The American Association for Justice (AAJ) has released their report of the Worst Corporate Conduct of 2018. Earning a spot on this list is no honor, that’s for sure, but the AAJ wanted to recognize the hard work and determination these companies showed in deceiving the public and putting people at risk.
Corporate Apology No Substitute for Accountability
This year’s AAJ report begins by acknowledging how “normal” it is to hear a corporate apology in the wake of a massive scandal. Millions of people may be affected or injured as a result of poor corporate behavior, and somehow it has become OK for an executive to apologize without admitting any wrongdoing.
Apologies without consequences allow bad actions to continue. Unfortunately, in Trump’s Washington, big companies are getting soft treatment. Increasingly, it seems, the public is having to turn to the free press and its civil justice system to find protection the government is unwilling to provide.
Highlights from Worst Corporate Offenders of 2018
When crimes are swept under the rug, people get hurt. And until those crimes are brought to light, nothing will change. Here are some of the Worst Corporate Offenders of 2018 and the actions being taken to stop them:
BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell
It has come out that the fossil fuel industry’s own scientists warned of climate change in the 1980s. Instead of reckoning with the science, these companies have engaged in a long and public war of misinformation. They have deliberately undermined the scientific consensus and put the entire world at risk.
New York City, as well as several states, have sued big oil for compensation, but also to force them to take action on climate change.
The “good neighbor” insurance company is facing racketeering charges in 2018. Secretly, the company allegedly paid millions to have their hand-picked judge installed to the Illinois Supreme Court. By hiding the money, their hand-picked judge was able to cast the deciding vote to vacate a past $1.06 Billion verdict against State Farm.
General Motors, Takata
Millions of vehicles still have defective airbags installed which could explode and injure or kill drivers without warning. The Takata airbag recall is massive, and unlike other car companies, General Motors has done everything it can to avoid paying for it. As they petition and stall for time, people continue to get hurt.
This biotech company made millions by selling a product that would revolutionize blood-testing. It turned out the whole company was a sham. Their product didn’t work, and people ended up receiving treatment for diseases they never had. Thankfully a whistle-blower alerted the press, and Theranos was forced to shut down.
The world’s largest food and beverage company is facing a lawsuit over its continued involvement with child labor and slavery. Many global companies make sure their supply chains do not depend on child slave labor. Nestlé refuses to even acknowledge that such practices have been part of their business, even after being caught.
USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University (MSU)
Both of these institutions played key roles in perpetuating the abuse of young people they were supposed to protect. Mirroring the Catholic Church scandal, USA Gymnastics hid the behavior of predatory coaches and trainers instead of reporting them.
At MSU, officials had the evidence they needed to confront Larry Nasser, an athletic trainer and serial rapist. Instead they covered it up. Nasser is in jail now, but how many other institutions are covering up similar crimes?
This for-profit student loan lender made millions of dollars through predatory tactics. Navient has overcharged, misled, and failed to adequately warn their customers through a host of profitable schemes that have continued to bankrupt American students.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) went after Navient in 2017 and returned $750 Million to consumers. Instead of continuing to seek justice for other borrowers, Trump appointees have stalled the additional efforts by the agency.
Johnson & Johnson and Monsanto Cement Reputation as Serial Worst Offenders
It is astounding to consider the million-dollar efforts some companies are willing to make instead of behaving honestly with the public. Consider Johnson & Johnson and Monsanto, 2 corporations who earned a mention on this year’s report after headlining the Worst Corporate Conduct of 2017. Even as the truth comes out in court, these companies insist on their innocence.
Monsanto denies that their widely used weed-killer Roundup causes cancer. They have spent millions to make sure that safety agencies do not label their product’s key ingredient – glyphosate – a carcinogen. In spite of this, a jury awarded $289 Million in damages to a man who developed cancer as a result of using Roundup, which had no warning labels.
Johnson & Johnson has lost several major talc-related asbestos lawsuits in 2018. Many women spoke up and said that the talc-based products they used, including the incredibly popular Baby Powder, was contaminated by asbestos, a known cancer-causing mineral.
Like Monsanto (now a part of Bayer), Johnson & Johnson continues to “unequivocally” insist that contamination is not impossible, but it seems their own tests reveal otherwise. As Reuters reported, internal documents that surfaced during the trial show that Johnson & Johnson knew about the existence of asbestos in their talc-mines for decades.
Trump’s Washington Backs Down Amidst Corporate Trickery,
What’s particularly scary about these large-scale lobbying efforts to deceive the public is that they are happening against the backdrop of President Trump’s Washington. Some of our most-trusted regulatory agencies are now being run by people who have spent at least part of their careers suing the very federal bodies they now head.
In a time of unchecked corporate dishonesty, President Trump has fulfilled his promise to weaken regulations and oversight.
Many of the people who have been deceived, injured, and hurt by these companies don’t have time to wait for the wind to change in Washington. They need help now. Let us hope that in the new year, a brighter future awaits – one that is more honest, healthy, and inclusive for all citizens.