Worst Company In America 2008 "Sweet 16": Exxon VS DeBeers

Here’s your second “Sweet 16” match-up: #9 Exxon VS #25 DeBeers.

Here’s what some of you had to say about these two companies:

“DeBeers is a racket. But they probably have the world’s most successful marketing campaign in convincing women that diamonds are valuable and equal Love.”

“No, really honey, here’s how this works. I give some crappy monopoly $10,000 and you get this little shiny glittery thing and that proves how much I love you. See, I prove my love for you by giving away all my hard earned cash. Why, you ask? Because the TV said I had to!!

“Well, I know that I nominated Exxon Mobile, as I’m sure many did, so here was my reason: Record high oil prices (and this was back when the record was $100/barrel), record high gas prices, record high profits. The price of gas and diesel is driving up the cost of consumer goods, most notably groceries, and causing our already strained economy to be even moreso. Plus, they got off pretty easy for the Valdez spill. And I’m surly.”

This is a post in our Worst Company In America 2008 series. The companies nominated for this honor were chosen by you, the readers. Keep track of all the goings on at consumerist.com/tag/worst-company-in-america.


Edit Your Comment

  1. strangeffect says:


  2. Exxon-Mobil should get the lifetime achievement award and be permanently dropped from future consideration. They are truly in a league by themselves. That is all.

  3. Come on Exxon! You’re my picked winner – time to kick some ass!!

  4. Underpants Gnome says:

    This should be a final four matchup, or even the championship! One created an artifical diamond shortage to jack up the world diamond prices, and the other created an artificial refinery shortage to jack up world oil prices. I had to vote for de beers just because I had to do business with their cartel recently.

  5. IphtashuFitz says:

    Nobody needs diamonds. Everybody needs energy. The massive profits that Exxon/Mobil squeezes out of everybody is a disgrace, and their claim that their profits are rising due to the increased price of crude oil is absurd. If they make one penny of profit off one gallon of gas sold for $2.00 then why should they make any more profit off one gallon of gas sold for $4.00? Their increasing profits demonstrate that they only care about squeezing money out of hardworking people.

  6. B says:

    I picked DeBeers because they are artificially increasing the price of diamonds by restricting demands, whereas the price of oil is being driven up purely by the high demand. Other than that, these two are equally evil.

  7. Wormfather says:

    I dont know Exxon can stress your wallet but DeBeers is responsible for genocide through there illicite means of aquiring diamonds. Their smoke screen doesnt fool anyone anymore.

  8. highmodulus says:

    Poll Daddy is just crawling today. And that makes me a sad panda.

  9. synergy says:

    I agree with Wormfather.

  10. Angryrider says:

    I don’t know! DeBeers are killing people in the name of World Domination, while Exxon makes people become slaves in the same name.
    If only people could move beyond petroleum.

  11. IrisMR says:

    Let’s see… Diamonds, or gas. Hm. Which one can you live without?

    If you have a problem with your woman asking for expensive jewelry, dump her. That’s the sane thing to do frankly.

  12. Kali Mama says:

    Although the spending of stupid money on carbon is nasty, I think the little African boys whos hands have been chopped off with a machete should rank higher as a reason why de Beers is evil.

  13. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Why does the poll think I’ve already voted?!?! :(

  14. xhx says:

    Too bad DeBeers will lose due to the recent headlines. They definitely have my vote.

  15. barty says:

    OK…before you guys continue to demonize oil companies, what was Exxon’s profit MARGIN last year?? You know, how much money did they make per dollar of sales?? On the high end, maybe about 7-8 cents. Wow…they’re really gouging us!! Look to our own government if you want to see who gets one of the biggest cuts out of every gallon of gas purchased.

    Our liberal, anti-business media likes spouting gross profit numbers, but conveniently leaves out their revenues or most importantly, their costs.

    DeBeers truly is guilty of price manipulation by artificially limiting the world supply. Its easy to do when you own about 90% of the world’s diamond mines.

  16. @barty: Our liberal WHAT? Seriously, if you don’t want to sound like a complete idiot, I would consider NOT using that tired old line about the “liberal media.”

  17. I chose a pseudo-scientific approach.
    If diamonds are highly-concentrated carbon, and oil is a hydrocarbon, I guess that makes Debeers business just a concentrated oil company
    … that uses children to drill for it.

