Biggest Scandals of the Year

December 11, 2018 by John Harrington

Incidents involving sexual misconduct dominated scandals in 2018.

Following the start of the #MeToo movement in October 2017 after revelations of sexual assault by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein by women in the entertainment industry, more women went public, sharing stories of sexual abuse by powerful men in other businesses. Disclosures of such misconduct in 2018 led to more indictments against Weinstein, jail time for the once-beloved comedian Bill Cosby, and the resignation of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The scandal involving sexual abuse of female gymnasts involving former team physician Larry Nassar reached the upper echelons of the US. Gymnastics team, forcing its CEO to resign over her mishandling of the situation.

Click here to read about the biggest scandals of 2018

Sexual impropriety and alleged misuse of campaign funds led to the resignation of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL seen as a rising star in the Republican Party. President Donald Trump has not escaped the taint of sexual misconduct in 2018. Porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal filed suits to void non-disclosure agreements pertaining to trysts with the president.

Online search engine Google has come under scrutiny over how it has handled sexual misconduct issues, which led to an employee walkout at Google company locations worldwide.

Aside from sexually unacceptable behavior, it was also a challenging year for social media companies Facebook and Twitter, which scrambled to contain damage related to misuse of their data and technology platforms.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed news reports involving incidents in the United States and other countries to determine the biggest scandals of the year.

Here are the biggest scandals of 2018.

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Wells Fargo

Beginning in 2016, Wells Fargo has been besieged by scandals, starting with illegal sales practices — employees created millions of fake accounts — that eventually cost CEO John Stumpf his job and the bank $185 million in fines. Those problems do not seem to be going away. On Dec. 5, Wells Fargo said it was firing around three dozen district managers for oversight failures connected with that sales scandal. The action is the first instance of district manager dismissals since the scandal broke two years ago. There have been other problems for Wells Fargo. In September, the California-based bank began refunding customers for products such as pet insurance and home warranties that customers did not understand or had not agreed to purchase. Also, the bank apologized for a computer glitch that led to home foreclosure notifications for hundreds of customers.

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Source: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Facebook

It was a year to forget for Facebook. The company’s users were outraged when reports surfaced that the social media giant allowed London-based Cambridge Analytica to mine data from as many as 87 million accounts that were used to help Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. Outraged Facebook customers felt betrayed, and many canceled their accounts. Facebook faced other problems. In November, the company confirmed that Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg sought information about billionaire George Soros, a critic of Facebook and other technology companies, and whether he stood to profit financially from his attacks on them. Facebook later contracted with opposition research effort by Definers Public Affairs, which disseminated public information about Soros’ financial support of advocacy groups critical of Facebook. This was later revealed by a New York Times investigation and became an embarrassment for Facebook, which eventually fired the company.

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Twitter

Social media company Twitter faced a firestorm of criticism over how its platform is used for “hate speech.” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey convened a meeting in August with his colleagues to discuss ways to make the service safe for users. They also talked about excising so-called dehumanizing speech, even if it might violate company rules. On its rules page, Twitter says it believes “that everyone should have the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” But its rules forbid using its platform for harassing people, making unwanted sexual advances, promoting violence, or displaying hateful imagery. The flap over hate speech at Twitter also raises concerns about the limits of free speech.

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Carlos Ghosn

In a stunning reversal of fortune, Carlos Ghosn and Nissan, the company he was credited with turning around, were both indicted Dec.10 in Japan on allegations of financial misconduct, as the crisis involving one of Japan’s iconic brands deepened. Ghosn was indicted for under-reporting his income over a five-year span. He had been arrested in Tokyo in November. He was ousted as chairman of Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors. He faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of breaking Japan’s Financial Instruments and Exchange Act. Ghosn, a highly regarded executive, helmed a friendly takeover of Nissan in 1999 while he was at Renault. At the time, Nissan was a struggling car company.

