It’s the day before Thanksgiving when friends and family will gather around tables in ‘CCO land to serve up some succulent turkey and give thanks for the many blessings the year has brought them. On the morn before that celebration, your Business by Carlson correspondent is also gathering with ‘CCO Radio professionals for a slightly different but no less important purpose, that is, to point out some of the greatest business blunders of 2017. We’ll be doling out our own kind of turkey to recognize such corporate klutziness. That’s right, it’s time to hand out the vaunted Business by Carlson Golden Business Turkey Award.
This year, there are so many candidates for this accolade –gobblers galore locally, nationally and internationally. The Awards Committee had an especially difficult task this week as they met and debated the (de)merits of various nominees in the Carlson School basement kitchens where some of the most interestingly-tasting chimichangas are prepared daily. Though the identities of Awards Committee members are closely guarded secrets it was leaked this morning that my Carlson faculty colleague and Business by Carlson pinch-hit commentator, Aaron Sojourner, was one of the members. Aaron can’t be here. He’s been waylaid with a case of extreme indigestion –those chimichangas. But I was able to phone Aaron early this morning for some brief insight on what was discussed and which companies failed to make the final cut for award consideration.
So many truly turkey worthy companies did not make the final round of voting by the committee. I learned that several of those non-finalists even made their way down to the kitchens seeking to get an audience with Awards Committee members to make their case for inclusion as a finalist. These companies slipped through what was supposed to be a tight security cordon including metal detectors set up by Chicago-based Monterrey Security, the same firm that used to provide the security services at US Bank Stadium until dismissed by the Metropolitan Sports Commission earlier this year: http://www.startribune.com/security-firm-at-u-s-bank-stadium-is-fired/447991883/.
Former CEO and alleged serial sexual harasser of Uber Travis Kalanick slipped through the Monterrey security team so that he could present his finalist case personally. Exhibit A for him was his (in)famous 2013 Miami Letter sent to Uber employees to explain proper etiquette for sex and beer keg tossing at a company-sponsored party: https://www.recode.net/2017/6/8/15765514/2013-miami-letter-uber-ceo-kalanick-employees-sex-rules-company-celebration. Awards Committee members were impressed, but thought Kalanick could have been a little more explicit when he asked party-goers in the “same chain of command” not to fornicate at the party. What really is a “chain of command” in a non-military organization like Uber? Uber is out.
Someone claiming to be from the Tax Department of Peoria-based Caterpillar also slipped past the Monterrey security team and sought an audience to make the case for Cat based on this year’s report alleging fraudulent international tax and accounting practices: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/07/business/caterpillar-tax-fraud.html?_r=0. Awards Committee members ultimately barred her from deliberations when she was asked to sing “I Wish I Was in Peoria.”. All real Peorians know the words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqKqcTj0jVk. The Awards Committee members did their job and unmasked this Cat fraudster.
I also that there was a last minute faxed-in request for consideration from 2016 Golden Business Turkey Award runner-up Wells Fargo Bank. In a reprise of last year’s blunder, Wells Fargo pointed out in the fax that it had uncovered in 2017 another 1.4 million fake accounts set by employees trying to meet high-pressure sales goals current CEO Tim Sloan and several former senior executives at the bank apparently thought to be part of a great strategy to motivate employees and win customer trust: http://money.cnn.com/2017/08/31/investing/wells-fargo-fake-accounts/index.html. Awards Committee members were impressed –indeed, a few immediately ran credit reports to see if any they had been included among the 1.4 million fake accounts. But rules barring immediate repeat in the finals ultimately barred Wells from consideration for an award in 2017. Too soon, gang! You’ll have to find another million or so fake accounts next year when you are again eligible to become the biggest business turkey of 2018.