  18. johnva says:

    I’m pretty sure DeBeers no longer has quite the monopoly over diamond production they used to. Yes, their practices and marketing in the past were really sleazy and evil. But now a number of diamond-producing countries and mines have decided not to play ball with them. They’ve also supposedly reformed ethically to a degree, with the whole Kimberley Process thing and the fact that they now split profits 50/50 with the Botswanan government. That deal provides a lot of money to Botswana that gets used for good purposes like managing the AIDS crisis.

    Sure, DeBeers has a history of doing horrible things, and they may still be doing that for all I know. But in the end, no one is making you buy the shiny rocks they sell. You can avoid diamonds, go with a man-made diamond, or with a diamond that comes from some other source, like Canada. Diamonds are a totally optional thing.

    Oil, not so much. And Exxon is also guilty of a lot of nasty practices. I don’t exactly care for their efforts to corrupt our government.

  19. milqey says:

    Both have inflated the cost of their commodity by dubious means but oil is an essential commodity while diamonds were just an ad campaign we were dumb enough to fall for.

    Exxon gets it.

  20. MrDo says:

    Exxons profit margins run anywhere from 8-11% over the last 10 years. Match those against say Bank of America who has averaged over 21%.

    I’m really kind of surprised that this site remains so ignorant about what constitutes revenue vs actual profit.

    You are aware that 94% of the worlds oil is managed by Nationalized oil companies. Exxon and the rest have to pay them for the oil they process.

    Exxon cannot set the price of oil, but DeBeers can pretty much set the price of diamonds. If you really want to point some fingers, look at the speculators who are driving up prices, our government for its weak dollar policy, and democrats in congress who refuse to allow for any form of oil drilling within the United States.

  21. NotATool says:

    Exxon. As others have said, you don’t need diamonds. 100% luxury. Energy, however, is something we need. Not to mention other useful everyday products made from petroleum…

  22. Shadowfire says:

    @IphtashuFitz: No, Exxon makes the same amount of money per gallon as they always have. Ever notice that we’re buying more gas? Yea…

    People need to stop bitching about the oil companies. Especially when you realize that the federal government makes twice as much money on a gallon of gas as oil companies do.

  23. dallasmay says:

    wow, Blood for Oil, or Blood for Diamonds?

    Kill for something you think you need, or kill for something your think your girlfriend needs. This is unfair. I wish both companies would disappear. By the way, my wife has a CZ, does that make me cheep or ethical. (And yes, she knows its a CZ.)

  24. Trai_Dep says:

    Poor lil’ oil companies. I keep forgetting how naive they are, refusing to lobby Washington – and the only reason they might is so they might selflessly make the government hike the CAFE standards to save the US billions of barrels a year. Free. Talk about putting nation before profit!
    And, phew. So upstanding of them to not fill the offices of the most incompetent, power-mad White House in history with their former executives. Shame, though, since if they only had, they’d have steered us clear of Iraq.
    “We’re only here to help” is their motto. Since they know even one American life – let alone over 4,000 – lost to boost their balance sheet would be immoral.
    Nice of them to return the hundreds of billions of dollars/re in taxpayer-funded subsidies as well ([www.ucsusa.org]). And manning up to pay for their industry’s externalities (ibid).
    Yup – Big Oil. They’re PIKERS! Free-market PIKERS!

  25. Trai_Dep says:

    Oops. 4th para, 1st line: billions of dollars/yr. Sigh.

  26. Inu Teisei says:

    Riddle me this. If that is true, then why does gas in Mexico cost a whole
    dollar less just across the border? Is it due to lack of refineries? Then
    why until recently were none built for the past what 15 years? Is it due to
    high demand & limited supply? Then why is that for the last 6-7 years the
    oil companies have received massive tax breaks for exploration but have not
    done any real exploration except for what in ANWAR? Meanwhile 50 miles off
    Florida, Brazil is exploring drilling for oil. Keep spouting shill, no one
    believes your propaganda anymore.

  27. MaytagRepairman says:

    Oil companies make large profits but I noticed the top-ten holdings of the stock funds in my 401k own Exxon-Mobile so somewhere I hope my retirement account is blessed by it.

    Also I can use less oil and convince a woman to use less oil but I will be damned if I can find a woman who would forgo a diamond ring at her wedding!

