The most-hated companies in America

Some of the nation's biggest and busiest -- including Facebook, Goldman Sachs and AT&T -- are among 24/7 Wall St.'s 10 names we loathe most.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 17, 2012 11:19AM

By Douglas A. McIntyre, 24-7 Wall St.


Customers, employees, shareholders and taxpayers hate large corporations for many reasons. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a long list of companies for which there is substantial research data to choose the 10 most hated in America.24/7 Wall St.


Research comes in two sets. One is public research about consumer satisfaction, customer care, pricing of products and services, and brand impressions. Wall St. research takes into account another set of factors, which include current earnings, profit forecasts, product development and quality, and brand valuations.


Some of the companies are widely despised because of the businesses they are in. In an economic environment where resources are stretched, an airline or retail operation that has millions of customers is likely to make a lot of enemies. Similarly, banks and other corporations with a large number of retail outlets are at a disadvantage compared with businesses with few customers. Some of the corporations on this list also have had to fire significant numbers of employees because of the recession. Downsizing causes poor morale, increases the workload of the remaining staff members and affects customer satisfaction when service is poorer.

We examined each company based on several criteria. We considered total return to shareholders in comparison with the broader market and other companies in the same sector during the past year. We reviewed analyst opinions on those companies that are public. We analyzed data from a broad array of sources, including Consumer Reports, JD Power, the MSN/Zogby Poll, ForeSee and the University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index. We also considered negative press based on 24/7 Wall St.'s analysis of media coverage and the Flame Index, which uses a proprietary algorithm to review more than 12,000 websites and ranks companies based on the frequency of negative words. Finally, we considered the views of taxpayers, Congress and the White House where applicable.


Several companies that should have been on the list based on performance and public perception during the financial crisis did not make it. For example, it would be easy to argue that mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be here. The bankruptcy and maintenance of the two by the federal government will cost taxpayers between $224 billion and $360 billion, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are no longer stand-alone companies in any normal sense. Their shares have been delisted. Each is in effect a ward of the U.S. government with no ability to control its own fate through the actions of management or public shareholders.


The U.S. Postal Service could also be a candidate for the list. It has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, and it lost $5.1 billion in its last fiscal year alone. However, the Postmaster General and his staff have little or no control over the eventual fate of the USPS. Congress decides how and to what extent it will be funded. That means Congress essentially controls how many workers and offices will exist and, based on funding, how often the mail will be delivered.

It is worth noting that some of the companies on the list may have done very poorly by some measures, and well by others. A few of the most hated companies have had good stock performances. Others may have satisfied customers. All of this was taken into account when the decisions for the final list were made.


The following are 24/7 Wall St.'s 5 most-hated companies for 2011, in no particular order.


1. Facebook

Facebook has more than 800 million users. Any company of this size is sure to have some detractors. Compared with other leading social media sites, however, Facebook has the lowest customer satisfaction score from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. The site has repeatedly irked users by neglecting personal privacy. Notable events include the introduction of facial recognition software, which spurred an investigation by the European Union, and the Facebook timeline. Facebook received significant negative press for forcing new settings on users that change how their personal information is shared with other people. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has only recently said the company will no longer do this. According to the MSN Money-IBOPE Zogby International customer service survey for 2011, 25.9% of Facebook users described the company's customer service as poor -- the lowest rating.


2. American Airlines

American's parent, AMR, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2011. That virtually wiped out the value of the holdings of every shareholder. American recently was picked as the worst airline for customer service by the annual Middle Seat scorecard, published in the Wall Street Journal. "For the past five years, American has been among the worst three airlines at on-time performance, a key measure of an airline's operation since it impacts mishandled bags, bumped passengers and even canceled flights and customer complaints," the survey's authors said. The report states that the airline was the worst among major carriers last year for baggage handling and canceled flights, nixing 70% more flights than United (UAL) and Delta (DAL). With a score of 63 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index section on airlines, American falls near the bottom, well below leader Southwest (LUV), which has a score of 81.


3. AT&T

AT&T (T) recently received the lowest score given by JD Power for wireless customer care performance. It also was given the lowest rating for customer service by ACSI. AT&T has been dogged by problems with its 3G network, which are now largely behind it. AT&T was attacked by both the government and press for what many observers saw as an attempt to set up a monopoly through its buyout of T-Mobile. Consumers feared the combined company would have extraordinary powers to set prices. The wireless carrier also received the lowest satisfaction rating for cellphone standard service providers, according to Consumer Reports. The MSN Money-IBOPE Zogby International customer service survey reports that 26% of customers rate service as poor.


4. Nokia

Nokia (NOK) has punished its shareholders as its percentage of the smartphone market has dropped quarter after quarter. Its stock is down 50% in the past year. Nokia likely will lose its lead as the top handset company in the world to Samsung sometime this year. Nokia was tied for lowest overall satisfaction in JD Power's 2011 Wireless Traditional Mobile Phone Satisfaction Study. It also has received the lowest ACSI score for wireless telephones. According to Interbrand, Nokia's brand value has dropped 15% from last year. Nokia has tried to salvage its prospects through an agreement with Microsoft (MSFT), whose Windows OS will be used in Nokia smartphones. (Microsoft owns MSN Money.) Despite rave reviews for the new Windows Mobile, a partnership with the weakest mobile OS maker only makes Nokia's fortunes worse.

5. Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs' (GS) poor reputation was cemented when the government sued it for fraud in 2010. The company settled with the government for $550 million, but that was viewed as little more than a slap on the wrist because of the bank's immense wealth. And the fraud accusations have not stopped -- they have actually accelerated. Goldman faces a set of suits over mortgage instruments it sold worth a total of $15.8 billion. The Federal Housing Finance Agency in September accused Goldman of misrepresenting the quality of $11.1 billion worth of residential mortgage-backed securities. In the cases in which Goldman has settled claims, the press has not always been favorable. According to The Wall Street Journal, Goldman agreed to forgive 25% of principal balances on 143 mortgage loans to borrowers in New York, or $13 million of a total principal balance of $52 million. The $13 million is less than a senior banker at Goldman might make in a year. Perhaps those homeowners are part of the Occupy Wall Street protests against big banks, for which Goldman is the poster boy.


Jan 18, 2012 2:15PM

You have forgotten the worst Company......  The US GOVERNMENT.  They have wasted billions but we the people can't even get a say in it.  Wouldn't you say that that is the worst company in America?

Jan 18, 2012 2:08PM
Medical insurance companies!  Who else gets to decide if you live or die?  Who else screws up peoples lives more?
Jan 17, 2012 11:46PM
Embarrassed Where's Bank of America and Government Motors?
Jan 18, 2012 1:51PM

How the hell do you not include BANK OF AMERICA.  That incompetent group of boneheads have caused thousands to lose their homes because they can't figure out paperwork.  WORST of the WORST!

Jan 17, 2012 9:46PM
Jan 18, 2012 1:44PM
If you didn't include the Bank of Americia, you don't know what you are talking about.
Jan 17, 2012 5:01PM
Hey McIntyre, your qualificatons to be an auther are highly suspect.  Contrary to what you wrote, the USPS has not cost the US taxpayers billions of dollars, they are NOT funded by Congress or any other government body, i.e., they get NO taxpayer funding, they have to make it on their own.  However, Congress does have their incompetent hands on the throat of the USPS, which is a major reason why they are in so much trouble.   
Jan 18, 2012 1:46PM
Drug companies are right up their at the top and all the oil companies not paying taxes.
Jan 18, 2012 2:58AM

The problem that I see with cell phones companies is that you have to sign a 2 year contract and you are stuck  if you dont like the service. There is also little competition so you cant choose a cheaper carrier. I visited other countries in which cell users only have to sign a 3 month contract and after that they free to choose any other carrier and that competition brings prices down!!

Jan 18, 2012 2:37PM
Wal-Mart They should take down the American flag at every US store and put up Chinese flag instead, If Sam Walton was alive he would kick his family in their butts about that. Medications made in China and India, farm raised seafood fed animal and human waste! Lead paint city. Read the package labels closely much of the time it only says distributed by Wal-Mart. There is nothing American anymore about this company except for the exploitation of their employees! Many times the local stores have LOWER prices.

"Wal-Mart They should take down the American flag at every US store and put up Chinese flag instead, If Sam Walton was alive he would kick his family in their butts about that."


I nominate Robert Keller as Poster of the Day! Is there a second?

Jan 18, 2012 6:44PM

The Federal Government should be listed as #1!!!    Corruption runs throughout the entire government.  Whatever happened to the limited government our forefathers created. 

Jan 18, 2012 1:49PM
wow.  They are missing Bank of America, Ocwen loan servicing company, etc.
Jan 19, 2012 1:41PM
i still think wal-mart needs to be on the list for caring only about themselves.
Jan 30, 2012 11:55AM
Goldman Sachs execs should be in jail instead of running the Fed and Treasury and World banks and...........
Jan 17, 2012 1:38PM
I agree 100% on at&t!  After 11 years of wireless service with them and constant service issues, I decided to move my 3 lines to my husband's verzon plan.  At&t told me that the early disconnect fees woud be $385 total.  When I got the bill, it was $566!  They were charging me in advance for a whole month of service we didn't have.  After hours arguing on the phone, they would not budge!  Now, they're not getting a penny.  Liars!
Jan 18, 2012 7:00PM
If the Gov't were a company, it would DOMINATE this list.
Jan 18, 2012 11:22PM

One of my favorites;


B of A, the same bank that lost $14,000 of my US Saving Bonds for my kid’s college. Can you believe a bank can loose your Safe Deposit Box? B of A did. Then they tried to say I never had an account with them. I showed them my Deposit box key and the manager said it was the banks key alright. Then she asked if she could have it. Can you believe it? I told her hell no you can’t have it, it’s the only tangible evidence I had to try and straighten out this mess. B of A never did fix the problem. I had to confront the Treasury Department. And believe me! That’s a whole nother chapter in the reality of crooked business. Took almost 1.5 years and you’d better have kept good records. They sure won’t go out of their way either.

In God I Trust, who else is there?


Jan 18, 2012 4:01PM
HANDS DOWN - Bank of America.  No matter who I talked to about my home loan I would get a different answer.  "You're in foreclosure."  "Your loan is fine."  "Your house will be auctioned in one week."   "You're loan modification is still in review." (even though we had already gotten the final paperwork.)   "You're modification is rejected because you make X- amount of money based on your paycheck stubs and tax return."  Really?  Did they even look at them because according to B of A my paycheck is 3 times MORE than I actually make.  The clincher was the day I talked to 3 different people in the span of an hour that all gave me three different answers.  I put the house on the market, sold it in three days and moved to a rental so that I don't have to deal with banks any more!!
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