Bad Company

Orange County suits are no doubt tickled pinstriped at how prominently our region figures in "The Ten Worst Corporations of 2001." In some darkened boardrooms, it's probably a badge of dishonor that more than half of this year's crop boast corporate offices within our borders and all but one have at least a store or sales office here.

The list was compiled by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, the editors of Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter and Multinational Monitorrespectively and the co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Common Courage Press, 1999).

NAME: Abbott Laboratories
HOME BASE: Chicago
WHAT IT IS: A global pharmaceuticals and medical products company that made a couple of other lists in 2001: Fortune Magazine's Top Wealth Producing Companies and Working Mother Magazine's 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers.
WHY ITS AMONG THE WORST: Abbott's TAP Pharmaceuticals joint venture with Japanese Takeda Pharmaceuticals was forced to pay $875 million to resolve criminal and civil charges for hooking doctors on prescribing its free samples of the prostate-cancer drug Lupron and then encouraging the physicians to bill Medicare for the free samples.
OC CONNECTION: Abbott Laboratories, 8801 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine; TAP Pharmaceuticals, 1920 Main St., Irvine; Abbott has marketing and distribution agreements with Irvine-based oncology-products maker Gensia Sicor Pharmaceuticals and San Clemente-based medical-connector maker ICU Medical. Abbott is also an industrial partner with UC Irvine's Chemistry Department.
MITIGATING FACTOR: Partner Costello Laboratories is the real dummy. NAME: Argenbright
HOME BASE: Atlanta
WHAT IT IS: Security company that was in charge of security at all airports terrorists departed from on Sept. 11.
WHY ITS AMONG THE WORST: Argenbright employees' repeated violations of airport security regulations—including some cited the year before—led Congress to federalize U.S. airport security.
OC CONNECTION: Argenbright Security Co., 125 E. Baker St., Costa Mesa. Union workers from Orange and Los Angeles counties staged a boisterous demonstration at LAX in May 2001 to protest Argenbright's firing of a utility worker a day after he questioned the company CEO about workers' right to organize.
MITIGATING FACTOR: Riling up OC's usually slumbering union movement can't be bad. NAME: Bayer Corporation
HOME BASE: Pittsburgh
WHAT IT IS: Science-and-research-based company with major businesses in health care products, life sciences and chemicals.
WHY ITS AMONG THE WORST: Bayer overcharged the government for the anti-anthrax drug Cipro, based on a patent monopoly that may have been improperly maintained through a collusive arrangement with a generic manufacturer. It also peddles antibiotics for poultry, a contributor to antibiotic resistance among humans, and is known for harassing a Bayer watchdog group in Germany.
OC CONNECTION: Bayer Corp., Polymers Division, 17320 Red Hill Ave., Irvine. Bayer is a generous contributor to UC Irvine.
MITIGATING FACTOR: Chew three Bayer aspirin after a heavy night of drinking, and you'll have no headache the next morning. NAME: Coca-Cola
HOME BASE: Atlanta
WHAT IT IS: World's leading soft-drink company with separate food, fruit-juice and drinking-water divisions.
WHY AMONG WORST:It sponsored the Harry Potter movie to hawk its unhealthy product to kids and is allegedly complicit with Colombian death squads that have targeted union leaders.
OC CONNECTION:Besides its worldwide headquarters in Atlanta, Coca-Cola has one of its four other U.S. corporate offices at 6 Executive Circle, Irvine. Coca-Cola bottlers and food-sales offices elsewhere in Orange County are not necessarily corporate-owned.
MITIGATING FACTOR: The union leaders targeted by Colombian death squads were Pepsi drinkers. NAME:Enron
HOME BASE: Houston
WHAT IT IS (OR WAS): A bankrupt energy giant. Fortunately for the Bush White House, a mainstream media pumped up with patriotism was until recently ignoring the scandalously close ties between Enron's top executives and President George Dubya Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
WHY ITS AMONG THE WORST: As Enron plunged toward bankruptcy, it refused to let its employees dump company stock from their pension plans, costing many their life savings along with their jobs. Meanwhile, top Enron execs received staggering severance packages.
OC CONNECTION: Enron Energy Services LLC, formerly at 600 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa. The provider of energy efficiency and infrastructure replacement services to private companies and government agencies also had separate divisions in adjoining offices.
MITIGATING FACTOR: Lights out! NAME: ExxonMobil
HOME BASE: Irving, Texas
WHAT IT IS: The world's largest oil company.
WHY ITS AMONG THE WORST: Besides a host of other reckless activities, ExxonMobil has bitterly blocked efforts to combat global warming. Even the leading public-relations rag O'Dwyer'shas chastised ExxonMobil's "stubborn refusal to acknowledge the fact that burning fossil fuels has a role in global warming."
OC CONNECTION: Exxon Chemical Co., 1400 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton.
MITIGATING FACTOR: Whew, chemicals, not petroleum. We're safe! NAME: Philip Morris
HOME BASE: New York City
WHAT IT IS: The devil's holding company.
WHY ITS AMONG THE WORST: Remember the "We've Changed" marketing campaign? Complete bullshit. Besides continuing efforts to addict millions of new smokers, the company commissioned a Czech study that showed society saves money thanks to premature deaths linked to cigarettes. Light you another, Grandma?
OC CONNECTION: Former owner of the Mission Viejo Co., now blowing up in South OC with 14,000 homes
MITIGATING FACTOR: The Marlboro Man was dreamy—until he saved us all that money by dying. NAME: Sara Lee
HOME BASE: Chicago
WHAT IT IS: Global manufacturer and marketer of food, beverage, undergarment and household products.
WHY ITS AMONG THE WORST: Civil and criminal litigation heated up in '01 in connection with Sara Lee's listeria-loaded Ball Park Franks, which killed 21 and seriously injured 100 three years before. But the Detroit Free Press reported that the company stopped bacteria testing after too many results came back positive. Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney, which was prosecuting the criminal case, insisted that Sara Lee could not have known listeria was present in its weenies. The U.S. Attorney then issued an unprecedented joint press release with Sara Lee announcing the settlement: a misdemeanor plea and a $200,000 fine. The 21 dead people had no comment.
OC CONNECTION: Sara Lee International Baking Co., 1126 E. Truslow, Fullerton.
MITIGATING FACTOR: Nobody doesn't like listeria. NAME: Southern Co.
WHAT IT IS: The largest electric utility in the U.S.
WHY ITS AMONG THE WORST: Southern has defeated sensible air-pollution regulations and fought to maintain a ridiculous "grandfather" clause in the U.S. Clean Air Act that has exempted the heavy coal burner from standards imposed way back in 1970.
OC CONNECTION: None, really, although they'd feel quite at home here with those rat bastards at Edison.
MITIGATING FACTOR: You haven't lived until you've hocked up a black lung cookie. NAME: Wal-Mart
HOME BASE: Bentonville, Arkansas
WHAT IT IS: The nation's largest chain of discount department stores.
WHY ITS AMONG THE WORST: Despite all the shit Kathie Lee Gifford got for her clothing line, Wal-Mart continues to source such products from overseas sweatshops. The largest private employer in the U.S. has also bitterly fought any attempts to unionize even small fractions of its workforce.
OC CONNECTION: Wal-Marts have helped blight the American landscape, and OC is no exception. Its nearly complete big box in Huntington Beach has sharply divided the city and led to the discovery of ex-City Councilman Dave Garofalo's political corruption.
MITIGATING FACTOR: Old geezers greet you at the door. For the complete version of the original article naming the 10 worst corporations of 2001, log onto For an abridged version, go to


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >