Companies That We Were Surprised To Learn Did Very Bad Things

List Rules
Vote up the most unexpectedly terrible company behavior.

We all know that companies aren't bastions of morality. Their goal is to make a profit; most other considerations are secondary. They will be moral when morality is profitable, of course. But it often isn't, so companies often aren't.

As such, basically every famous business has skeletons in their closet. You may be surprised to learn that certain companies with wholesome products - chocolate, bananas, organic food, etc. - have the biggest skeletons of all.

  • DuPont Poisoned Towns With ‘Forever Chemicals’
    Photo: Snoopywv / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    Perfluoro-octanoic acid (PFOA) is considered a "forever chemical" because it remains in the environment indefinitely. Synthesized in 1947 by 3M but bought by DuPont in 1951, PFOA is now found in the blood of roughly 99% of Americans. In addition to coating numerous products with this dangerous chemical, DuPont allowed it to seep into the water supplies around its Washington, WV, plant. Everything from kidney cancer to testicular cancer to ulcerative colitis to birth defects has been linked to PFOA.

    DuPont and its spinoff Chemours have since paid out $671 million for 3,550 personal injury claims related to the Washington dumping. 

  • While battling one of the many wildfires that ravaged California in 2018, a Santa Clara Fire Department vehicle (OES 5262) lost most of its internet speed. Fire Chief Anthony Bowden explained why:

    ...County Fire discovered the data connection for OES 5262 was being throttled by Verizon, and data rates had been reduced to 1/200, or less, than the previous speeds... These reduced speeds severely interfered with the OES 5262's ability to function effectively. My Information Technology staff communicated directly with Verizon via email about the throttling, requesting it be immediately lifted for public safety purposes.

    Even though Verizon reps acknowledged the throttling, they refused to stop it until the fire department bought a new plan at more than twice the price. Verizon admitted wrongdoing, stating that it has "a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations" and that it "should have lifted the speed restriction when [the fire department] reached out..."

    This incident was entered into a lawsuit to reinstate federal net neutrality.

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    830 VOTES

    TurboTax Fights Laws In Order To Keep Taxes Complicated And Expensive

    TurboTax's tagline is "Do Your Taxes Quickly, Easily And For Free." ProPublica debunked that claim after an investigation into the company's practices. The nonprofit found that TurboTax had been lobbying the government to keep tax-filing costly so that it would be one of the only free alternatives. At the same time, TurboTax was hiding its free tax-filing option in search engines by manipulating its website's code. As a result, customers who qualified for the free service were tricked into paying.

    In March 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced it had issued a complaint against Intuit, TurboTax's parent company, for "deceiving consumers with bogus advertisements pitching 'free' tax filing that millions of consumers could not use." Intuit has denied the allegations.

  • In the 1990s, Shell Oil spurred violent action against the Ogoni, an Indigenous people of Nigeria. The conflict started decades prior, when the company began drilling for oil in the Ogoni's homeland. The resulting pollution mobilized the Ogoni to resist Shell, mostly in the form of nonviolent protest.

    The company countered the resistance by soliciting military and paramilitary forces. In the end, thousands of Ogoni were killed or displaced, with some being horrifically brutalized. Shell has denied responsibility for the violence, but it has paid restitution for some of the pollution.

  • Despite becoming a hero in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pfizer was fined $2.3 billion in 2009 for illegally marketing four drugs, notably Bextra, an anti-arthritis medication. The products were later recalled for causing various side effects. As Gardiner Harris of The New York Times reported, "Pfizer instructed its sales representatives to tell doctors that the drug could be used to treat acute and surgical pain and at doses well above those approved, even though the drug’s dangers - which included kidney, skin and heart risks - increased with the dose."

    Multiple Pfizer employees were implicated, as well, including a sales manager who was sentenced to house arrest for destroying documents disclosing the illicit activity. The whole affair was Pfizer's fourth settlement for illegal marketing in seven years and the largest criminal fine in US history (although it has since been beaten).

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    548 VOTES

    Credit Bureaus Have Biases, Wield Too Much Power, Leak Data, And Make It Nearly Impossible To Correct Mistakes

    As several investigations indicate, the credit industry is rotten at its core. To begin with, a credit score is an unwanted and omnipresent judgment of financial trustworthiness made by a third party. Add on bias, deceit, inaccuracy, and security vulnerabilities, and you have a deeply flawed institution.

    Worst of all, it's extremely difficult to correct any of the above issues. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that, of the hundreds of thousands of complaints made about Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion in 2021, less than 2% were remedied. 

    To be fair, COVID-19 probably deserves some of the blame, as the bureaus remedied 25% of complaints in 2019.