Most hated companies 2015: This year, the businesses on our annual "most hated companies" list stole, poisoned, and defrauded their way to profits – and most did so unapologetically.
Here is our list of the most hated companies of 2015…
5 Most Hated Companies of 2015
Most Hated Companies 2015, No. 1: Volkswagen AG (OTCMKTS: VLKAY)
On Sept. 18, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accused Volkswagen of deliberately rigging 482,000 VW and Audi cars with 2-liter, four-cylinder engines with a "defeat device" to evade Clear Air Act standards. The agency learned that software had been installed into various models allowing them to perform better on emissions when they detected they were being tested.
Two days later, VW admitted to wrongdoing. CEO Martin Winterkorn made a public statement claiming he was "deeply sorry" for violating emissions standards and ordered an external investigation. He resigned just two days after that.
In the wake of the scandal, VW's shares plummeted. Before the scandal broke on Sept. 18, VW stock was $36.31. By Sept. 21, it had fallen 17% to $30.10.
The breadth and audacity of the entire scandal was, itself, rather heinous. But here's what's even more disturbing…
Winterkorn knew about the company's emissions and fuel economy cheating a full year before it became public knowledge, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag alleged on Nov. 30. The newspaper also reported that VW stopped selling the Polo BlueMotion in Europe this past spring because it discovered that its actual fuel economy was 18% below its official rating. At the time, however, VW stated that it pulled the Polo because of "subdued demand." Hush hush.
Most Hated Companies 2015, No. 2: Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG)
This past July, Chipotle sickened five people in Seattle with E. coli. In August and September, more than 64 cases of salmonella were reported in Minnesota, while more than 100 customers fell ill with a norovirus in California – all linked to the "food with integrity" burrito chain.
Forty-three stores were closed across the nation after agencies reported "repeated food safety violations" upon inspection of various franchises.
While Chipotle CEO Steve Ells did apologize for causing a "burrito plague," he waited at least five months after the first cases came to light before doing so. Prior to his public apology on Dec. 10, a spokesperson for Chipotle, Chris Arnold, repeatedly maintained that customers' well-being was always the highest priority – but would not cop to any fault on the restaurant's part.
It's no wonder Chipotle's brand reputation tanked this year. A report from Jonathan Maze at Nation's Restaurant News on Dec. 17 outlined the results of a YouGov poll that charted Chipotle's rating over 2015. On a "buzz score" scale in which 0 was a neutral rating (with 100 being positive and -100 being negative), Chipotle's came in at a -40. That's way down from the +8 it scored last year, when YouGov also gave Chipotle its "Most Improved Business" award.
Chipotle stock has suffered in kind. Shares in CMG fell from an Aug. 5 high of $757.77 to $499.70 on Dec. 22 – a 44% plunge.
Most Hated Companies 2015, No. 3: Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc. (NYSE: VRX)