Americans have a love/hate relationship with corporate capitalism. According to a study by Harris Interactive, we appreciate good leadership, but cast the evil eye on companies that received the biggest bite of government bailout funds.
In fact, nine of the 10 most disliked companies cited in the study received the biggest bailouts. Fannie Mac and Freddie Mac alone received $70 billion of the total $180 billion dispersed by the Federal Treasury, making them the third- and first-worst rated companies, respectively.
The companies with the best reputations, including Amazon.com, Google and Intel, are known as much for their products as their first-class management.
Here's a rather cynical look (OK, very cynical look) at the 10 most-hated companies on the list.
10. Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines is the only company in the top (or bottom) 10 that didn't receive government bailout funds. They are, however, the only airline on the list to post a You Tube viral video on airline safety. Flight attendant Deltalina's high cheekbones have drawn more than 1.6 million hits in 15 months. Go figure.
9. Bank of America
The largest bank holding company in the U.S. received $45 billion in government bailout funds, the fifth largest amount received by any entity. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have claimed the bank misused the bailout money, citing the bank's refusal of loan applications from small-business owners, as well as stiffer terms on members' credit cards.
8. JP Morgan Chase
Claims surfaced in April that the financial-services firm was instructing homeowners to stop making mortgage payments so they could qualify for loan modifications. Morgan Chase then repossessed their homes when they followed the bank's advice. (The case is pending in Federal Court.) What an excellent use of their $25 billion bailout. The bank may just be following the example of founder John Pierpont Morgan, who had a knack for investing in failures, like the Titanic and a never-built subway system designed to compete with the London Underground.
7. General Motors
GM ranked as the world's second-largest automaker in 2008. One year later, the Detroit-based company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Such a grave fall from grace earned the automaker $50.7 billion in government bailout money, the third-most amount of funds received by any company. While the terms of the deal required CEO Rick Wagoner resign, he still received more than $10 million in unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, former auto workers are running out of options and unemployment checks.
A $10.76 billion bailout earned Chrysler sixth place. Chrysler made other poor choices, as well. For example, after being acquired by Daimler AG in 1998, the German automaker dumped Chrysler after just nine years. Two years later, Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and hooked up with Italy's Fiat. The bailout billions no doubt helped the automaker get over the ruptures.
5. Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs released its 2009 annual report this month, revealing it made net revenues of $45.17 billion and paid bonuses of over $16 billion to employees. It's shareholder letter claims the company "repaid TARP money, but didn't mention the massive new taxpayer subsidies it continues to enjoy." Yet still, thanks to contacts in high places, Goldman received -- and continues to receive -- enormous assistance from taxpayers, including $10 billion in government bailout funds.
The banking behemoth was happy as a clam in 1998; forming one of the world's largest mergers in history with financial conglomerate Travelers Group. Citigroup suffered huge losses in just 10 years and received $45 billion in TARP funds.
3. Fannie Mae
If you've taken out a mortgage, you've likely heard of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) is known by the friendly nickname Fannie Mae, but Americans are less than happy with their "buddy." Fannie's secures and purchases mortgages to guarantee home-buying funds will be readily available. By lending money to borrowers with poor credit, Fannie Mae helped create the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007, when home foreclosures became common and property prices went into the tank. And that, children, is why Fannie Mac received $75.2 billion in government bail-out funds (the most received) while earning third place as Most Hated Company.
The American International Group is commonly known as the insurance corporation that was too big to fail. After going through a "liquidity crisis" in 2008, AIG's credit ratings fell like a brick. Naturally, the Federal Reserve Bank extended $85 billion in credit to help the company meet increasing obligations. AIG originally was set to receive $195 for its financial-products division, but agreed to a $20 million reduction before granting more than $100 million in employee bonuses. AIG ended up receiving the second-highest amount in bailout funds while earning the great displeasure of Americans.
1. Freddie Mac
Not only did Freddie earn first place this year but the Harris Interactive Reputation Score gave it a 38.94, the lowest recorded score since Enron's 30.05 in 2005. Part of this enmity is owed to financial wizard Warren Buffet's denunciation in 2008. At the time, Freddie and Fannie owned or guaranteed about half of the $12 trillion mortgage market. As a result of Buffet's statement, Freddie received the lowest investment grade possible. Naturally, the government granted Freddie $50.7 billion in bailout funds, the fourth-highest amount received.