Beyond Volkswagen: 8 companies that have behaved badly

The Transocean Discoverer Enterprise burns off some natural gas as it takes on oil from the broken BP wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. (Dave Martin, AP Photo)
The Transocean Discoverer Enterprise burns off some natural gas as it takes on oil from the broken BP wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. (Dave Martin, AP Photo)
Dave Martin

Volkswagen's shocking admission that it rigged emissions tests in its vehicles is just the latest example of companies that have gotten into trouble. Remember Enron, or Tyco?

Here's some other companies that have behaved badly:

1. Enron

Enron's fraudulent accounting practices put the energy company out of business in 2001. More than 5 000 people lost their jobs and more than $2bn in employee pensions were gone. The company's former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison in 2006, but in 2013 a judge cut a decade off his sentence.

2. Worldcom

The telecommunications filed for bankruptcy protection in 2002, after disclosing it had inflated its cash flow by $3.8bn. Former CEO Bernard Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2005 for leading one the largest corporate frauds in US history.

3. Adelphia Communications

Once one of the nation's largest cable companies, Adelphia collapsed in 2002 after the company's founder and son were found to be helping themselves to corporate cash. A jury convicted both of them of committing $1.9bn in fraud, and they are serving prison sentences.

4. Tyco International

Two of the security systems company's former executives, CEO Dennis Kozlowski and chief financial officer Mark Swartz, were found guilty in 2005 of giving themselves illegal bonuses and forgiving loans to themselves from 1999 to 2002. Both have since been freed from prison on parole.

5. Toyota

The US Justice Department fined the Japanese automaker $1.2bn in 2014 to avoid criminal prosecution for hiding information in a recall case involving defective floor mats that caused unintended acceleration. Starting in 2009, Toyota recalled more than 10 million vehicles.

6. BP

More than two years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, BP agreed to plead guilty to several charges, including lying to Congress about how much oil was spewing from the blown-out well. In July BP agreed to provide billions of dollars in new money to five Gulf Coast states in a deal the company said would bring its full obligations to an estimated $53.8bn. The Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 rig workers and spewed millions of gallons of crude that stained beaches, coated wildlife and polluted marshes.

7. Petrobras

State-run Brazilian oil firm Petrobras was accused by federal prosecutors of the biggest corruption scheme in Brazil's history in 2014, in allegations that at least $2bn in bribes were paid out over about a decade. Several top officers resigned, and the crisis has even pulled leading politicians into ongoing investigations.

8. General Motors

Faulty ignition switches in the automaker's vehicles have been linked to at least 169 deaths. The switch could slip out of the run position and turn the engine off while driving. Last week, GM agreed to pay $900m to settle a criminal investigation over the ignition issue. GM has admitted that some employees knew about the problem for nearly a decade, yet cars equipped with the switch were not recalled until last year.

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