Special Report

The World's 25 Least Admired Companies

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Every year, companies do irreversible harm to their public image either by making decisions that hurt their bottom line or by getting caught up in a scandal that tarnishes their image.

These financial and public relations issues can cause consumers to rethink their spending preferences, often making them avoid negatively-viewed businesses. If one of these scandals becomes front page news, it can be very difficult for the corporation to rehabilitate its image.

To determine the world’s least admired companies for 2021, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a survey from Fortune and management consulting firm Korn Ferry of over 3,800 executives and analysts. In the survey, the largest companies by revenue were ranked along with other companies in their industry on criteria like innovation, quality of management, global competitiveness, and more. Only companies that ranked in the lower half of their industry were considered for our list.

Many of the companies on this list have been involved in headline-grabbing scandals in recent years. They have been accused of producing faulty equipment, deceiving investors, or even being responsible for fatal disasters. These headlines can shape public perception of the businesses for years. These are the companies with the best and worst reputations.

Many companies that rank among the least admired have struggled financially in recent years, even before the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world’s economy. CEOs are well compensated, and investors expect executives running large companies to innovate, anticipate market trends, and ensure the company is profitable. These companies’ CEOs have often failed in their duties. These are America’s highest paid CEOs.

Click here to see the world’s 25 least admired companies.
Click here to see our methodology.

Source: PRANGKUL RUANGSRI / iStock / Getty Images Plus

25. Amphenol
> Industry Network and other communications equipment
> Country: United States

Amphenol is a Connecticut-based technology company that produces cable systems, fiber optic connectors, and other similar products. The company ranks as one of the least admired companies in the world, according to a survey from Fortune and Korn Ferry.

Amphenol was implicated in a lawsuit filed by Walmart against automaker Tesla, in which Walmart alleged that Tesla’s solar panels on its stores were responsible for several fires. The cause of fires, however, may have been the panel connectors, or heat regulators — parts made by Amphenol. Amphenol denied its parts were responsible, but this is not the first time the company’s connectors were implicated in a similar case.


Source: herraez / Getty Images

24. Vale
> Industry Mining, crude-oil production
> Country: Brazil

Brazilian mining company Vale has had its reputation tarnished after two high-profile disasters at its work sites. In 2015, a dam at one of its mines collapsed, spilling waste and killing 19 people. In 2019, the company was responsible for the worst industrial accident in Brazil’s history, when another dam gave way, destroying a rural village and killing 270 people.

Sixteen of the company’s executives are now facing murder charges, as prosecutors said they concealed knowledge of the risks that dam carried. The company also had to pay billions of dollars in restitution to those affected.

Source: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Getty Images News via Getty Images

23. Owens & Minor
> Industry Wholesalers: health care
> Country: United States

Owens & Minor is a health care logistics business headquartered in Virginia. In 2016, the company reported losing two major clients of its medical supply distribution business, costing the company contracts worth over $700 million.

Owens & Minor faced scrutiny at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as its subsidiary Movianto was in charge of maintaining the U.K.’s PPE stockpile but struggled to distribute the equipment as needed to hospitals, according to a story in The Guardian.

Source: Natsze / Wikimedia Commons

22. Coty
> Industry Soaps and cosmetics
> Country: United States

Coty is one of the largest beauty and fragrance companies in the world, owning and working dozens of well-known brands like Marc Jacobs, Burberry, Covergirl, and more. In September 2020, Coty was named in a class action lawsuit alleging that it overstated the value of Kylie Jenner’s beauty brand Kylie Cosmetics, as well as another brand, after not properly evaluating the companies.

Coty’s stock was worth over $30 per share in April 2016, but it has been steadily declining since. As of February 2021, its stock price has fallen below $8 per share.


Source: RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images

21. Wells Fargo
> Industry Banking
> Country: United States

Wells Fargo ranks as one of the world’s least admired companies after years of negative stories about its business practices. In 2016, it came to light that company employees created 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, CEO John Stumpf stepped down. Even after Stumpf left, revelations about the company’s dealings continued to pile up.

In January 2020, a report by a federal banking regulator included documents and testimony that workers were encouraged 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.

Source: slobo / Getty Images

20. Rite Aid
> Industry Food and Drug Stores
> Country: United States

Once the most common drug store in America, Rite Aid has struggled financially in recent years and now ranks among the world’s least admired companies. Martin Grass, CEO and son of the company’s founder, was one of six executives convicted of conspiracy in 2003, after the company engaged in illegal accounting practices.

Several attempted mergers and acquisitions with Walgreens and Albertson’s fell through in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Walgreens did agree to buy over 1,900 of Rite Aid’s roughly 4,500 stores in a deal that was approved in 2017. At the beginning of 2017, Rite Aid’s stock price was trading at over $173 per share. As of February 2021, the stock was worth less than $24 per share.


Source: opengridscheduler / Flickr

19. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
> Industry Pharmaceuticals
> Country: Israel

Israeli drug maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is the world’s largest manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals. The company has faced multiple lawsuits and shelled out hundreds of million of dollars in recent high profile lawsuits.

