It’s mind-boggling to think that some of the most controversial scandals in our country’s history have taken place only in the last decade. Information on corporations and their corporate culture is more visible than ever as experts continue to place more and more importance on work-life balance, and satisfaction in the workplace remaining the driving force behind employee engagement. As technology and the ubiquity of accessible information continues to advance, private United States citizens are becoming more informed about the largest corporations in the nation, how their behavior effects their corporate footprint, and how their own consumerism can affect these corporations.
There’s no better place to start than at the beginning. In April of 2010, the oil and gas conglomerate BP began the new decade with an oil spill so catastrophic that we’re still talking about the environmental impact ten years later. Corporate scandal rarely rises to the level of environmental disaster, but this was a truly catastrophic case. The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, which broke open the well, dumping between 2.5 and 4.2 million barrels of oil into the gulf before it could be capped once more. For thousands of miles, the oil slicks contributed to the deterioration of marine life and had cost the corporation in excess of $65 billion dollars before 2020. In an article published in June of 2010, Peter Fairly of MIT Technology stated, “A culture of tighter safety and more experienced regulators might have prevented the BP Deepwater Horizon leak.” Under the terms of a settlement, BP agreed to pay the Natural Resource Damage Asessment Trustees up to $8.8 billion for restoration work to rebuild the natural environment that was damaged by the spill.
Later in 2010, there was an alarming string of suicides at a plant run by Foxconn, a Chinese corporation that produces roughly 40% of the world’s consumer electronic components—technology that builds our smartphones, gaming consoles, and other forms of smart technology. These tragedies were covered heavily in American media as questions arose to the quality of labor conditions in these Chinese plants and how corporate scandal may change that. In subsequent investigations, it was revealed that workers could be working 12-hour shifts, with less than a dollar (U.S.) in their pocket for food. While the suicides received a great deal of coverage, and had public relations repercussions for corporations that utilize Foxconn exports, there have been at least 8 additional suicides at the same factor have been reported since 2010.
Few things are more universally loved across the globe than soccer, or football, as it’s known in the rest of the world. In May of 2015, millions of soccer fans were shaken by the FIFA corruption scandal. The Department of Justice indicted the Federation Internationale de Football Association leadership on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money-laundering. The indictment outlined various instances of an excess of $15 million dollars in bribes taken by executives for preserving advertisement marketing rights for decades. The scandal lead to the resignation of President Sepp Blatter in June of 2015 after he managed to escape indictment. Millions of dollars in legal costs and loss of corporate sponsorship severely damaged the reputation of the organization, netting losses of $122.4 million.
The scandal surrounding the health technology company known as Theranos was a cluster 15 years in the making. Stemming from a fear of needles when she was a child, founder Elizabeth Holmes was seeking to develop a technology that would lead to higher accessibility of blood-testing throughout the world. Her device supposedly would be able to perform a smattering of biological tests from a single drop of blood. The Wall Street Journal published an expose in October of 2015, exposing more of the company’s deception and further implicating some of Holmes’ colleagues in the scandal. Holmes was charged with massive fraud in March 2018. Formerly thought of as a young genius, she is scheduled to stand trial in 2020, facing up to 20 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
The ever-growing opioid crisis in the United States is hands down one of the most pervasive scandals of the last decade. In 2017 alone, there were over 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States. Of those overdose deaths, 67% came from an overdose of opioids. From the Midwest to the Northeast, opioid deaths spiked between 2016 and 2017. As of November 2019, six pharmaceutical companies were under federal investigation and were facing federal charges for their responsibility for the opioid crisis. Amongst other big pharma companies, Purdue Pharma reached settled for billions of dollars for communities in 23 states that were affected by their shipment of opioids, forcing the company to ultimately filing for bankruptcy. The settlement set major precedent as the first of it’s kind in our American legal system.