Everyone makes mistakes, but when large companies make them, they can risk people's privacy, their security, and even their lives. This year had more than its fair share of corporate screw-ups. Many were unintentional, while others revealed just how badly some companies need to take an ethics refresher course. Here's a list (in no particular order) of the biggest errors, scandals, and crimes of the world of big business in 2015.
1. Toshiba's accounting scandal.
In an effort to meet aggressive profit targets set by executives and managers, Toshiba decided to fudge its financial results. The electronics company admitted to inflating its earnings over a seven-year period by close to a whopping $2 billion.
2. FIFA's RICO problem.
FIFA, soccer's international governing body, isn't a corporation in the traditional sense, but make no mistake: It's big business. This year, the world heard the long-suspected news that the organization is plagued by institutional corruption. In two waves of arrests in May and December, U.S. investigators brought RICO charges against the organization, accusing FIFA officials of taking millions of dollars in bribes to influence clothing sponsorship contracts, the FIFA presidential election, and the selection process for the World Cup.
3. Goldman Sachs employee uses stolen confidential materials.
In October, investment firm Goldman Sachs was fined $50 million for not supervising an employee who allegedly used confidential regulatory information for the benefit of a client. The employee had worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York prior to Goldman and used his connections to get the confidential information.
4. The dirty business of oil and gas.
In November, 44 people and nine different oil and gas companies in New York City were indicted on charges of corruption and fraud. The Manhattan district attorney's indictments allege that the companies stole and resold about $34 million worth of heating oil that was never delivered to its customers. The DA's office stated that customers were being duped by the companies out of as much as 10 percent of the oil that they believed they had purchased.
5. Millions of kids' personal data hacked.
VTech, a toymaker that sells tablet computers for children, was the target of a massive hack that exposed personal data on 6.4 million children and 4.8 million adults. The company, which is based in Hong Kong, had been keeping names, home addresses, photos, videos, and chat logs on vulnerable servers. Fortunately for all involved, instead of selling the data or holding it for ransom, the hacker just went to the press so VTech would fix the security issues.
6. Exxon Mobil deliberately misleads the public about climate change.
From the 1980s through the early '90s, Exxon had teams of scientists studying global warming in the Arctic. The scientists concluded that global warming is real, and that it posed potential dangers for the company--higher sea levels could damage Exxon's drilling platforms, processing plants, pump stations, and pipelines. But company documents reveal that, instead of helping to combat the environmental risk, Exxon (now Exxon Mobile) decided to launch a multimillion-dollar campaign questioning climate change in order to bolster company profits.
7. Volkswagen cheats emissions tests.
In September, the Environmental Protection Agency caught Volkswagen in a huge scandal that reportedly could cost the company as much as $87 billion. The EPA uncovered that diesel-engine VW models sold in the United States had software installed allowing the cars to falsely pass emissions tests. Since then, VW has admitted to cheating the tests deliberately and revealed that 11 million cars worldwide were fitted with the so-called "defeat device."
8. Turing Pharmaceuticals jacks up prices.
Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli bought the rights to a drug named Daraprim, which treats a rare infection in HIV/AIDS patients--and promptly increased the price of it by 5,000 percent, from $18 a pill to $750. The former hedge fund manager said he was pressured by the company's board to make the company profitable. Still, the price hike and Shkreli's boorish behavior following it--including a statement that he should have raised the cost even higher--was a PR nightmare for the company and gave him the title of "most hated CEO in the world."