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Worst CEOs of the Dismal Year of 2008: "Corporate Scrooges" Named By Co-op America

A Big "Bah Humbug!" For Top Bosses at Citigroup, GM, Nestle Waters and Dynegy

December 11, 2008

Washington, DC--The worst corporate “Scrooges” of 2008 – the CEOs who exhibited the worst kinds of unbridled greed and a lack of compassion or concern for others over the last year – are being named today by Co-op America, in conjunction with its Responsible Shopper program.

In order to make the list, the actions of the CEOs had to have had a decidedly negative impact in 2008, a year in which the greed of corporate managers helped created a severe downward economic spiral.

All served as CEOs with companies listed at the http://www.ResponsibleShopper.org Web site. The top “Scrooges” for the year are: Charles Prince, former CEO, Citigroup; Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO, General Motors; John J. Harris, chairman and CEO of Nestle Waters; and Bruce Williamson, CEO, Dynegy.

Co-op America Responsible Shopper’s Victoria Kreha said: “These CEOs represent the worst of the worst when it comes to corporate insensitivity, avarice and callousness.  They need to be held accountable for their actions, which, in some cases, have inflicted appalling harm on consumers and our environment.” 

ResponsibleShopper.org informs concerned consumers about problem corporate practices, action campaigns and ways to live greener in relation to more than 150 major consumer companies.  The site also ranks companies in 27 industry categories from best to worst based on research focusing on such key issues as human rights, social justice, environmental sustainability and more.There are three sections into which the site is divided by company and industry: “Learn” (get information); “Act” (join in campaigns to clean up corporate abuses); and “Live”/Go Green (shift spending to greener/fair-trade practices and companies).

Why were these CEOs in particular highlighted as “corporate Scrooges”?   From the files of ResponsibleShopper.org, here are the reasons:

  • For Wrecking Our Economy: Charles Prince, former CEO, Citigroup.  Although he is no longer Citigroup’s CEO, many analysts are placing the blame for Citi’s recent economic collapse on Chuck Prince’s shoulders, saying he pursued strategies that were too risky, failed to investigate possible pitfalls, and lobbying heavily for loosening regulations of the banking industry. In the wake of Citi’s $700 billion federal bailout, which will come out of the pockets of American taxpayers, mistakes such as those had a huge impact on the company and the economy. Citi has already laid off 23,000 thousand employees this year as a result of its lending practices and has plans to lay off 50,000 more. In addition, under Prince’s leadership, Citigroup was accused of predatory lending practices and preying on the financially vulnerable. Citigroup is also one of the top financers of coal mining and coal-fired power plants.
  • For Putting Profits Before People and the Planet: John J. Harris, chairman and CEO, Nestle Waters.  His branch of Nestle, Nestle Waters, threatened to sue Miami-Dade County in Florida after the county aired public serves messages telling people that the county’s public tap water was cheaper, safer, and purer than bottled water. Nestle Waters North America, which makes close to $4 billion each year through bottled water sales, says the ads are an “attack on the integrity of the company”; the International Bottled Water Association, a trade association representing the bottled water industry, is considering similar legal action.  Multiple studies uphold Miami’s claim that tap water is just as safe, if not safer than bottled water. Investigations have even discovered that some bottled water actually comes from the same sources as tap water.  In addition, the bottling and shipping of water creates major environmental impacts, including water depletion and pollution, increased plastic in landfills, and climate change emissions.
  • For Fossil Foolishness: Bruce Williamson, CEO, Dynegy.  Despite his claim that “very little [power plant development] can be economically justified in the current environment,” Bruce Williamson’s energy company, Dynegy, which already operates 31 power generation plants across the United States, has  plans to develop six new coal-fired power plants. Coal is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, and accounts for almost 40 percent of carbon dioxide pollution in the United States. Williamson was also a runner-up for this year’s Fossil Fool of the Year Award for plans to build more new power plants than any other energy company.
  • For Seeking a Handout From the Government While Fighting Its Regulations: Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO, General Motors.  With the future of his company depending on whether or not Congress will grant them a multi-billion dollar bailout, you might think that the CEO of General Motors would go out of his way to prove that the company has done everything it can to save money. But traveling by private jet to Washington, DC to attend Congressional hearings where he was to plead his case for a bailout in mid-November was not the image Congress—and taxpayers—wanted to see. It’s not exactly going to make people want their tax dollars going towards a huge bailout of your company, when your company still maintains costly expenses like a private jet. Properly chagrined, for his return visit Washington in December for a second round of hearings to consider his bailout request, Wagoner has decided to arrive in a much more appropriate vehicle—a hybrid car that he drove from Detroit to DC. Rick Wagoner was also awarded this year’s Fossil Fool Award for “Outstanding Performance in Corporate Greenwashing” for GMnext.com, a website that touts the company’s environmental achievements, even as GM actively campaigns against emissions standards and other environmental regulations.

A full list of companies, including their profiles, listed at ResponsibleShopper.org in alphabetical order can be found at /programs/responsibleshopper/companiesbyname.cfm.

Each company-specific profile in ResponsibleShopper.org contains a listing for consumer, investor, and community campaigns to end corporate abuse of workers, communities and the environment. The complete list of actions (sorted by industry and company) is available at: /programs/responsibleshopper/act_hub.cfm.

ABOUT CO-OP AMERICA
Co-op America is the nation’s green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Co-op America provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems. Co-op America’s green economy programs encourage corporate responsibility, tackle climate change, build fair trading systems, advance healthy, local communities, and provide green purchasing and investing information for families and businesses.

To receive Co-op America’s popular publications, including Real Money and the National Green Pages, participate in Co-op America’s Green Business Conferences or Green Festivals, or to get its free e-newsletter, providing the latest green news, green discounts and opportunities to take action for a green economy, visit http://www.greenamerica.org, email info@greenamerica.org, or call at 800-58-GREEN.

As of January, 1 2009, Co-op America will change its name to Green America.

CONTACT: Ailis Aaron Wolf, (703) 276-3265 or aawolf@hastingsgroup.com.

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