  28. @MrDo: @barty:

    Thank you. Exxon’s market share is 3%, ladies and gentlemen. That makes them capable of changing, oh – *nothing* about the way the oil industry is run.

    Also – their profit margin is less than McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Apple… so I’m not understanding where this windfall profit argument is coming from. They make a lot of money because they spend a *lot* of money.

  29. Trai_Dep says:

    The “profit margin is TINY” Repub talking point loses its luster when confronted w/ the fact that Big Oil is able to write off tens of billions a year as a tax deduction, along with the tens to hundreds of billions/yr of subsidies and unmet externalities.
    Then again, I don’t expect the people who were for Enron before they collapsed to be savvy with the concept of transparent accounting practices.

  30. BlackFlag55 says:

    DeBeers hands down and pulling away. One word … Africa.

  31. james says:

    I am not sure where the 3% market share number comes from. Market share is always a tough stat to quantify anyway. For sure is that it is a huge, powerful, profitable and morally devoid company.

    They even have their own anti-esso (ExxonMobil in the US) page with Greanpeace.

    per wiki:
    ExxonMobil is the world’s largest company by revenue, at $404.5 billion for the fiscal year of 2007. It is also the largest publicly held corporation by market capitalization, at $501.17 billion on April 18, 2008.

  32. Dabeers may be claim that less than 1% of diamonds are conflict/blood diamonds, but they still were a major player in it back in the day. They truly do cause people to waste hard earned cash.

    Exxon having high gas prices sucks, but it’s not like they’re exclusively selling expensive gas, everyone is. As for their politics, I could do without it, but Dabeers supporting genocide beats out careless environmental practices and typical republican views.

    $10,000 gas or a ring? Which would you choose?

  33. james says:

    I am not sure where you get that market share number. Market share is an easy figure to manipulate as well as there are many ways to define it.

    Whatever the percent, they are huge, profitable and morally defunct.
    per wiki: ExxonMobil is the world’s largest company by revenue, at $404.5 billion for the fiscal year of 2007. It is also the largest publicly held corporation by market capitalization, at $501.17 billion on April 18, 2008.

    And they have their own page as the largest offender of the environment on Greanpeace. Nice going guys. Couldn’t maybe use a little of the $400B to fix some of the spills and dumping?


  34. james says:

    sorry about the dup post, my mistake.

  35. rmz says:

    @MrDo: Seconded.

    Oil companies’ profit margins are lower than banking companies, pharmaceutical companies, cosmetics companies, and the list goes on. Why are only oil companies being singled out for “windfall profits” taxation when their profits are high solely on a VOLUME basis, and not a PERCENTAGE basis?

    Because demonizing oil companies is hip these days, I guess.

    @dallasmay: “I wish both companies would disappear.”

    Be careful what you wish for. Because clearly all of the oil companies vanishing from the face of the earth would be a great solution. Hope you don’t take any medications, use any basic necessities, or eat any food that is transported cross-country by trucks!

  36. wfpearson says:

    The US government makes more money of every gallon of gas sold from an Exxon pump through taxes than does Exxon. Exxon delivers millions of gallons of needed gasoline to the US to fuel our economy.

    DeBeers uses governments and dictators to manipulate diamond prices and protect its monopoly at the expense of peasant children.

    How can there be any question about which is more evil?

  37. TechnoDestructo says:

    @Steaming Pile:

    “Liberal” means “disagrees with Bill O’Reilly.”

    To anyone who has never listened to Pacifica.

  38. ZWECK says:

    @MaytagRepairman:”I will be damned if I can find a woman who would forgo a diamond ring at her wedding!”

    I did… and I married her!

  39. mac-phisto says:

    @Wormfather, BlackFlag55: what you are referring to occurs with oil as well. here’s a good primer & it’s just the beginning –> [www.globalissues.org]

  40. Learethak says:

    Lets not all forget the Exxon Valdez oil spill where they dumped 53 million galleons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

    19 years later they are still contesting the settlement in court, and not a dime has reached the fishermen and families who’s livelihood was ruined.

    Snip from Wikipedia.

    “In 1994, in the case of Baker vs. Exxon, an Anchorage jury awarded $287 million for actual damages and $5 billion for punitive damages. The punitive damages amount was equal to a single year’s profit by Exxon at that time.