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Source: Craig Barritt / Getty Images

Eric Greitens

Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens was seen as a rising star in the Republican Party after he won the 2016 Missouri gubernatorial race. However, Greitens was dogged by accusations of an extramarital affair and improprieties regarding his use of campaign funds. Greitens was arrested on an invasion-of-privacy charge after prosecutors said he took a nude photo of the woman with whom he was having an affair and used it to blackmail her. He claimed the charges were false and fought the accusations. But Greitens had few friends among his Republican colleagues, many of whom were his harshest critics, and he resigned in June. Prosecutors dropped the charges after his resignation.

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Donald Trump

“Teflon Don” was the nickname given to mob boss John Gotti for evading criminal convictions. The teflon tag might apply to President Donald Trump, who so far has managed to move past scandals involving two alleged trysts. In March, porn star Stormy Daniels filed a suit to void a non-disclosure deal she made with Trump before the 2016 presidential election about their alleged affair. Also in March, former Playboy model Karen McDougal sued American Media Inc., publisher of supermarket tabloids, over a non-disclosure agreement she signed in August 2016 over an alleged assignation with the president.

Source: Jason Hanna / Getty Images

Another embarrassment for NFL

The NFL is dealing with more episodes of abuse of women by professional football players. Former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt was seen on video shoving and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel in February. TMZ published the video on Nov. 30. Since then, other videos have surfaced showing Hunt engaged in antisocial behavior. The Chiefs released the player shortly after the video was made public. The league is dealing with another problematic player as well. Linebacker Reuben Foster was released by the San Francisco 49ers after he was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence in Tampa, Florida. Despite outrage from many quarters, Foster was then picked up by the Washington Redskins.

Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Tainted NYC water

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is grappling with an ongoing crisis involving lead poisoning in the city’s public housing. In a report in September, the Education Department said over 1,100 water fixtures in city school buildings had lead levels above the EPA threshold, even though they were supposed to be fixed. Though the city had made progress in reducing the number of contaminated fixtures, about 25% of the city’s 1,500 schools still had at least one water fixture with elevated lead levels. The administration has been under fire for how it has handled lead paint in public housing. In June, the federal government slammed the city’s housing authority for misleading federal inspectors, presenting false reports to the federal government, and training staff on how to mislead federal inspectors about compliance with lead-paint regulations.

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Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer, head football coach at Ohio State University, is one of the most successful college football coaches of all time. But he was not able to escape the taint of a scandal this year, and it was one of the reasons why he is stepping down as coach of the Buckeyes. Meyer was suspended for three games by the university at the start of the 2018 season after it was revealed that he covered up incidents of domestic abuse committed by an assistant. Meyer, who also has health issues related to stress, led OSU to a national championship in 2014 and helmed the University of Florida to national titles in 2006 and 2008.

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Allison Mack

Television viewers might remember Mack from the television show “Smallville” — about a teenage Clark Kent struggling to adjust to life in a Kansas town — which ran for 10 seasons ending in 2011. Mack got back in the news this year, for the wrong reasons. In April, she was indicted on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy for her role in a self-help group called Nxivm that former members claimed was a cult. Nxivm was founded by Keith Raniere, who allegedly held sexual power over female members, making them sex slaves and forcing them to brand his initials on their pelvis.

Source: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images

Asia Argento

Actress Asia Argento was at the forefront of the #MeToo movement, but she herself became embroiled in a scandal involving sexual abuse in 2018. A New York Times report in September said Argento reached an agreement with actor Jimmy Bennett who had accused her of sexual assault. According to the Times story, there were documents alleging that Argento sexually abused Bennett in 2013, when he was 17 and she was 37. Argento said the reports are false and denied having a sexual relationship with Bennett. It was reported that Bennett sued Argento for $3.5 million in damages in November 2017, a month after she spoke out about Weinstein, and that Argento later agreed to pay Bennett $380,000.

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Source: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Eric Schneiderman

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, an outspoken supporter of the #MeToo movement, was forced to resign following a report of sexual misconduct and physical abuse that was published in the the New Yorker magazine. Schneiderman initially denied the report, saying the relationships were consensual. After the report was published, he stepped down on May 8, saying in a statement that “While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time.”