Oh, Aaron also mentioned that he got a call this very early morning from Germany, offering him a bribe of a free “vintage” Stan Smith tennis shoes if he and the Awards Committee would give last-minute consideration to an unnamed sportswear company with a great interest in US high school and collegiate basketball: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-28/in-adidas-s-american-turnaround-seeds-of-basketball-scandal. Alas, the call came after finalists had been selected, voting completed and the 2017 Golden Business Turkey Award envelopes handed over to accountants formerly working the Oscars for PricewaterhouseCoopers: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-02/accountants-behind-oscars-blunder-will-not-work-ceremony-again/8317598. In any case, Aaron would never even entertain the possibility of taking a bribe. He’s a straight shooter. And he’s not much of a tennis player.
So those were the companies that didn’t make it to the finals. And our three finalists? I have three envelopes sealed with chimichanga sauce ready for opening now. First our 2017 Business by Carlson Golden Business Turkey Award Honorable Mention winner: United Airlines. This will be a shocker to the airline of the not-so-friendly skies of 2017. Tonight at the awards dinner I imagine that United CEO Oscar Munoz may be reluctant to accept the award. But not to worry. We’ll just drag him down the aisle similar to the way United had aviation security officers drag Dr. David Dao from his seat on a United flight from Chicago to Louisville last April:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/11/business/united-airline-passenger-overbooked-flights.html. The Awards Committee thought this a truly original strategy for generating customer trust and goodwill, meriting honorable mention in this Holiday season. Congratulations, United Airlines.
On to the 2017 Business by Carlson Golden Business Turkey Award Runner-Up winner. This is important not only because of the prestige of a second place finish, but also because the runner-up might have to take the 2017 crown if our winner proves unable to fulfill all of the important responsibilities that go with taking first place. So here’s our 2017 runner-up award winner: It’s a three-way tie between Facebook, Twitter and Google! That’s unprecedented in the three years of this awards series. But I think I understand why: https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/01/google-facebook-twitter-russia-meddling-244412. 2017 saw how all three social media firms did their part to facilitate Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections –and turn a profit in the process. Of course, our three runners-up are modest about this achievement. They still feign ignorance of such a role, even when campaign ad buyers were paying in Russian rubles: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/11/01/here-are-some-of-the-ads-russia-paid-to-promote-on-facebook_a_23264005/. It is rumored that company executives may not be present at tonight’s awards dinner. But I think US Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr and ranking member Mark Warner will attend, will accept the award in their stead, and will even offer some award add-ons in the form of subpoenas for all three runners up. What a bonus. Congratulations, Facebook, Google and Twitter.
Now for the 2017 Business by Carlson Golden Business Turkey Award winner: Equifax. Who says credit reporting is a deadly dull business of collecting and collating private information about nearly everyone’s financial and personal history? It isn’t when that private history –Social Security numbers, birth dates, home addresses– suddenly becomes a little less so thanks to hackers exploiting a weakness in the security system of a firm that’s supposed to have a hack-proof security system. Equifax brought that excitement to tens of millions of Americans earlier in 2017: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/09/26/equifax-ceo-retires-following-massive-data-breach/?utm_term=.ef76423aaff3. Compromising the private information of up to 143 million people gets you to the Golden Business Turkey Award final round, but to win, Equifax had to go further. When the breach was first announced and possible victims asked for credit “freezes” to keep identity thieves at bay, Equifax sought to charge them for the service: https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/13/16300536/equifax-waive-fees-data-until-november-breach That’s the kind of customer service and corporate chutzpah that undoubtedly impressed the Awards Committee and put Equifax over the top this year. Several former Equifax senior executives were asked to attend this evening’s awards dinner, but declined. Luckily, some former executives from Target are in town for fourth anniversary celebration of the 2013 Target information breach. We think these Target alums will be able to attend and accept the Golden Business Turkey Award for Equifax. Congratulations.
That’s it for the 2017 Business by Carlson Golden Business Turkey Awards. I again congratulate all of the finalists and hard-working Awards Committee members. We’ll see all of you and so many others at tonight’s awards dinner where the main course will once again be chimichangas. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.