America Has Voted: 3 of the Worst Companies in Existence

A little over a month ago, the folks at Consumerist.com began asking the American public for nominations for its 2012 annual Worst Company in America competition, or WCIA, for short.

The catch? As their name might suggest, Consumerist was only looking for companies that "regularly provide goods and services to American consumers."

After the nominees were collected, a series of NCAA-esque match-ups ensued between 32 of the most-complained-about businesses in our country. In the end, however, three publicly traded companies stood out among the rest.

But, while consumers certainly have some beef with the names below, does that make their stocks untouchable? Let's dig in to find out:

Third place: Comcast  (NASDAQ: CMCSA  )  

Comcast Stock
Image source: Comcast

While Comcast won it all in the WCIA competition for 2010, I still can't imagine the cable giant was particularly pleased when it eked out a win for third over fee-charging ticket-seller extraordinaire and Live Nation subsidiary Ticketmaster this year.

Facing up-and-coming streaming competition from the likes of Netflix and Amazon.com, Comcast ticked off customers through the cable industry's increasingly nickel-and-dime approach, and with a few too many cases of horrendous customer service.

Even so, on the heels of announcing it would acquire General Electric's stake in NBCUniversal recently, Comcast also raised its dividend by 20% in February, to $0.195 per share. and announced it would repurchase $2 billion of its stock over the course of this year. In addition, its stock has returned nearly 40% over the past year, including dividends, handily beating the S&P 500's return by more than 20% during that time.

However, given the fierce competition for its core business going forward, I'm not particularly convinced Comcast will be able to keep this up over the long term. While I wouldn't call the stock untouchable, I'd rather put my money with Amazon or Netflix -- both companies whose competing services I use often and thoroughly enjoy.

Second place: Bank of America  (NYSE: BAC  )

Bank of America Stock
Image Source: Bank of America

Next, Bank of America took second place, thanks to its fair share of angry consumers' votes. I suppose this shouldn't have come as a big surprise considering that 2012 marked its second consecutive year coming in dead last in the American Customer Satisfaction Index survey.

Curiously enough, while Bank of America's shares dropped by more than 6% during intraday trading on Wednesday after the company posted mixed quarterly results, the stock remains within sight of its 52-week-highs, as the company continues to streamline operations. When the rubber hits the road, then, I've got to admit that Bank of America's stock is starting to look tantalizingly cheap.

First place: Electronic Arts  (NASDAQ: EA  )

Electronic Arts Stock
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Finally, much-maligned video game maker Electronic Arts won the unwanted distinction of the Consumerist's Worst Company in America for the second year in a row.

Perhaps it could have something to do with the fact that EA's uncharacteristically web-savvy customer base was more likely to take to the Internet to voice their discontent, but the fact remains that EA has plenty of improving to do in order to please the consumers it serves. Among their most common complaints were lackluster product support, less-than-polished games rushed to production, and uninspiring sequels to boot.

Sure enough, Electronic Arts' financial results have suffered along with the quality of its games, and Electronic Arts stock has fallen by nearly 70% over the past five years as a result. In the end, this directly led to the resignation last month of the company's CEO of six years, John Riccitiello.

Let it suffice to say that I'm not exactly a big fan of Electronic Arts stock; but, to be fair, it's hard to look good against an incredible competitor like the long-term minded, cash-generating machine that is Activision Blizzard. In fact, that's exactly why I outlined two big reasons to buy shares of Activision just last month.

Foolish final thoughts
In the end, while the Consumerist's WCIA competition wasn't exactly scientific, I have to applaud its end goal of holding consumer-facing companies accountable for their bad behavior. Most intriguing, though, is that the performance of the "worst" three companies of the bunch wasn't necessarily dictated by the wrath of a displeased customer base.

That doesn't mean, however, that all three of these companies shouldn't take the negative attention seriously. In the end, it certainly doesn't pay over the long run for them to repeatedly bite the millions of hands that fill their coffers each quarter -- just ask longtime shareholders of Electronic Arts.

More expert advice from The Motley Fool
While Activision and Microsoft have been taking the headlines when it comes to console gaming, Fools following the gaming sector would do well to also keep tabs on Electronic Arts. We can help. Our new special report breaks down the risks and opportunities facing the company to help you decide if EA is right for your portfolio. Click here to get your copy now.


Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (12)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2013, at 3:55 PM, NovaB wrote:

    You guys should keep with the news.

    Disney executed Electronic Arts a couple weeks ago.

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2013, at 6:38 PM, death316 wrote:

    people need to see this video and add nestle to one of the worst companies in the world. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTqvBhFVdvE&list=HL136641...

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2013, at 7:32 PM, funfundvierzig wrote:

    It's telling that at the top of the pyramid of Bilk of America is Chad Holliday, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank of America Corp. Holliday as many readers will recall was the erstwhile Chairman & CEO of the DuPont Company, probably the most unethical chemical conglomerate in the United States, if not the world!

    DuPont has a long documented history of environmental crimes, litigation fraud, consumer product fraud (Imprelis, Tell Us!), criminal price-fixing, illegally misrepresenting DuPont medical products, cover-ups involving toxic cancer-causing Teflon chemicals, undsoweiter...funfun..

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2013, at 8:14 PM, Tiredandangry wrote:

    Monopoly price fixing, power to control a persons money and violence............ A neat package. I agree these are three bad companies.

  • Report this Comment On April 26, 2013, at 7:31 PM, hiddenflem wrote:

    yep pretty much right. hate all three of them.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2013, at 3:11 AM, The1MAGE wrote:

    <In reference to a comment above>

    Nestle? Because of that video?

    That guy knew what he was talking about. The fears of GMO are way over the top, and he points that out.

    He basically says water has a value.

    He also talks about trying to better the world, and how his company has indirectly created 4.5 million jobs.

    What exactly is so wrong about anything he has said? His comments were interesting, and thought provoking. Why should we boycott a company because of a person's thoughts?

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 7:13 AM, rcarle67 wrote:

    So a company that makes games for people with no lives is important enough to make the grade? And a particular media giant is that much worse than its competition? And a bank is mentioned with no discussion of the fiasco that is Merrill? You wind up with 2 entertainment companies and a largely retail financial firm. Does anyone care about the truly satanic behavior of most if not all pharmaceutical and food companies?

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