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

US Gymnastics team

Sexual misconduct reached into the sports arena in 2018, engulfing USA Gymnastics, which filed for bankruptcy protection in December. The filing was seen as a way for the program to resolve disputes stemming from revelations that longtime team physician Larry Nassar had molested more than 350 female gymnasts. In financial filings released in November, USA Gymnastics said it would cost up to $100 million to settle the litigation. Among those who said they were abused were Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas. In September, the scandal led to the resignation of USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry, who was criticized for mishandling the Nassar debacle and for her lack of transparency.

Source: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Alex Jones

Apparently social media has had enough of Alex Jones. The online conspiracist — who claims the government was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and that the 2012 school shooting in Connecticut was staged — was kicked off social media sites in 2018. Online media sites said Jones’s posts were hate speech and threatened violence at minority groups and media outlets. Among the sites that gave Jones the boot were Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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Source: Brian Ach / Getty Images

Google

Google made a few missteps in 2018. In October, a New York Times story reported that Andy Rubin, creator of Google’s smartphone operating system, was offered a $90 million exit package after the company found credible a complaint that he pressured a woman into performing oral sex. In September, the Wall Street Journal reported on a software glitch that exposed personal information of about 500,000 Google Plus users. To complicate matters, the story said Google management covered up the data breach out of fear of it being compared to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal. In November, thousands of Google employees walked out in protest over how the company handled sexual misconduct cases. Google employees again took issue with the company after it became known that it was planning to set up a censored search engine in China that employees believe would “silence marginalized people.”

Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

Roseanne Barr

It was one of the most stunning turnarounds in television history. The successful reboot of the sitcom “Roseanne” was scuttled in 2018 after one season when its eponymous star, the acerbic Roseanne Barr, tweeted that an African-American woman looked like an ape. Condemnation from the show’s cast, among others, was swift, and within hours of the tweet, the show’s renewal for a second season was nixed by ABC television network. A spinoff of the show titled “The Conners” is on the air, without Roseanne Barr. For her part, Barr blamed her racist tweet on the influence of sleeping pills.

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Source: Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

Priest abuse in Pennsylvania

The sexual abuse scandal involving clerics in the Catholic Church, which has consumed the institution since 2002, added another sad chapter in 2018. A Pennsylvania grand jury probing abuse said bishops and other Catholic leaders covered up sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by 301 priests over a period of 70 years. News reports called the disclosure the most extensive examination to date by a government agency in the United States of sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church. The grand jury report added that there were likely many more survivors whose records were lost or were too afraid to reveal the abuse.

Source: Leon Bennett / Getty Images

USC president resigns

C.L. Max Nikias, the president of the University of Southern California, was forced to step down in May amid a torrent of outrage stemming from a sex scandal involving the university’s former gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall. Students, professors, and administrators demanded Nikias resign because USC had not been moving fast enough to address allegations that the gynecologist had been conducting inappropriate examinations for decades. Tyndall was placed on administrative leave in 2016 and quietly retired.

Source: Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Louisville forfeits hoops title

The University of Louisville college basketball program, already reeling from the loss of coach Rick Pitino because of recruiting wrongdoing, suffered a major blow in February. Because of a scandal involving prostitutes hired for players, the NCAA upheld its decision to strip Louisville’s 2013 national title, the first time the NCAA has ever taken such action. The scandal first broke into the open in 2015, when a woman said a former member of the Louisville coaching staff solicited her escort service to arrange for prospective players to be entertained by women on campus. In addition to the national championship, Louisville had to forfeit the 123 victories won during the period of the sex scandal, and about $600,000 in tournament payouts from that time.

Source: William Thomas Cain / Getty Images

Bill Cosby

The #MeToo Movement, which exploded in October 2017 with revelations of repeated sexual abuse by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and took down powerful men in business, entertainment, and media, showed no signs of abating in 2018. Perhaps the highest-profile abuser was Bill Cosby, once known as “America’s Dad,” who was convicted in April on three counts of aggravated indecent sexual assault and is now serving a term of three to 10 years in a Pennsylvania prison.