America loves Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett's investment company takes No. 1 in Harris Interactive's annual ranking of companies with the best reputations.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 6, 2010 12:10PM

TheStreetBy Eric Rosenbaum, TheStreet


Americans hated companies a little less in 2009 than they did in 2008, but the country loved Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) a bit more.


In Harris Interactive's annual ranking of the companies with the best reputations, 81% of survey respondents said they considered the business world's reputation "not good" or "terrible," down from 88% the previous year.


Berkshire Hathaway beat second-place Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) for the top spot among the 60 companies in the ranking. Google (GOOG), 3M (MMM) and SC Johnson rounded out the top five. Privately held SC Johnson was the first company to debut in the top five in the ranking since Google in 2005.


The biggest jump was made by Ford (F). The carmaker jumped 11 places in the ranking, the second-largest increase in a single year in the poll's history.


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Respondents didn’t view the other big automakers as fondly, though: Chrysler and General Motors ranked among the 10 worst. The two were among the nine companies in the bottom 10 that received government bailouts.


Freddie Mac ranked last, replacing American International Group (AIG), which finished second-to-last. Freddie Mac had never been among the 60 most visible companies in America before its debut this year. Freddie Mac and AIG were joined by Fannie Mae as the only companies with a reputation score lower than 50. Freddie Mac's score was the lowest since Enron in 2005.


Another debut among the worst of the lot was Goldman Sachs (GS), which scored barely above 50. Other low-ranking companies included Delta Air Lines (DAL), Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Citigroup (C).


Poll respondents typically had unfavorable views. Negative sentiment spiked at 88% in 2008 after dropping to a low of 68% in 2002.


The encouraging news for corporate America may be that there was a 50% increase in the number of Americans who said that the state of business reputation was "good," moving from 12% to 18%. It was the first increase in four years, according to Harris Interactive.


Companies with the best reputations:


1. Berkshire Hathaway


2. Johnson & Johnson


3. Google


4. 3M


5. SC Johnson


6. Intel (INTC)


7. Microsoft (MSFT)


8. Coca-Cola (KO)


9. Amazon (AMZN)


10. General Mills (GIS)


Companies with the worst reputations:


1. Freddie Mac


2. AIG


3. Fannie Mae


4. Citigroup


5. Goldman Sachs


6. Chrysler


7. General Motors


8. JPMorgan Chase


9. Bank of America


10. Delta Air Lines


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