Goldmand Sachs HQ

Market research firm Harris Poll on Wednesday, Feb. 4, published its 16th annual ranking of the 100 most visible companies in the U.S. and Goldman Sachs may need to work on its image.  This year they beat out General Motors along with Koch Industries and BP for the dubious distinction of worst corporate reputation.

Harris Poll surveyed 27,278 people to generate its list (pdf) of America’s most- and least-loved corporations. Wegmans, a Rochester (N.Y.) grocer whose fans write love letters to its stores, claimed first place, followed by Amazon, Samsung, Costco, and Johnson & Johnson. Halliburton, Monsanto, Dish Network, and AIG were near the bottom of the list.

The report didn’t speculate on how Goldman earned its helping of hate, but the investment bank has been the subject of derision for its role in the financial crisis, and in 2011 was found by a U.S. Senate panel to have misled clients about its dealings with shaky mortgage-backed securities. Goldman’s public image has also been battered by insiders, like the executive director who resigned in 2012 by way of a scathing op-ed in the New York Times. More recently, Carmen Segarra, a former bank examiner for the Federal Reserve, released secret recordings to public radio program “This American Life” suggesting the central bank had gone easy on Goldman for a suspicious transaction with a Spanish Bank. Notably, although few have warmed to AIG and Goldman, overall distaste for the financial industry has eased: The share of Americans looking positively on the industry has increased to 35 percent from around 25 percent in 2013.

A bad reputation can affect a company’s bottom line. Harris Poll says 36 percent of adults have decided not to support a business because of something questionable they learned about its conduct. And more than half of consumers now do some research on the businesses they’ve either heard about or are about to spend money on. The findings suggest that companies aren’t as immune from moral blunders—be it expired meat or toxic mortgages—as they once might have been. “The American public strongly believes reputation matters and acts on that belief,” said Carol Gstalder, Harris Poll’s reputation and public relations practice leader.

Consumer ill will may not have the effect on Goldman that a few brutal reviews on Yelp has on a mom-and-pop shop, but there’s another unfortunate side effect of being a loathed business behemoth: Research into top business schools shows graduates increasingly passing over Wall Street for careers elsewhere, meaning Goldman, and firms like it, may be missing the talents of some of the brightest would-be financiers.

Top 20 most loved:

1) Wegmans
2) Amazon
3) Samsung
4) Costco
5) Johnson & Johnson
6) Kraft Foods
7) L.L. Bean
8) Publix Supermarkets
9) Apple
10) Google
11) Berkshire Hathaway
12) Walt Disney
13) Sony
14) CVS
15) Microsoft
16) Lowe’s
17) Kellogg
18) Chick-Fil-A
19) Boeing
20) Intel

Top 20 most hated:

1) Goldman Sachs
2) AIG
3) Dish Network
4) Monsanto
5) Halliburton
6) Sears Holding
7) Koch Industries
8) Comcast
9) Charter Communications
10) Bank of America
11) BP
12) Citigroup
13) General Motors
14) JPMorgan Chase
15) United Airlines
16) Time Warner
17) Walmart
18) DirecTV
19) ExxonMobil
20) Chrysler

Image credit:  dshibarshin | Flickr
Via Bloomberg