At Least Be Thankful Your Business Is Not On This List

by | Nov 23, 2011 | Blog

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

Sometimes it feels like Thanksgiving is just the day before Black Friday. I’m pretty sure for every Thanksgiving commercial there is, there is about 10 Black Friday commercials (and even more Christmas commercials!)

Now that I think about it, has there EVEN been a Thanksgiving commercial this year?

What ever happened to the Pillsbury Crescent rolls commercials where the kids are fighting over the last roll until Mom brings out another full basket? Well, that mom is probably taking a nap or practicing her Black Friday routes in preparation for the big day. Or maybe she’s busy putting the Christmas presents under the tree.

We think everyone needs to slow down and enjoy this holiday. Take a second and be THANKFUL for what you have! That’s what Thanksgiving is all about right?

We all get caught up in the not-so-much-fun tasks that are a part of running a business, like dealing with conflicting vacation schedules, listening to employees bicker over who is in charge of the Holiday party, and of course, breaking the news to your employees that there will be no end of the year bonuses. It’s rough.

But we are here to remind you that: IT COULD BE WORSE!

What could make you more thankful for your business than reading about other companies who have been through a lot worse! (We know it’s not very nice to make light of others’ misfortunes, BUT most of these companies had to pay the price for unethical behavior and activities that should never have occurred in the first place. So let these stories serve as a lesson to you and your business).

Let’s count down the Top 10 Businesses That Behaved Badly:

10. Nortel Networks:
Nortel Networks sales took quite a hit after the Internet bust, but you wouldn’t know the company was in trouble since they handed out $19 million in bonuses in 2003. Well, auditors uncovered that about $3 billion in revenue had been booked improperly. Uh oh. Only some of the executives returned portions of their bonus checks. Shocker.
Settlement Amount: $2.4 billion 

9. AOL Time Warner
AOL got caught doing a little magic trick, an illusion act we’ll say. Like when the magician says he’s cutting the pretty lady in half when he is really just splitting the box in two (I’m still not exactly sure how they do that) Anyway, AOL accounted for dozens of advertising transactions which made it appear to be generating revenue. In reality, there were just shifting money back and forth. The alleged false earnings statements inflated the company’s value just a little bit: $1.7 billion. Settlement Amount: $2.5 billion 

8. Cendant
Cendant’s Vice Chairman Kirk Shelton told a little white lie…for 10 years…involving $500 million. In 1998, the company disclosed that for the last 10 years it had been fraudulently overstating its income by up to $500 million. Shame on you, Shelton! In addition to being sentenced to jail, Shelton was ordered to reimburse Cendant $3.27 billion at a monthly rate of $2,000. (Anyone want to do that math on how long that’ll take?) Settlement Amount: $3.1 billion 

7. Tyco International
Tyco International, whose two top executives were imprisoned for fraud, agreed to pay almost $3 billion to settle class-action lawsuits brought by investors. This case became synonymous with corporate excess after widely circulated reports that former Tyco executive L. Dennis Kozlowski had used Tyco money for lavish parties, including one that featured an ice sculpture of Michelangelo’s “David” dispensing vodka, and for furnishings for a Manhattan apartment, including a $6,000 shower curtain and a $15,000 umbrella stand. You should have just ordered a keg, Mr. Kozlowski. Settlement Amount: $3.2 billion

6. Breast Implant Litigation
Yes, you read that right. After years of litigation claiming newly large-chested women suffered autoimmune disease from their silicone breast implants, the major breast implant manufacturers settled class action litigation for $3.4 billion. (insert inappropriate joke about breast implants here). Settlement Amount: $3.4 billion

5. Exxon Mobil
We all remember this one. This class action lawsuit related to the Exxon Valdez oil spill affected thousands of people and more than 1,300 miles of coastline. A federal judge ordered ExxonMobil to pay punitive damages and interest to thousands of commercial fishermen, cannery workers, land owners, Alaska natives and others who were harmed by the spill. Who was forgotten in the payout? The 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 Bald Eagles, and 22 orca whales who died because of the spill. Poor animals.
Settlement Amount: $5 billion, later reduced to $500 million

4. World Com
Just another case of improperly classifying expenses and inflating revenue statements with false entries by over $11 billion. No big. Right? Wrong. Settlement Amount: $6.2 billion

3. Enron
Do we even have to go into this one? The gist is that Enron concealed investor losses by not disclosing them in annual reports or SEC filings. Enron had to compensate shareholders whose stock became worthless during the company collapse. Settlement Amount: $7.2 billion

2. Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores
Oh Wal-Mart. A female employee sued Wal-Mart for sexual discrimination, claiming she worked there for several years and received excellent work evaluations, but was denied a promotion. The case was converted to class-action status to represent every female employee from 1998 onwards. Knowing Wal-Mart, they could pay this off with their Black Friday sales. Settlement Amount: Seeking $11 billion (still pending)

1. Master Tobacco Settlement
Who knew tobacco could kill? Well, if the tobacco company’s did, they weren’t telling. That is until this lawsuit. Each individual state, represented by that state’s Attorney General, filed suit against each of the top six tobacco companies in state court. The settlement included a payment by the companies of $206 billion, agreement to possible Food and Drug Administration regulation under certain circumstances, and stronger warning labels and restrictions on advertising. In exchange for having to admit that their product kills? The tobacco companies were freed from class-action suits and litigation costs were capped. Settlement Amount: $206 billion over 25 years

Wow. Now, doesn’t that make your problems feel a little less significant?

Remember to take a moment to say “Thank you” to all your hard-working employees that keep your business afloat during these tough times. Also, you probably deserve a pat on the back too. So go ahead. We won’t tell.

Happy Thanksgiving!


P.S. Don’t wait for the little problems in your business get out of hand and put you on this list. Call the HR professionals at Integrity HR. We’ll help heal your HR aches and pains.

Sources: and


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