed by the drug. In June, the New York Times
reported on internal company memos which appear to show that the company
continued to promote the drug even as its own analysis had revealed the
dangers of the product. Bayer denies the allegations.
Boeing: In one of the grandest schemes of corporate welfare in recent memory,
Boeing engineered a deal whereby the Pentagon would lease tanker planes —
767s that refuel fighter planes in the air — from Boeing. The pricetag of
$27.6 billion was billions more than the cost of simply buying the planes.
The deal may unravel, though, because the company in November fired for
wrongdoing both the employee that negotiated the contract for Boeing (the
company’s chief financial officer), and the employee that negotiated the
contract for the government. How could Boeing fire a Pentagon employee?
Simple. She was no longer a Pentagon employee. Boeing had hired her shortly
after the company clinched the deal.
Brighthouse: A new-agey advertising/consulting/ strategic advice company,
Brighthouse’s claim to infamy is its Neurostrategies Institute, which
undertakes research to see how the brain responds to advertising campaigns.
In a cutting-edge effort to extend and sharpen the commercial reach in ways
never previously before possible, the institute is using MRIs to monitor
activity in people’s brains triggered by advertisements.
Clear Channel: The radio behemoth Clear Channel specializes in consuming or
squashing locally owned radio stations, imposing a homogenized music play
list on once interesting stations, and offering cultural support for U.S.
imperial adventures. It has also compiled a record of “repeated
law-breaking,” according to our colleage Jim Donahue, violating the law —
including prohibitions on deceptive advertising and on broadcasting
conversations without obtaining permission of the second party to the
conversation — on 36 separate occasions over the previous three years.
Diebold: A North Canton, Ohio-based company that is one of the largest U.S.
voting machine manufacturers, and an aggressive peddler of its electronic
voting machines, Diebold has managed to demonstrate that it fails any
reasonable test of qualifications for involvement with the voting process.
Its CEO has worked as a major fundraiser for President George Bush. Computer
experts revealed serious flaws in its voting technology, and activists
showed how careless it was with confidential information. And it threatened
lawsuits against activists who published on the Internet documents from the
company showing its failures.
Halliburton: Now the owner of the company which initially drafted plans for
privatization of U.S. military functions — plans drafted during the Bush I
administration when current Vice President and former Halliburton CEO Dick
Cheney was Secretary of Defense — Halliburton is pulling in billions in
revenues for contract work — providing logistical support ranging from oil
to food — in Iraq. Tens of millions, at least, appear to be overcharges.
Some analysts say the charges for oil provision amount to “highway robbery.”
HealthSouth: Fifteen of its top executives have pled guilty in connection
with a multi-billion dollar scheme to defraud investors, the public and the
U.S. government about the company’s financial condition. The founder and CEO
of the company that runs a network of outpatient surgery, diagnostic imagery
and rehabilitative healthcare centers, Richard Scrushy, is fighting the
charges. But thanks to the slick maneuvering of attorney Bob Bennett, it
appears the company itself will get off scot free — no indictments, no
pleas, no fines, no probation.
Inamed: The California-based company sought Food and Drug Administration
approval for silicone breast implants, even though it was not able to
present long-term safety data — the very thing that led the FDA to restrict
sales of silicone implants a decade ago. In light of what remains unknown
and what is known about the implants’ effects — including painful breast
hardening which can lead to deformity, and very high rupture rates — the
FDA in January 2004 denied Inamed’s application for marketing approval.
Merrill Lynch: This company keeps messing up. Fresh off of a $100 million
fine levied because analysts were recommending stocks that they trashed in
private e-mails, the company saw three former execs indicted for shady
dealings with Enron. The company itself managed to escape with something
less than a slap on the wrist — no prosecution in exchange for “oversight.”
Safeway: One of the largest U.S. grocery chains, Safeway is leading the
charge to demand givebacks from striking and locked out grocery workers in
Southern California. Along with Albertsons and Ralphs (Kroger’s), Safeway’s
Vons and Pavilion stores are asking employees to start paying for a major
chunk of their health insurance. Under the company’s proposals, workers and
their families will lose $4,000 to $6,000 a year in health insurance
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
Reporter, http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com Robert Weissman is editor
of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor,
http://www.multinationalmonitor.org They are co-authors of Corporate
Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe,
Maine: Common Courage Press; http://www.corporatepredators.org)
Original Article, in more detail is here