THE 10 WORST CORPORATIONS
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
OK, we know that, in the Internet age, harking back to 2005 seems
looking back on an ancient era.
But, if you will, indulge us for a moment as we reminisce and present
Monitor's 10 Worst Corporations of 2005. (For the full
story, go to <www.multinationalmonitor.org>.)
alphabetically, here are the 10 Worst Corporations of 2005 and
brief lowlights of the activities that earned them a place
on the list:
BP: In March, 15 workers were incinerated, and more than 170 injured,
following an explosion at BP's
sprawling refinery in Texas City, Texas.
It was the third fatal accident at the Texas City BP facility in the
years. Nationwide, BP's facilities have had more than 3,565
accidents since 1990, ranking first in the nation, according
to a 2004
report by the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG).
Delphi: In October, Delphi CEO Steve Miller
took his company into
bankruptcy, with the explicit purpose of trashing the social contract
between unionized auto workers
in the United States and the auto
industry. He proposed slashing worker wages from $27 an hour to a mere
10 bucks. And,
in a fit of staggering arrogance, Miller and Delphi
simultaneously proposed huge bonuses for company executives.
Deadly chemicals from DuPont's perfluorinated, chemical-based
coatings and related sources are now in the blood of 95 percent
people in the United States. DuPont has claimed that it does not know
how the chemicals got there. But Glenn Evers,
formerly one of the
company's top technical experts, says that DuPont hid for decades that
it was polluting people's
blood with a hyper-persistent chemical
associated with the grease-resistant coatings on paper food packaging.
complete history, see www.ewg.org.) In December, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency agreed to settle claims against
for a paltry $16.5 million. On a happier note, the agency and DuPont
announced that the chemicals will be phased
out by 2015.
ExxonMobil: In the face of a virtually complete scientific consensus
that global warming is real and
happening -- and considerable agreement
that it is happening faster than expected just a few years ago --
continues to insist that "scientific evidence remains
inconclusive." So far, the cynical, profit-motivated, short-term
self-interested views of ExxonMobil have mattered more than the
evidence-based perspective of the world's climatologists.
the most profitable corporation on earth has lots of political power and
is skilled at amplifying its
views (see ExposeExxon.org for details),
and the climatologists do not and are not. While the world burns,
is raking in record profits -- more than $36 billion in 2005,
the highest ever earned for a single company in one year.
Ford Motor Company's factory in Mahwah, New Jersey once the
largest auto assembly plant in the nation, dumped millions
of gallons of
paint sludge -- enough to fill two of the three tubes of the Lincoln
Tunnel -- into a now-residential
area, revealed a series published in
the Bergen Record (see www.toxiclegacy.com). Tests commissioned by the
lead, arsenic and xylenes in the sludge -- some at 100
times the levels the government considers safe. Reporters with the
dug up documents showing that Ford executives knew as early as 34
years ago that its waste had contaminated a stream that
Halliburton: The company has effectively made a business model of
with the U.S. government. Getting caught, over and over,
doesn't seem to affect things much. In February, the U.S. Army
pay Halliburton's KBR subsidiary nearly $2 billion for work that nobody
can prove ever took place. In March,
the company revealed that the U.S.
Justice Department opened a criminal inquiry into possible bid-rigging
contracts by Halliburton. In June, at a Congressional
hearing, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, then the senior contracting specialist
the Army Corps of Engineers, testified, "I can unequivocally state
that the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR [Halliburton's
represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I
have witnessed during the course of my professional career."
list of abuses goes on and on ...
KPMG: KPMG "admitted to criminal wrongdoing in the largest-ever tax
fraud," said U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in August.
KPMG managed to escape with no conviction or plea agreement,
thanks to a
"deferred prosecution" agreement by which the firm promised to pay $456
million in fines, restitution and
penalties and do better in the future.
That won't quite make up for the harm the company inflicted. According
government, "KPMG has admitted that it engaged in a fraud that
generated at least $11 billion in phony tax losses which,
court papers, cost the United States at least $2.5 billion in evaded taxes."
Roche: On license from
the San Francisco-based company, Gilead, Roche
makes the anti-flu drug, Tamiflu. Tamiflu appears to be the best
pharmaceutical defense for those exposed to the avian
influenza. For now, avian flu is not communicative among humans,
the disease mutates so that it is, the global consequences could be
dire. For Roche, this is good news -- suddenly
its poorly selling
product is in such great demand that the company literally can't make
enough. Rather than licensing
production broadly, the company has
engaged in a series of obfuscations about how difficult it is to
and maneuvered to keep as much control over the
global supply as possible. That's helped the company's bottom line --
is suddenly a billion-dollar-a-year earner -- but it leaves
global public health in a needlessly precarious position.
Suez has been a leading purveyor and beneficiary of the global
trend of water privatization -- the selling off of public
to private entities, or the turning over of control and management of
public systems to corporations.
The result has been lousy service,
jacked up rates and targeted efforts for well-off households at the
expense of the
poor. In a notable case in El Alto, Bolivia, mass
demonstrations in January 2005 led the Bolivian government to cancel
water privatization contract with Aguas del Illimani, of which Suez is a
W.R. Grace: Federal
prosecutors in February charged Grace with knowingly
endangering residents of Libby, Montana, and concealing information
the health affects of its vermiculite mining operations.
Vermiculite was used in many common commercial products, including
fireproofing materials, masonry fill, and as an additive to
potting soils and fertilizers. The vermiculite deposits in
contaminated with a form of asbestos called tremolite. Federal officials
charge that Grace knew the residents
would get sick -- they allege Grace
learned in the 1970s of the toxic nature of the tremolite asbestos in
but failed to turn the information over to the
government, despite a legal duty to do so. The company allowed workers
leave the mine site covered in asbestos dust, allowed residents to
take waste vermiculite for use in their gardens and
vermiculite tailings to the Libby schools for use as foundations for
running tracks and an outdoor ice skating
Nominations are now open for the worst companies of 2006.
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>. Mokhiber and Weissman are
co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the
Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman