BPThe British oil giant spent years building its image as an environmentally friendly company. That went up in smoke on April 20, 2010, when an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and released a massive flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. At times the company seemed more exasperated by the problem than sorry about it. Then-CEO Tony Hayward resigned after making remarks the public found insensitive, including: "I would like my life back."
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ToyotaThe Japanese automaker has earned a reputation for safety and quality among U.S. consumers, but those credentials took a hit when Toyota became mired earlier this year in a series of recalls involving sticky accelerator pedals and floor mats. In October Toyota also announced it was recalling another 740,000 cars due to unsafe brakes.
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Johnson & Johnso...In April the company's McNeil Consumer Healthcare division yanked 136 million over-the-counter liquid children's medicine bottles off the shelves for problems including trace metal elements and too much of an active ingredient in its children's Tylenol. It also came under fire for hiring contractors to pose as consumers to buy back faulty bottles of Motrin. Faced with a government probe and faltering consumer trust, longtime company vet and head of J&J's consumer unit, Colleen Goggins, has announced that she will retire next year.
Goldman SachsThe investment bank's practice of rewarding employees with hefty bonuses and engaging in a form of reverse trading known as "shorts"--all to the firm's benefit, at a time when consumers were scrambling to make ends meet--still dogs this giant. CEO Lloyd Blankfein gave Goldman an even bigger black eye when he described the company in a press interview as "doing God's work."
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Hewlett PackardDoes the board at Hewlett-Packard really know what it's doing these days? First it ousted Mark Hurd, the highly capable CEO credited with turning around this behemoth. Its chief executive had violated "standards of business conduct," HP said, after a former HP contractor brought sexual harassment charges against Hurd. News reports say Hurd was really kicked out for prematurely leaking acquisition plans to the contractor. Its new CEO? Léo Apotheker, who is under fire for the alleged theft of Oracle software on his watch.
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Wright County an...A salmonella outbreak at two of the nation's biggest egg producers this past summer led to more than 500 million eggs being recalled as thousands of consumers became sick. Americans are now on the fence about buying eggs, and stores like Target have posted signs assuring customers that their eggs are not affected by the recall.
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GoogleThe search giant reinforced its commitment to user privacy with a blog post one day before International Data Privacy Day earlier this year. In its quest to map out the world, however, Google accidentally collected user data sent over wi-fi networks--including e-mails and, in some cases, entire passwords--as part of its Street View project. (German officials called the company out on it.) Google has since apologized and appointed a new privacy director, Alma Whitten.
AppleWhen Apple's newly introduced iPhone 4 was hit with signal problems, CEO Steve Jobs pointed the finger at the most unlikely of culprits: the media. Yes, the press has a tendency to beat a good story to death, but why accuse reporters of blowing the issue out of control? Apple, for its part, did offer free bumper cases and refunds to those who'd already purchased the phone. The glitch was caused by incorrect signal strength displays and users' hands blocking the antenna.
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GapIn October the clothing store retailer introduced a new logo bearing a simple, black Helvetica font and a tiny blue square. Consumers hated it. Gap then announced it was accepting ideas from consumers for an alternative logo. A week later, following a social media backlash, the company canceled its decision altogether and said it would stick with the old logo.
FacebookThe social networking giant once again irked consumers, privacy lobbyists and government officials when it unveiled its "open graph" API and protocol at the F8 Developer Conference in April. Critics weren't pleased with the technology's ability to share user data with websites and apps. Facebook later repealed many of those changes and allowed users to further customize their privacy settings.
MaclarenMaclaren late last year issued a recall of 1 million baby strollers after a defective part was found to be capable of amputating children's fingers. It then issued a replacement part for customers--only in the U.S. (The recall statement is still on its site.) Word traveled overseas via social media, however, and parents in countries abroad became enraged. Maclaren later extended the recall to include strollers sold overseas. Moral of the story? Just because you may not hear about a problem doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
NestléThe food giant committed a social media faux pas when it demanded the environmental group Greenpeace remove from its Facebook page an ad--and accompanying logo--decrying Nestlé's use of palm oil in chocolate production. (The ad showed a man biting into a Kit Kat bar that was actually an endangered orangutan's finger oozing with blood. Greenpeace's point was that Nestlé was destroying the animal's natural habits.) Instead of responding, social-media style, with its own YouTube ad, Nestlé continued to insist that the video be yanked, and even threatened to delete any negative posts. Needless to say, Facebook users--many of whom were the brand's own "friends"--weren't impressed.