In August 2020, the Justice Department charged Teva and several other companies with conspiring to raise the price of generic drugs that treat conditions like brain cancer, cystic fibrosis, arthritis, and many more. The company denied the allegations. The DOJ also accused Teva of causing hundreds of millions of dollars in false Medicare claims. Teva also paid an $85 million settlement related to its role in the opioid epidemic in Oklahoma.

Source: jeepersmedia / Flickr

18. L Brands
> Industry Specialty retailers
> Country: United States

L Brands is the parent company of Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, and Pink. It used to have majority stakes in brands like Lane Bryant, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Express but sold them off to other companies. L Brands was also set to sell Victoria’s secret to a private equity firm, but that firm called off the deal amid COVID-19.

Source: welcomia / iStock via Getty Images

17. China Merchants Group
> Industry Delivery
> Country: China

China Merchant Group is a state-owned conglomerate operating out of Hong Kong. It invests in and operates assets in transportation, infrastructure, finance, real estate, and more.

The company reportedly considered taking its port holdings company private after its shares declined in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, analysts are expecting earnings to decline. China Merchant Group is one of four delivery companies to rank among the world’s 25 least admired companies.


Source: DakotaSmith / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

16. YRC Worldwide
> Industry Trucking, transportation, logistics
> Country: United States

Shipping and logistics company YRC Worldwide changed its name to Yellow in February 2021. The company has been the subject of numerous negative headlines in recent years. In 2018, the Justice Department sued the company, claiming the freight delivery company overcharged the Department of Defense from 2005 through at least 2013 by inflating weights of military shipments. YRC denied the accusations.

In July 2020, the federal government acquired a nearly 30% stake in the company in exchange for a $700 million bailout. But this deal came under scrutiny from the Congressional Oversight Commission as one of YRC’s executives was placed on the Trump administration’s COVID-19 economic task force just a few months earlier. The loan came out of a $17 billion fund designed to help companies considered critical to national security — a criteria that the Commission said YRC did not meet.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

15. Fluor
> Industry Engineering, Construction
> Country: United States

Engineering and construction company Fluor Corporation ranks as one of the least admired companies in the world after years of struggling to deliver its projects on time and on budget. The company also poorly estimated costs and other business items from 2016 to 2019, resulting in an over $1 billion writeoff.

In May 2014, Fluor Corporation’s stock price was over $80. After several sharp declines, including those induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Fluor’s stock price fell below $6 per share and remained under $20 per share as of February 2021.


Source: Joe Tabacca / Shutterstock.com

14. Macy’s
> Industry General merchandisers
> Country: United States

Based on the Fortune ranking, retailer Macy’s ranks as one of the world’s least admired companies entrenched by years of financial turmoil. Even before COVID-19 made it difficult for brick-and-mortar businesses like Macy’s to operate, the company was struggling to compete with online retailers as foot traffic and sales were in near-constant decline. In February 2020, the company announced plans to shutter 125 stores and terminate thousands of corporate jobs.

13. Royal Mail
> Industry Delivery
> Country: U.K.

The Royal Mail was, for centuries, the U.K. government’s mail delivery service. In 2013, the government began privatizing Royal Mail and was fully divested by 2015. Despite no longer being government-run, the company remains one of the least admired as it continues to grapple with declining letter business and competitive rivals in the parcel business while trying to implement a turnaround plan.

The delivery industry features frequently on this list. Royal Mail is one of four delivery companies to rank among the 25 least admired companies in the world.

Source: Courtesy of FirstEnergy Corp. via Flickr

12. FirstEnergy
> Industry Electric and gas utilities
> Country: United States

Utilities company FirstEnergy made national headlines after Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested in July 2020 in connection with an alleged bribery scheme in which officials received $60 million in exchange for passing a bill that bailed out two power plants and curbed renewable energy subsidies.

After the arrests, FirstEnergy’s board of directors terminated the company’s CEO and two senior vice presidents.


Source: jeepersmedia / Flickr

11. GNC Holdings
> Industry Food and drug stores
> Country: China

Nutrition products retailer GNC, like many other companies on this list, has struggled to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The company declared bankruptcy in June 2020, and in September its sale was approved to China’s Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Co.

In 2018, Sen. Marco Rubio requested an investigation of Harbin’s ownership stake in the company over privacy concerns, saying the Chinese government would use GNC’s data on American citizens. In addition, several state attorneys general have raised concerns over the accuracy of labels and claims made by products sold in GNC stores, and alleged the company knowingly sold supplements with banned ingredients.

Source: N509FZ / Wikimedia Commons

10. China Post Group
> Industry Delivery
> Country: China

China Post Group is the state-owned postal service in China. It is one of several state-run postal services on this list. While private delivery companies like UPS and FedEx are well regarded in the industry, state-run delivery agencies fare poorly. All four of the state-run delivery companies considered rank among the 25 least admired companies in the world.


