Weird History
965 voters

11 Companies That Somehow Survived Their Disasters And Scandals

Updated February 24, 2021 6.3k votes 965 voters 49.3k views11 items

List RulesVote up the most surprising scandals and disasters that companies survived.

Corporations seem to enjoy quite a few rights in the modern world. From tax breaks and court protections against frivolous lawsuits, in some countries companies may feel like they're more protected than people. But the one place where brands have always been held to the fire has been the court of public opinion. That's where the general public is supposed to exercise its rights and make sure that these companies don't get a pass to act in ways we disagree with and stay in business. It doesn't always work that way.

Fair or not, tabloid headlines, scandals, and disasters usually take companies down. When we hear that a brand we use knowingly did something we disagree with, or are even horrified by, we look elsewhere to fill that need. These companies, whether through PR, hiding away, corporate mergers, or just having enough cash, somehow survived.

  • 1

    Quaker Oats Fed Radioactive Oatmeal To Children

    During the 1940s and '50s, Quaker Oats took part in experiments with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and approved by the Atomic Energy Commission to feed radioactive oatmeal, milk, and calcium injections to unknowing boys from the Fernald State School. The school, originally called The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded, was home to mentally disabled children and those who had been abandoned by their parents.

    These were just a part of dozens of Atomic Energy Commission experiments that ultimately exposed more than 210,000 unknowing civilians and military members to radiation. Quaker Oats took part to form their own research to counteract the advertised health benefits of their rival Cream Of Wheat. The experiments were made public finally in 1993.

  • Two reporters for ABC News went undercover and were hired by Food Lion. During the short time they worked there, they documented and filmed incidents of employees bleaching expired meat, selling cheese that had been gnawed on by rats, and people working off of the clock.

    Food Lion was rocked when the special report was aired and sued ABC, not for reporting false information, but for the undercover reporters lying on their applications and not disclosing they were reporters. They were alleging fraud, breach of the duty of loyalty, trespass, and unfair trade practices under North Carolina law. A jury found in Food Lion's favor and awarded them $5.5 million. Upon appeal, the court rejected the fraud claim and reduced the damages awarded for breach of loyalty and trespass amount to $2.

  • In the 'mid 80s, it was very early in the worldwide AIDS epidemic, and researchers were only beginning to understand that blood was the main source of transmission. A division of Bayer Corporation called Cutter Biological took blood donations from what was thought to be high risk groups at the time and used the samples to make Factor VIII and IX, a clotting product that hemophiliacs need in order to not bleed to death.

    When it became clear that the blood samples were not safe, Bayer introduced a new, safer alternative for North America and Europe. The stock of the now deemed "unsafe" drug was sold in Asia and Latin America. Bayer has paid millions in settlements connected to AIDS related deaths in Asian and Latin American countries.

  • 4

    Ford Knew How Deadly Its Pinto Was And Still Sold It

    The Ford Pinto began manufacturing in the 1970s and it quickly became apparent that something was the matter. Due to increasing pressure from competitors, Ford rushed the compact Pinto and its counterpart the Mercury Bobcat through the production process. There proved to be a fatal flaw in the gas tank, as even a low-speed collision from the rear could cause the gas tank to erupt in flames, engulfing the whole car and its passengers.

    An exposé by Mother Jones revealed that Ford had actually become aware of the problem during preproduction. However, assembly-line machinery was already tooled when the defect was found, so they proceeded with making the car. It came to light that before proceeding, Ford had performed an internal cost-benefit analysis that showed them it would be cheaper to pay out lawsuits and settlements than to fix the Pinto design.