    Exxon appealed the ruling, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the original judge, Russel Holland, to reduce the punitive damages. On December 6, 2002, the judge announced that he had reduced the damages to $4 billion, which he concluded was justified by the facts of the case and was not grossly excessive. Exxon appealed again and the case returned to court to be considered in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling in a similar case, which caused Judge Holland to increase the punitive damages to $4.5 billion, plus interest.

    After more appeals, and oral arguments heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on 27 January 2006, the damages award was cut to $2.5 billion on 22 December 2006. The court cited recent Supreme Court rulings relative to limits on punitive damages.

    Exxon appealed again. On 23 May 2007, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied ExxonMobil’s request for a third hearing and let stand its ruling that Exxon owes $2.5 billion in punitive damages. Exxon then appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.[14] On February 27, 2008, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for 90 minutes. A decision is expected before the court’s term ends in July.”

  41. DeBeers for brainwashing a whole gender into consuming their useless product.

  42. sisedi says:

    @postnocomments: Yes, pretty much considering how many diamonds are out there, ugh, they’re shiny so it’s way ok!

    @Learethak: Obviously inexcusable but you can’t blame them for not wanting to give money away, just natural for the corporate organism.

    @Trai_Dep: Yes, with a $500+ Billion revenue you would expect righting off a few billion here and there would be proportional to the right-offs that a nuclear family could subtract from their income tax, no? Just because something or someone is richer than you should not make them liable to a substantially higher tax bracket. This system punishes the wealthy for taking the risks and spending the money many of would never have the balls to do so.

    It’s easy for us little people and government to look at these giant companies and say that they owe us but deep down you know that’s a pile of crap as long as they sell a product we want and operate within reasonable regulation. And lest we forget that taxing this company even further for their “windfall” REVENUE will totally excite them into dropping their price and increasing their output, amiright?!!?

  43. sporks says:

    This should really be a final matchup, not round two. I’m torn. Blood diamonds or blood for oil…

  44. Counterpoint says:

    @KelseyPublius: “Then why until recently were none built for the past what 15 years?

    Because environmentalists and Democrats won’t let them? Just recently Bush tried to turn two decommissioned military bases into refineries to a) help with the refinery issue and b) help the local economies, but the Democrats in Congress voted it down.

    This poll is silly. A company who is responsible for genocide, monopoly, and robbing people of hard-earned cash through decades of brainwashing vs a company who provides a much needed product at ~ a 4% profit margin, all the while providing the government with ~ 15% tax margins on the same product.

  45. fairywench says:

    Well, being a fairly militant liberal, I never thought I’d stick up for an oil company, but – I just started working for Exxon, as a contractor. Now, I am in my late 40’s and I have ADD and a low tolerance for bullshit – what that means is I have changed jobs frequently and have therefore worked for a lot of companies. And what I have discovered, much to my chagrin, is that Exxon is possibly the best company I have ever worked for.

    Yes, that scares me, but it’s true. Everyone working here, at all levels, is treated with respect. Everyone is treated like an adult, not a child. Everyone has an office not a cubicle, but the offices are far from plush. In fact, they are some of the least fancy offices I’ve ever seen. However, the building has a atrium and the grounds are very much like a park, which makes it a very pleasant place to work. I haven’t run across any office politics yet, either. I haven’t seen any evidence of wasteful spending – software is most definitely NOT the latest version, but it works. There are a lot of programs in place to benefit the employees and their families – health and fitness programs, time allowed for volunteer work, etc. Everyone I’ve seen is actually working, not goofing off.

    I’m sure people will come back at me with posts about the evils of Exxon, and they’ll probably be correct. But I felt that in all fairness, I needed to point out that they have a good side. If nothing else, there are thousands of people who don’t hate their job. That makes a huge difference in someone’s overall quality of life.

  46. Greeper says:

    @fairywench: @fairywench:

    Yeah, Ive worked for XOM for many years, I’m a liberal and a real environmentalist (meaning I practice and dont just complain), and it pains me to see the rap ExxonMobil gets. It s a company obsessed to the point of absurdity with environmentalism, safety, and ethics, especially at the highest levels. But the bottom line is Americans feel a sense of entitlement to cheap energy. Jus tthink about it…oil companies turn shit into something really useful – safely and cheaply – and get it around the world cheaper than mailing somehting that weight a thousanth the weight, and deliver it so efficiently that people go apeshit when the pricce goes up a nickel….and it’s losing to a company which enslaves children and sells what are actually very plentiful drill bits for thousands of dollars.

