THE 10 WORST CORPORATIONS OF 2005 By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman Corporate Focus OK, we know that, in the Internet age, harking back to 2005 seems like looking back on an ancient era. But, if you will, indulge us for a moment as we reminisce and present Multinational Monitor's 10 Worst Corporations of 2005. (For the full story, go to <www.multinationalmonitor.org>.) Listed alphabetically, here are the 10 Worst Corporations of 2005 and brief lowlights of the activities that earned them a place on the list: BP: In March, 15 workers were incinerated, and more than 170 injured, following an explosion at BP's sprawling refinery in Texas City, Texas. It was the third fatal accident at the Texas City BP facility in the last four years. Nationwide, BP's facilities have had more than 3,565 accidents since 1990, ranking first in the nation, according to a 2004 report by the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG). DELPHI: In October, Delphi CEO Steve Miller took his company into bankruptcy, with the explicit purpose of trashing the social contract between unionized auto workers in the United States and the auto industry. He proposed slashing worker wages from $27 an hour to a mere 10 bucks. And, in a fit of staggering arrogance, Miller and Delphi simultaneously proposed huge bonuses for company executives. DUPONT: Deadly chemicals from DuPont's perfluorinated, chemical-based coatings and related sources are now in the blood of 95 percent of people in the United States. DuPont has claimed that it does not know how the chemicals got there. But Glenn Evers, formerly one of the company's top technical experts, says that DuPont hid for decades that it was polluting people's blood with a hyper-persistent chemical associated with the grease-resistant coatings on paper food packaging. (For a complete history, see www.ewg.org.) In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed to settle claims against DuPont for a paltry $16.5 million. On a happier note, the agency and DuPont announced that the chemicals will be phased out by 2015. EXXONMOBIL: In the face of a virtually complete scientific consensus that global warming is real and happening -- and considerable agreement that it is happening faster than expected just a few years ago -- ExxonMobil continues to insist that "scientific evidence remains inconclusive." So far, the cynical, profit-motivated, short-term and self-interested views of ExxonMobil have mattered more than the evidence-based perspective of the world's climatologists. That's because the most profitable corporation on earth has lots of political power and is skilled at amplifying its views (see ExposeExxon.org for details), and the climatologists do not and are not. While the world burns, ExxonMobil is raking in record profits --- more than $36 billion in 2005, the highest ever earned for a single company in one year. FORD: Ford Motor Company's factory in Mahwah, New Jersey once the largest auto assembly plant in the nation, dumped millions of gallons of paint sludge --- enough to fill two of the three tubes of the Lincoln Tunnel --- into a now-residential area, revealed a series published in the Bergen Record (see www.toxiclegacy.com). Tests commissioned by the Record found lead, arsenic and xylenes in the sludge --- some at 100 times the levels the government considers safe. Reporters with the Record dug up documents showing that Ford executives knew as early as 34 years ago that its waste had contaminated a stream that feeds the Wanaque Reservoir. HALLIBURTON: The company has effectively made a business model of crooked dealing with the U.S. government. Getting caught, over and over, doesn't seem to affect things much. In February, the U.S. Army agreed to pay Halliburton's KBR subsidiary nearly $2 billion for work that nobody can prove ever took place. In March, the company revealed that the U.S. Justice Department opened a criminal inquiry into possible bid-rigging on foreign contracts by Halliburton. In June, at a Congressional hearing, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, then the senior contracting specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers, testified, "I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR [Halliburton's subsidiary] represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career." And the list of abuses goes on and on ... KPMG: KPMG "admitted to criminal wrongdoing in the largest-ever tax shelter fraud," said U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in August. KPMG managed to escape with no conviction or plea agreement, thanks to a "deferred prosecution" agreement by which the firm promised to pay $456 million in fines, restitution and penalties and do better in the future. That won't quite make up for the harm the company inflicted. According to the government, "KPMG has admitted that it engaged in a fraud that generated at least $11 billion in phony tax losses which, according to court papers, cost the United States at least $2.5 billion in evaded taxes." ROCHE: On license from the San Francisco-based company, Gilead, Roche makes the anti-flu drug, Tamiflu. Tamiflu appears to be the best available pharmaceutical defense for those exposed to the avian influenza. For now, avian flu is not communicative among humans, but if the disease mutates so that it is, the global consequences could be dire. For Roche, this is good news --- suddenly its poorly selling product is in such great demand that the company literally can't make enough. Rather than licensing production broadly, the company has engaged in a series of obfuscations about how difficult it is to manufacture Tamiflu, and maneuvered to keep as much control over the global supply as possible. That's helped the company's bottom line --- Tamiflu is suddenly a billion-dollar-a-year earner --- but it leaves global public health in a needlessly precarious position. SUEZ: Suez has been a leading purveyor and beneficiary of the global trend of water privatization --- the selling off of public water systems to private entities, or the turning over of control and management of public systems to corporations. The result has been lousy service, jacked up rates and targeted efforts for well-off households at the expense of the poor. In a notable case in El Alto, Bolivia, mass demonstrations in January 2005 led the Bolivian government to cancel a water privatization contract with Aguas del Illimani, of which Suez is a major shareholder. W.R. GRACE: Federal prosecutors in February charged Grace with knowingly endangering residents of Libby, Montana, and concealing information about the health affects of its vermiculite mining operations. Vermiculite was used in many common commercial products, including insulation, fireproofing materials, masonry fill, and as an additive to potting soils and fertilizers. The vermiculite deposits in Libby were contaminated with a form of asbestos called tremolite. Federal officials charge that Grace knew the residents would get sick --- they allege Grace learned in the 1970s of the toxic nature of the tremolite asbestos in its vermiculite, but failed to turn the information over to the government, despite a legal duty to do so. The company allowed workers to leave the mine site covered in asbestos dust, allowed residents to take waste vermiculite for use in their gardens and distributed vermiculite tailings to the Libby schools for use as foundations for running tracks and an outdoor ice skating rink. Nominations are now open for the worst companies of 2006. Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, <http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com>. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, <http://www.multinationalmonitor.org>. Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).