Source: FroggyFrogg / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

9. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria
> Industry Banking
> Country: Spain

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, or BBVA, is a Spain-based multinational bank. In 2019, the Spanish National Court charged BBVA with corruption and breach of confidence over allegations it wiretapped a range of people, including reporters and politicians. Court documents indicated the bank was attempting to spy on officials from another company attempting to take over BBVA.

Source: Funtay / iStock via Getty Images

8. United States Steel
> Industry Metals
> Country: United States

U.S. Steel’s stock price peaked at over $180 per share in 2008. Amid that year’s economic collapse, the company’s stock price fell below $25 and has never recovered. In fact, the company’s stock was worth less than $10 per share amid the COVID-19 pandemic and was still just under $17 per share as of February 2021. That same month, the company decided to sell 42 million shares of stock to try to repay some of its estimated $5 billion in debt.

7. Tutor Perini
> Industry Engineering, construction
> Country: United States

Construction contracting company Tutor Perini has made negative headlines in recent years. In 2018, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said the company used the wrong steel and put down over 3 miles of standard strength steel subway tracks, despite the contract mandating that high strength steel be used for the project.

In 2011, a Tutor Perini executive committed suicide after being convicted in a $19 million fraud and money laundering scheme related to bridge projects and highway work in New York. The company has also been sued multiple times for cost overruns on projects.


6. Dillard’s
> Industry General merchandisers
> Country: United States

Dillard’s is one of several once-prominent retailers that have struggled to compete with online retail. The department store said it expects to lose money in fiscal 2020, as year-over-year sales and foot traffic, which were already on the decline before the pandemic, have plummeted during the crisis. The company also made the controversial decision to keep stores open in the early days of the pandemic, despite not being an essential business.

Source: BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

5. PG&E Corp.
> Industry Electric and gas utilities
> Country: United States

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, or PG&E, is a large investor-owned utilities company that provides power to most of California. The company, through its equipment, power lines, and facilities, has been connected with over a dozen wildfires in the region in recent years.

In 2019, the company declared bankruptcy as it faced an estimated $30 billion in liabilities after investigators determined PG&E equipment was responsible for a dozen wildfires in 2017 alone. The company was placed on probation in 2010 after one of its gas lines exploded.


Source: Patrick Smith / Getty Images

4. American Airlines Group
> Industry Airlines
> Country: United States

American Airlines is the least admired airline among 15 companies in the industry considered in the Fortune and Korn Ferry survey, and one of the least admired companies in the world. The company denied rumors of a forthcoming bankruptcy filing in May 2020 after demand for air travel tanked due to COVID-19. It has not yet done so, but the company did recently post a record $8.9 billion annual lost in 2020.

Source: agafapaperiapunta / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

3. Deutsche Bank
> Industry Banking
> Country: Germany

Deutsche Bank is a large multinational investment bank headquartered in Germany. The company has been at the center of a number of major scandals, including the Libor rigging case in which the bank agreed to pay U.S. authorities a $2.5 billion fine in 2015 to settle allegations it manipulated the benchmark interest rate for profit. The bank also agreed to a $7.2 billion settlement with the Department of Justice for its role in the 2008 financial crisis.

Deutsche Bank is one of several companies facing a trial on criminal cartel charges in Australia, and it has been investigated by U.S. authorities for its role in a Malaysian development fraud scandal as well. Congress has also subpoenaed the bank for its relationship with former President Donald Trump as part of an investigation into potential ties with foreign governments or money laundering.

Source: tsz01 / iStock via Getty Images

2. U.S. Postal Service
> Industry Delivery
> Country: United States

As Americans send less mail, the revenue the U.S. Postal Service generates has declined. The USPS has operated at a loss since 2006. The government agency is not technically out to make a profit, but it used to generate billions in revenue. The USPS was also at the center of a partisan political divide in August 2020, with then-President Trump saying he blocked federal funding to the agency to discourage the use of mail-in ballots for the 2020 elections.

The USPS is one of four in the delivery industry to rank among the 25 least admired companies in the world. No other industry appears as frequently.


Source: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

1. JCPenney
> Industry General merchandisers
> Country: United States

JCPenney ranks as the world’s least admired company, according to Fortune and Korn Ferry’s survey. It has been in dire financial straits for many years. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2020, blaming the COVID-19 pandemic for its most recent financial predicament, but the retailer had only turned a profit in five quarters over the prior nine years. More than 150 JCPenney locations have closed in the past year, and the company plans to shutter more in 2021.


In order to determine the world’s least admired companies for 2021, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data provided by Fortune from its collaboration with management consulting firm Korn Ferry for the World’s Most Admired Companies (2021.) These organizations surveyed over 3,800 executives, directors, and analysts about the 1,000 largest U.S. companies by revenue as well as non-U.S. companies with over $10 billion in revenue. 

The companies were ranked from best to worst in their industry based on nine criteria — innovation, people management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long-term investment, quality of products/services, and global competitiveness. Companies that ranked in the top half of their industry were not considered for this list. Due to low response rate, cable and satellite providers, petroleum refining companies, and pipeline and U.S. energy businesses were not considered.

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