5. Electronic Arts
Electronic Arts, or EA, has been making highly successful video games for decades. EA has produced dozens of wildly successful franchises, including “The Sims,” “Battlefield,” and “Need for Speed,” and the annually-sold, fervently-purchased sports titles, Madden and FIFA. While it has helped shape the face of gaming, EA has also unfortunately earned a reputation as the industry’s evil empire. There are many examples of EA buying up smaller studios or operations for a specific game and then either stripping the game of its originality or running the studio into the ground.
The company added to its infamy recently during the early release days of the latest installment of another of its big franchises, “Star Wars Battlefront II.” EA released an early access version of the game, and immediately drew widespread ire from gamers, who discovered that unlocking some of the more popular characters required over 40 hours of gameplay or spending hundreds on in-game purchases. The public outcry surrounding the perceived greed led the studio to temporarily suspend in-game purchases.
4. University of Phoenix
The University of Phoenix is perhaps the most well-known for-profit college in the country. In recent years, the school’s parent company, Apollo Education Group — as well as a number of other for-profit colleges — has been the subject of a series of state and federal investigations that allege the company used for their aggressive and deceptive recruiting, advertising, and financial aid practices. After alleging that the University of Phoenix preyed upon veterans with little chance of graduating in order to receive federal aid money, the Department of Defense briefly barred the school from recruiting on military bases.
Negative perceptions of the University of Phoenix may be one factor contributing to the decline in enrollment at the school. In 2012 the university announced it would be closing 115 locations and laying off 800 employees — approximately 5% of its workforce. Between 2010 and 2017, student enrollment fell by 70%. The downsizing is likely doing little to boost employee morale. According to data obtained from Glassdoor, only 32% of University of Phoenix employees would recommend working at the school to a friend.
Despite growing concerns and evidence, it has taken the NFL more than two decades to finally acknowledge the link between head injuries and their long-term effects — and to initiate concussion protocol policy. The NFL’s conduct in this matter has garnered significant criticism from the American public. The growing politicization during games this season gave even more Americans a reason to dislike the organization. President Donald Trump tweeted in September 2017 that the league should fire or suspend players who kneel during the national anthem — a trend that started in 2016 by now unsigned quarterback Colin Kaepernick to raise awareness of racial inequality in the United States. The act of kneeling is itself controversial, garnering support from some who claim it is a protected form of free speech in support of a righteous cause, while others claim it is disrespectful to the flag.
Though it remains the most popular professional sports league in the United States, the NFL’s viewership dipped considerably in 2017, due in part to boycott movements driven by the kneeling controversy. Nationally televised games in the current season averaged only 15.1 million viewers, down from 16.6 million last season.
2. Fox Entertainment Group
Fox Entertainment Group is the parent company of Fox News Channel, one of the most popular cable channels in the United States — and also one of the most divisive. The network has a blatant right-wing slant, and politically conservative Americans overwhelmingly comprise its viewer base. As a result, the media outlet is either ignored or disdained by a large share of Americans with left-leaning political beliefs.
This past year, Fox may have estranged even more Americans. The company — like many others on this list — was embroiled in scandal in 2017. Revelations that Bill O’Reilly — then anchor of “The O’Reilly Factor,” which was once the most popular news show on cable — had settled multiple sexual harassment allegations to the tune of $13 million led to the show’s cancellation. Similar allegations of sexual misconduct led the late Fox News CEO and founder Roger Ailes to resign in 2016.
Consumer credit reporting agency Equifax became the target of one of the largest data breaches of all time last year. Between mid-May and July 2017, criminal hackers infiltrated the company’s servers and accessed personal data — including driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers, and birthdays — of more than 145 million Americans, potentially exposing them to the threat of identity theft.
Perhaps even more troubling than the security flaws exposed in the hack itself was the way the company handled it. Despite discovering the breach on July 29th, the company waited a month and half to make a public announcement. The public was further outraged when the company forced consumers to agree not to join a class-action lawsuit in order to see if their information was hacked. Lawmakers have yet to take action to reduce the likelihood of such incidents from happening again.