In a year marked not only by the now-standard forms of corporate marauding but also by brazen wartime profiteering, it was no easy chore to identify Multinational Monitor’s 10 corporations of 2001.
The competition was even tougher than usual. But choices had to be made. And now decisions have been reached.
Multinational Monitor has named Abbott Laboratories, Argenbright, Bayer, Coke, Enron, Exxon Mobil, Philip Morris, Sara Lee, Southern Co. and Wal-Mart as the 10 worst corporations of 2001
Appearing in alphabetical order, the 10 worst are:
Abbott Laboratories, for its TAP Pharmaceuticals, a joint venture with Japanese Takeda Pharmaceuticals. TAP was forced to pay $875 million to resolve criminal charges and civil liability in connection with allegations of major Medicare reimbursement fraud. Among other alleged fraudulent activities, as a way of hooking doctors on prescribing Lupron, its prostate cancer drug, TAP gave doctors free samples and then encouraged doctors to bill Medicare for the free samples.
Argenbright, the security company, for repeat violations of regulations for airport security. Argenbright’s appalling record — including violations of security rules it had been caught breaking just a year earlier — helped convince Congress to federalize U.S. airport security operations.
Bayer, for its overcharge of the government and public for the anti-anthrax drug Cipro, based on a patent monopoly that may well be improperly maintained by virtue of a collusive arrangement with a generic manufacturer. Bayer also secured a place on the 10 worst list for its dangerous peddling of antibiotics for poultry (contributing to antibiotic resistance among humans) and its harassment of a German watchdog group, Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, for maintaining a BayerWatch.com website.
Coca Cola, for its sponsorship of the first Harry Potter movie and possible sequels, using a children’s favorite to hawks its unhealthy product, and for alleged complicity with death squads in Colombia targeting union leaders there.
Enron, for costing many of its employees their life savings by refusing to let them dump company stock from their pension plans, as Enron plunged toward bankruptcy.
ExxonMobil, for leading the global warming denial campaign (even O’Dwyer’s a leading rag of the public relations industry, has chastised the company for its “stubborn refusal to acknowledge the fact that burning fossil fuels has a role in global warming”) and blocking efforts at appropriate remedial action, plus a host of other reckless activities.
Philip Morris, for its “we’ve changed” marketing campaign — revealed to be a hoax by a Czech study it commissioned alleging cost savings from smoking-related premature deaths, as well as the company’s ongoing efforts to addict millions of new smokers.
Sara Lee, for a scandal involving its Ball Park Franks hot dogs. Listeria-contaminated Ball Park Franks killed 21 and seriously injured 100 in 1998. In 2001, with civil and criminal litigation around the case heating up, the Detroit Free Press reported that Sara Lee stopped performing tests for bacteria after it started recording too many positives. The U.S. attorney, which handled prosecution of the criminal case, insists Sara Lee did not know about the presence of listeria in its hot dogs. In an extraordinary move, the U.S. attorney issued a joint press release with Sara Lee announcing settlement of the case. The final tally: 21 dead. A misdemeanor plea. A $200,000 fine.
Southern Co., the largest electric utility in the United States, for its efforts to defeat sensible air pollution regulations. Southern is a heavy user of coal, and leads the fight to maintain a ridiculous “grandfather” clause in the U.S. Clean Air Act, which exempts power plants built before 1970 from Clean Air Act standards.
Wal-Mart, for continuing to source products from overseas sweatshops, for viciously battling efforts to unionize any fraction of its workforce (the largest in the United States, among private employers), and for contributing to the sprawl that blights the U.S. landscape.
For a complete version of Multinational Monitor’s article naming the 10 worst corporations of 2001, see http://www.essential.org/monitor.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy.