Special Report

Companies With the Best (and Worst) Reputations

Worst Reputations:

volkswagen-jetta
Source: vw.com

10. Volkswagen Group
> 2017 reputation score: 63.46
> 2016 reputation score: 54.75
> Industry: Automobile manufacturing
> CEO: Matthias Müller

The Environmental Protection Agency announced in September 2015 that a number of Volkswagen vehicles had been rigged to pass emissions tests. Volkswagen admitted that 11 million of its cars were manipulated to falsely understate exhaust emissions levels. The scandal was one of the worst instances of major corporate fraud in recent history. It resulted in more than $20 billion in fines and lawsuits in the U.S. alone, the resignation of the CEO and suspension of several executives, and pending criminal charges for a number of U.S. employees. While Volkswagen’s reputation is recovering — the increase in the company’s reputation score from 54.75 in 2016 to 63.46 in 2017 was the largest of any corporation — the automaker has one of the worst reputations of any company today.

AIG logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

9. AIG
> 2017 reputation score: 63.22
> 2016 reputation score: 61.15
> Industry: Insurance
> CEO: Peter Hancock

AIG can trace its roots back nearly 100 years to its Shanghai-based predecessor, a general insurance company known as American Asiatic Underwriters. Today, the company provides insurance and other financial services in more than 100 countries.

The company’s reputation took a major hit during the financial crisis, when the federal government stepped in to save the insurer it considered too big to fail with an $85 billion bailout. AIG is one of several companies on this list to receive a bailout during the Great Recession, many of which are also blamed for contributing to the crisis that led to their downfalls. Currently, company board members are discussing CEO Peter Hancock’s future with the company, as his two-year restructuring plan designed to reward shareholders appears to be failing.

charter-communications
Source: Wikimedia Commons

8. Charter Communications
> 2017 reputation score: 62.80
> 2016 reputation score: 64.78
> Industry: Cable telecommunications
> CEO: Thomas Rutledge

Charter Communications is a telecommunications company that sells cable, phone, and internet services through the brand Charter Spectrum. After purchasing Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2016, Charter became the second largest broadband internet provider and third largest pay-TV provider in the United States. Those who opposed the merger claimed that the less competition would leave little incentive for Charter to improve its customer service. Charter Communications currently has one of the lowest customer satisfaction scores of any major company on the ACSI. While most of the Harris Poll’s 100 most recognizable companies improved in reputation over the past year, Charter’s reputation score fell from 64.78 in 2016 to 62.80 in 2017 — one of the largest declines of any company.

sears-holding-company
Source: Wikimedia Commons

7. Sears Holdings Corporation
> 2017 reputation score: 62.74
> 2016 reputation score: 64.69
> Industry: Retail
> CEO: Edward Lampert

Sears has long struggled against the rising tide of e-commerce. In the ACSI, Sears ranks third worst in customer service among major retailers, ahead of only Ross Stores and Wal-Mart. Sears continues to close stores nationwide. Even as it is constantly trimming down operations, the company loses money. Sears Holding Corporation has reported a net loss in each of the last five fiscal years, amounting to over $8.3 billion. Over the past five years, company shares plunged by nearly 90%.

Like many other companies on this list, Sears Holdings does not appear to do well by its employees. According to reviews on Glassdoor, fewer than one in three employees would recommend a job with the company to a friend. Only 13% of employees approve of CEO Edward Lampert.

bank-of-america
Source: Wikimedia Commons

6. Bank Of America
> 2017 reputation score: 59.69
> 2016 reputation score: 64.26
> Industry: Finance
> CEO: Brian Moynihan

Bank of America, the second largest American bank based on total assets, did not have a good year when it comes to its reputation. In the 2016 edition of the Harris Poll survey, the bank received a reputation score of just 64. In the 2017 edition, BofA’s score fell below 60, one of the sharpest drops of any company. The company has faced a number of lawsuits for its actions and the actions of companies it acquired, including Bear Stearns, during the financial crisis. In January, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corpoation sued Bank of America for $542 million for money the bank allegedly owes the federal body.

Customer service is a big part of a company’s reputation, and Bank of America’s ACSI score of just 75 is tied with Chase as the worst among major banks.