Special Report

America’s Most Hated Companies

Michael B. Sauter, Grant Suneson

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

8. Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo’s customer service score of 76 is tied for the worst of any of the major banks rated by the ACSI. While many banks sustained serious damage to their reputations in the years following the subprime mortgage crisis because of their involvement and complicity in the events leading up to it, Wells Fargo’s PR woes continue.

The bank took a serious hit to its reputation in 2016 after it came to light that company employees had been creating fake customer accounts in order to meet quotas and inflate company revenue. The company was fined millions of dollars, and in the aftermath of the scandal, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf stepped down. Even after Stumpf left, however, revelations about the company’s underhanded dealings continued to pile up.

In January 2020, a report by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a federal banking regulator, issued new damning charges against Stumpf and the bank, with documents and testimony that workers were effectively coerced by the bank’s management to break the law. Stumpf agreed to pay a $17.5 million fine and was permanently banned from working in banking. A number of other former Wells Fargo executives face charges from the OCC.

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

9. Johnson & Johnson

For years, Johnson & Johnson had faced accusations from customers that its talcum product, such as baby powder, had caused their cancer. It is facing roughly 17,000 lawsuits related to the issue, including one by the state of New Mexico. In July 2018, a Missouri jury awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women who claimed J&J talcum powder gave them ovarian cancer.

Further damaging the company’s reputation was a 2018 Reuters report that claimed the over 130-year-old health care company knew for more than 40 years that its baby powder contained asbestos, which is known to cause cancer. The company called the article “false and inflammatory.” Still, in October 2019, the company issued a nationwide recall of baby powder after finding asbestos in the product. Though it claims the product is now safe, J&J’s reputation is in tatters.

J&J received an F rating from the Better Business Bureau due to government action taken against the company as well as a number of unaddressed complaints.

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10. Juul

After years of declining tobacco use among teenagers, American high school students are picking up the habit again. E-cigarette use has more than doubled among high schoolers from 2017 to 2019. Many have blamed e-cigarette maker Juul, and its small portable e-cigarettes, for contributing to the rise in underage nicotine use and addiction. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says Juuls may have especially high doses of nicotine that can hook users.

Juul Labs agreed to pull some fruity, sweet-flavored pods off brick-and-mortar store shelves in 2018 because they may be more appealing to children. In early 2020, the Trump administration banned all fruity, dessert, or mint flavors from cartridge-based e-cigarettes like Juuls.