The Biggest Liars in Business

  • The Lying Business

    We all know that businesses occasionally distort the truth a bit. We call that advertising. But the companies on this list seem to have been dishonest in the more traditional sense. In some cases, they made statements that were just plain “whoppers.” In other cases, their characterizations were so misleading, it’s hard to believe that they could be doing anything but feigning ignorance, quite gratuitously in some cases. Photo Credit: technochick
    Don't Eat the Peanut Butter
  • Don't Eat the Peanut Butter

    Peanut Corp. of America shipped out peanut butter nationwide that they knew had failed salmonella testing and was contaminated but the told the FDA it was safe.  This led to numerous recalls affecting a wide range of products such as dog biscuits and cookies. Cookies! In fact, it gets even worse. According to Consumerist, Stewart Parnell, the owner of the peanut company, was so focused on profits that he allegedly said his workers should be able to “turn the raw peanuts on the floor into money,” despite the problems. Lying to the FDA and endangering an entire nation? That earns this company a place on our list. Photo Credit: Listener42
    A Cure for Cancer?
  • A Cure for Cancer?

    Back in 2000, T-Up, Inc was sued for advertising their aloe and mineral health products as a “miracle cure” for cancer. Oh, and AIDS, too. Because why not kill two birds with one stone? "This is one of the worst cases of deceit and irresponsibility I have ever heard of," the Attorney General said. "To give these suffering people and their families false hope and prey upon their vulnerability and desperation all in the interest of lining their own greedy pockets makes me sick." It's possible that the makers of T-Up were just delusional. (Aloe has been touted as a holistic cure-all for centuries.) However, in addition to making unsupported claims about the power of T-up, the company also claimed their product had been approved by the FDA, a fact which was later proven to be completely untrue. Photo Credit: Aine D
    Bear Stearns
  • Bear Stearns

    In the early days of the recession, few were as despised by the American people as the executives at Bear Stearns. The company had allegedly lied to their investors repeatedly by claiming the company was healthy, when it was in fact on its death bed. Although the executives behind these claims were later acquitted, the U.S. Government argued that Bear Stearns was guilty of “black and white lies.” For an excellent analysis of the events leading up to Bear Stearns collapse, check out this article from the Wall Street Journal. Photo Credit: C R
    Lying Infomercials
  • Lying Infomercials

    Some infomercials are actually true, but as we mentioned in a recent article, many are full of baloney. One popular pitchman, Donald W. Barrett had a run-in with the Federal Trade Commission when he claimed on air that products like Supreme Greens and Coral Calcium supplements were viable treatments for illnesses like Parkinson’s, diabetes and heart disease. As we wrote, “The FTC charged Barrett and others with making unlawful claims and unauthorized credit.“ Photo Credit: Michale
    Tobacco Companies
  • Tobacco Companies

    This may be the most infamous of all the lies on this list. For years, researchers argued that cigarettes were addictive and bad for your health. So in 1994, executives from the biggest tobacco companies were called to testify in court and asked to state on the record whether nicotine was addictive. One by one, the executives testified, “I believe that nicotine is not addictive.” Tobacco companies were also busted more recently for lying that light cigarettes were safer than regular cigarettes. Fast forward to the present moment where Truth ads are on TV 24/7 and tobacco companies are so vilified that some even resort to partnering with anti-smoking companies to boost their image. Photo Credit: fugue
  • BlueHippo

    When it comes to companies that deliberately mislead customers, BlueHippo takes the cake. According to reports, BlueHippo targets low-income customers with ads for bargain-priced computers and even free merchandise. All the customers have to do is make a series of weekly payments and the computer is theirs. Yet, thousands of customers have complained that they never received the computers they paid for, prompting the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint. According to one recent report, BlueHippo made $15 million from this scam and only delivered one computer. Photo Credit:
  • Pfizer

    When you’re a drug company as big as Pfizer, there’s little chance you can avoid being accused of lying and misleading customers. But Pfizer has been sued and criticizes more than its fair share.  Pfizer has been accused of manipulating research in its favor while suppressing studies that are critical of its products. The company has been forced to settle in court four separate times for marketing their drugs as treatments for illnesses other than what the FDA had deemed appropriate. Most recently, Pfizer paid $2.3 billion late last year, the largest drug settlement in history. According to the New York Times, "The government charged that executives and sales representatives throughout Pfizer’s ranks planned and executed schemes to illegally market not only Bextra [a painkiller] but also Geodon, an antipsychotic; Zyvox, an antibiotic; and Lyrica, which treats nerve pain." Photo Credit: colros
  • Airborne

    Thousands of Americans have relied on Airborne to help fight off colds. In fact, even Oprah initially endorsed the product, but as happens too often, Oprah was duped. Airborne has been busted multiple times for lying in their advertisements. According to ABC News, the product was initially billed as a “miracle cold buster.” In fact, not only did the company lie about the power of their drug, but they also manufactured fake research studies to support their claims. In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Airborne. "There is no credible evidence that Airborne products . . . will reduce the severity or duration of colds, or provide any tangible benefit for people who are exposed to germs in crowded places," the FTC said at the time. The company was soon forced to change its slogan to the much weaker claim that Airborne “boosts your immune system.” Photo Credit:
  • Petland

    Petland has been repeatedly accused of misleading the public about where the dogs they sell come from. As we’ve written before, Petland and other chain pet stores have been shown to sell dogs that were raised in dangerous puppy mills. This prompted the Humane Society of the United States to issue a report condemning the chain for stocking their stores with animals who are mistreated in puppy mills. But rather than fess up to their questionable practices, Petland responded by accusing the Humane Society of lying. Petland has since been served with a class action lawsuit which claims, in part, that the company "misleads" customers into buying damaged pets by lying about where those pets come from. Photo Credit:
    Bottled Water Companies
  • Bottled Water Companies

    It may seem small compared to some of the other lies on this list, but in 2007, Pepsi Co. was forced to admit that Aquafina was not actually spring water, as advertised, but actually tap water. Although, when you think about it, if you’re a bottled water company, that really is the biggest lie you can tell. In fact, most bottled water really just comes from the tap, rather than from the pristine locations always pictured on the label. Coke admitted that Dasani was actually just “purified” tap water, whatever that means. And according to the Polaris Institute, tap water may actually be safer than bottled water because there are stronger federal regulations on the former. Photo Credit: shriff14
  • Enron

    It’s been a while since I’ve typed the word Enron, but it still triggers some serious fury deep inside. The two chiefs of the company repeatedly lied to investors about the health of the company. They shredded key documents and forged accounting records, thereby hurting the thousands of employees and investors who believed in the company. The only bright side here is that, unlike most of the other companies on this list, Enron is no longer still in business. Photo Credit: Hey Paul
    Cell Phone Companies
  • Cell Phone Companies

    Cell phones may turn out to be this generation’s tobacco. In recent months, there have been a growing number of researchers arguing that cell phones are more dangerous than previously thought. They may cause brain cancer, insomnia and headaches. A recent GQ feature detailed the lobbying power of cell phone companies to suppress competing studies, which is why other countries are much farther along in research.  Some legislators are starting to push the issue more at home. In Maine, there is talk of adding a warning label to cell phones. If and when it is proven down the road that cell phone companies tried to bury incriminating studies while exposing hundreds of millions of people worldwide to dangerous devices, then it will rank #1 on our updated list of the biggest liars in business. Photo Credit: Mike "Dakinewavamon" Kline
  • Tweet Alongside Us

    Wait! If you haven't already, now is a great time to follow us on Twitter. You'll get all of our most important stories, right as they publish. Follow us: Photo Credit: Mixy
Show Comments