[corp-focus] The 10 Worst Corporations of 2005

Submitted by Focus on the Co... on Sun, 30/04/2006 - 09:55

By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

OK, we know that, in the Internet age, harking back to 2005 seems like
looking back on an ancient era.

But, if you will, indulge us for a moment as we reminisce and present
Multinational Monitor's 10 Worst Corporations of 2005. (For the full
story, go to http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/ )

Listed 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
last four 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.

DuPont: Deadly chemicals from DuPont's perfluorinated, chemical-based
coatings and related sources are now in the blood of 95 percent of
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.
(For a complete history, see http://www.ewg.org/ ) In December, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency agreed to settle claims against DuPont
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 --
ExxonMobil continues to insist that "scientific evidence remains
inconclusive." So far, the cynical, profit-motivated, short-term and
self-interested views of ExxonMobil have mattered more than the
evidence-based perspective of the world's climatologists. That's because
the most profitable corporation on earth has lots of political power and
is skilled at amplifying its views (see http://ExposeExxon.org/ for details),
and the climatologists do not and are not. While the world burns,
ExxonMobil is raking in record profits -- more than $36 billion in 2005,
the highest ever earned for a single company in one year.

Ford: 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
Record found lead, arsenic and xylenes in the sludge -- some at 100
times the levels the government considers safe. Reporters with the
Record dug up documents showing that Ford executives knew as early as 34
years ago that its waste had contaminated a stream that feeds the
Wanaque Reservoir.

Halliburton: The company has effectively made a business model of
crooked dealing with the U.S. government. Getting caught, over and over,
doesn't seem to affect things much. In February, the U.S. Army agreed to
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
on foreign contracts by Halliburton. In June, at a Congressional
hearing, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, then the senior contracting specialist
with the Army Corps of Engineers, testified, "I can unequivocally state
that the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR [Halliburton's
subsidiary] represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I
have witnessed during the course of my professional career." And the
list of abuses goes on and on ...

KPMG: KPMG "admitted to criminal wrongdoing in the largest-ever tax
shelter 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
to the government, "KPMG has admitted that it engaged in a fraud that
generated at least $11 billion in phony tax losses which, according to
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
available pharmaceutical defense for those exposed to the avian
influenza. For now, avian flu is not communicative among humans, but if
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
manufacture Tamiflu, and maneuvered to keep as much control over the
global supply as possible. That's helped the company's bottom line --
Tamiflu is suddenly a billion-dollar-a-year earner -- but it leaves
global public health in a needlessly precarious position.

Suez: Suez has been a leading purveyor and beneficiary of the global
trend of water privatization -- the selling off of public water systems
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 a
water privatization contract with Aguas del Illimani, of which Suez is a
major shareholder.

W.R. Grace: Federal prosecutors in February charged Grace with knowingly
endangering residents of Libby, Montana, and concealing information
about the health affects of its vermiculite mining operations.
Vermiculite was used in many common commercial products, including
insulation, fireproofing materials, masonry fill, and as an additive to
potting soils and fertilizers. The vermiculite deposits in Libby were
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
its vermiculite, but failed to turn the information over to the
government, despite a legal duty to do so. The company allowed workers
to leave the mine site covered in asbestos dust, allowed residents to
take waste vermiculite for use in their gardens and distributed
vermiculite tailings to the Libby schools for use as foundations for
running tracks and an outdoor ice skating rink.

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 Destruction of
Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).

(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

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