Early contenders for the prize included Toyota, which had this brake problem you may have heard about; health care organizations like United Health and WellPoint (a final four contender!); cable companies Comcast, Time Warner; telcos AT&T and Verizon; and of course, a bunch of banks--Chase, Wells Fargo, Capital One and Citibank. Goldman Sachs didn't even make the tourney! Apple, Micorsoft and Dell were in the early rounds, but just couldn't compete. Kudos to Wal-Mart for making it the final four!
So the voting came down to one company that was responsible for nearly destroying large swaths of the Gulf of Mexico and another company that was was responsible for nearly destroying large swaths of the housing and mortgage markets. I guess that you would have to say for sheer impact and tone-deaf response, BP is a clear winner.
It's almost exactly a year since the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill - April 20th marks the one-year anniversary. It seemed to take forever for BP to react and when its verbose-ex CEO Tony Hayward did speak, he couldn't help but put his foot in his mouth. My favorite was: "There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I'd like my life back."
Bank of America had its own CEO problems. In September, 2009 the board of directors axed accepted the resignation of CEO Ken Lewis and replaced him with Brian Moynihan. You remember Ken Lewis--the guy who masterminded the January, 2008 acquisition of Countrywide Mortgage. He was also the one I called "a weenie," after listening to congressional testimony about the shotgun marriage between Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.
Although my vote goes with BP for the Worst Company, there's one area where BP has done a much better job than BofA: damages paid to society. With the help of a little government coercion, BP established a $20 billion escrow fund to pay claims to those harmed by the spill. Meanwhile, Bank of America gained access to government funds via TARP, which were repaid with interest. But at this time, there hasn't been a major fund established to address the "robo-signing" and larger mortgage fiasco.
This one really was a race to the bottom!
Image by Flickr User Snapr, CC 2.0