Special Report

Companies With the Best (and Worst) Reputations

Oil Field, Halliburton
Source: Thinkstock

5. Halliburton
> 2017 reputation score: 58.30
> 2016 reputation score: 56.26
> Industry: Oilfield services
> CEO: David J. Lesar

Despite a slight increase from 56.26 in 2016 to 58.30 in 2017, Halliburton’s reputation quotient is among the lowest of any major company. Many Americans have likely come to know of Halliburton as the result of the oilfield services company’s numerous scandals and controversies. In 2010, Halliburton was found partially responsible for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and later pleaded guilty to destroying evidence concerning the company’s culpability. Halliburton may have generated the most public ire following the recent war in Iraq, when it was revealed the company earned $39.5 billion in contracts during the conflict. Some of the most damaging allegations included charges that then Vice President Dick Cheney, who was previously CEO of Halliburton, gave preference to his former employer through no-bid contracts.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

4. Monsanto
> 2017 reputation score: 56.61
> 2016 reputation score: 60.43
> Industry: Agriculture chemicals
> CEO: Hugh Grant

Few companies have received the kind of public scorn that Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, has faced recently as it is perceived by many to favor profit at the expense of the environment and public health.

The company’s PR problems stem from a range controversies, from patent infringement to pollution. In the last 20 years, Monsanto has drawn criticism as a Goliath-like bully for suing U.S. farmers who saved the company’s patented seeds. More recently, the company has been the defendant in more than 20 lawsuits that accuse Monsanto of hiding the carcinogenic effects of its popular Roundup pesticide. The company is also being sued by the city of Seattle for polluting the municipal drainage system and nearby Duwamish River with toxic PCBs.

Goldman Sachs
Source: Creative Commons / Wikimedia Commons

3. Goldman Sachs
> 2017 reputation score: 56.32
> 2016 reputation score: 60.44
> Industry: Finance
> CEO: Lloyd Blankfein

In the 2016 presidential election, Goldman Sachs came to symbolize the public’s animosity towards the financial industry. Hillary Clinton was heavily criticized for giving paid speeches at events sponsored by the bank, and earlier in the election Ted Cruz received negative backlash for not disclosing funds contributed from Goldman Sachs for his 2012 Senate campaign. While public image is an important consideration for any company, a bad reputation may have less effect on businesses whose clients are mostly hedge funds and institutional investors. While the bank’s reputation has yet to recover from the effects of the financial crisis, it has regained access to the White House with several previous executives now serving in President Donald Trump’s administration.

wells fargo logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

2. Wells Fargo & Company
> 2017 reputation score: 49.11
> 2016 reputation score: 69.73
> Industry: Finance
> CEO: Timothy J. Sloan

While financial services companies tend to have the worst reputations of any major businesses, recent scandal has pushed Wells Fargo’s reputation score even farther south — today the bank has the worst reputation of any financial company. In September 2016, the public learned that Wells Fargo employees had opened more than 1.5 million bank accounts and 565,000 credit cards without the permission of their customers, all the while charging fees on the phony accounts. Wells Fargo was fined $185 million in customer lawsuits and federal penalties. Likely as a result, the company’s reputation score fell from 69.73 in 2016 to 49.11 in 2017, by far the largest decline of any company over the period.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Takata
> 2017 reputation score: 48.70
> 2016 reputation score: N/A
> Industry: Automotive parts
> CEO: Shigehisa Takada

In its first year among the Harris Poll’s 100 most visible businesses in the U.S., Takata debuts with the lowest reputation quotient of any company. Many Americans have likely become aware in recent years of the Japanese automotive parts manufacturer as the result of its massive airbag recall. The recall began in April 2013, when several Japanese automakers called back some 3.6 million cars over a two-month period. In what has become the largest automotive safety recall in history, nearly 70 million airbags in 42 million vehicles have been recalled. The faulty airbags have resulted in at least 11 deaths and 180 injuries in the United States, the impending resignation of the Takata CEO, and the worst reputation of any major company.

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