Special Report

America’s Most Hated Companies

Michael B. Sauter, Grant Suneson

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4. Purdue Pharma

As the opioid epidemic rages on in America, Purdue Pharma and its founders, the Sackler family, have received much of the blame. Purdue began selling the painkiller OxyContin in 1996. In recent years, it has been sued over and over, including by several state attorneys general. These lawsuits allege that Purdue deceived patients and doctors about the risks of becoming addicted to the drug when advertising it. To settle the suits, the company paid out over $10 billion, and as a result declared bankruptcy.
The Sackler family itself was required to pay at least $3 billion and relinquish control of the company. As the Sackler name has become more inextricably linked with America’s opioid problems, several prominent museums, galleries, and universities have refused their donations. Tufts University even renamed several buildings that featured the Sackler name.

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5. Boeing

Once a trusted aviation brand, Boeing now faces intense scrutiny and a slew of lawsuits following several recent accidents and incidents related to its 737 Max jetliner. In October 2018, a Boeing 737 Max crashed shortly after takeoff. A similar accident took place in March 2019. Over 150 people were killed in both accidents. The FAA grounded all further flights of the 737 Max, and Boeing suspended its production.

After the crashes, it was revealed that Boeing knew of the issue for years but did not disclose the information. Company engineers told CNN that the 737 Max relied on a single sensor that is prone to malfunctions and would only work effectively with an optional safety feature most of its customers did not purchase. In both crashes, it appears this sensor sent a signal that the plane was stalling when it was not. This caused the aircraft to pitch down. Though Boeing first learned of the issue in 2017, company executives did not think it would make the planes less safe. Since March 2019, Boeing’s stock price has fallen by more than 25%.

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6. Frontier Communication

Like many modern corporations, Frontier Communications provides several services to its customers, yet none are well reviewed. Three of the 20 worst reviewed services on the ACSI are Frontier’s: the company’s fixed-line telephone service received a score of 61 compared to the industry average of 71; its subscription TV service scored a 57 compared to an industry average of 62; and its internet service received a score of 55, the lowest score awarded out of the more than 300 company services reviewed in 2019.

According to its employees, Frontier is also one of the worst places to work. It has a score of 2.4 out of 5.0 on employee review site Glassdoor, tied for the third worst score among more than 800 large companies. Barely one out of five employees who left reviews on the site would recommend their friends to work there. The company has an average of 1 star out of 5 among customer responses on the Better Business Bureau website, and the BBB gives the service provider a score of F.

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7. Houston Astros

In 2020, the MLB reported that since their 2017 World Series-winning season, the Houston Astros had used a video feed in their dugout to see what the opposing pitcher planned to throw. Someone would relay the information to their batters by banging on a trash can or making some other noise. Rumors of rule-breaking had circulated for years, but no action was taken until former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers admitted the team cheated in late 2019.

Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each banned for a season then fired. The Astros were fined $5 million and stripped of four draft picks. Alex Cora, who was Houston’s bench coach in 2017 before becoming manager for the Boston Red Sox, parted ways with Boston.

Before the cheating scandal broke, the Astros had already made themselves less than likeable. After securing a trip to the 2019 World Series, assistant general manager Brandon Taubman taunted female journalists, saying “thank god we got Osuna.” The team was criticized for trading for relief pitcher Roberto Osuna after he was suspended for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. When the journalists wrote about the incident, the team released a statement saying there was an “attempt to fabricate a story” but later apologized and fired Taubman.