  47. barty says:

    @KelseyPublius: Taxes largely. Or government subsidies. Then there’s our onerous environmental regulations and special blend fuels.

    Subsidies are one the reasons why the Chinese and Indians are (supposedly) buying gas like there’s no tomorrow, the government is subsidizing it to the point where they don’t quite feel the pain at the pump like we do.

    @Steaming Pile: When I can tune to CNN and not hear 3 out of 4 stories about the high price of gas doing nothing but stating how “evil” corporations are and how they are to blame for all of our pains at the pump, while neglecting to include essential facts, I’ll retract my comment. They conveniently leave out essential information in their so called “news” to more or less brainwash the gullible and ignorant in this country into thinking every single corporation is out to get them while thinking our government is their great savior. I have no love for either major political party at this point (I tend to support more libertarian ideas), but the crap coming from the left just outright infuriates me to no end.

  48. burddog says:

    Debeers is pretty bad. I know a little about Exxons’s exploits, but to me DeBeers is just as evil as they come. They are responsible for building desire for a product that essentially has no value despite its prettiness. As a result they have helped fuel genocide, actively employ children in India for diamond polishing all for a product that they have invented as essential for life. East Asian cultures like Korea or Japan had never understood the need for diamond rings until DeBeers marketed their goods into the cultural psyche of said cultures. Now, they can sell these things to these people for entirely fictional prices. Another example is how they changed the image of dirty diamonds into ones of uniqueness and beauty simply by changing the name of the color from ‘brown’ to ‘cognac.’ Suddenly dirty diamonds are valuable again! Yay! Our kids in India can work again!
    Exxon has made some pretty big mistakes, but that still doesn’t change the fact that they are energy distributors. Energy, despite where it comes from or the exploitations it requires is still a necessary commodity. DeBeers delivers a product that is USELESS. And the price of diamonds goes far beyond the sticker shock. DeBeers preys on our ignorance. I have to say that DeBeers is the worse of the two.

  49. sam1am says:

    I don’t care about a diamond racket, because diamonds are dumb and unnecessary. If they want to charge a billion bucks for them, I’m fine – the money paid becomes the value, not the item itself.

    Now if it’s something people NEED – say food, clothing, or even gas – and there is a monopoly charging exorbitant prices, then that’s entirely another issue.

  50. Wormfather says:

    @mac-phisto: Yeah but the movie “Blood Diamond” made me cry, “Syriana”, not so much.

    Voila, logic.

  51. Wormfather says:

    Oh and to everyone who doesnt think diamonds are necisary, think again there are a lot of everyday industrial and scientific uses for the hardest stone on the planet.

    And they also go great on salad!

  52. mac-phisto says:

    @Wormfather: touché.

  53. Trai_Dep says:

    @barty: Because CNN has people working there that are cognizant of the accounting discipline, and realize how fluid and context-laden a term like “profit margin” is, perhaps? That’s why they don’t hype Big Oil’s favorite talking point.
    While it makes a GREAT bullet point, if you bother to dig past it (y’know, use some independent thought), you’d be schooled.
    Shame you’re not looking for truth, but simply to shout out slogans, tho.

  54. barty says:

    @Trai_Dep: Independent thought, in the liberal mind is, “corporations are out to screw us, financial statements are bunk, they’re all contrived and filled with double-speak and anyone who tries to convince me otherwise is just spouting talking points for the rich and greedy.”

    Did I get that right?

    Since when was profit margin a fluid and context-laden? Last time I checked, I could go look at the annual reports for a publicly held company and calculate their profit margin for myself. Hey, why don’t we do that right now!

    Last year, Exxon made $404 billion in revenue. Their net profit (the record number the media likes to spout off) was $40 billion. Quick calculations shows that to be about 10%. Their costs last year were $335 billion, taxes (this is for the windfall profits folks) were $29 BILLION last year. All of these subsidies and tax credits you liberals like to moan and groan about wouldn’t even pay half the tax bill for ONE oil company for ONE year. Those are the facts.

    Ok, because I thought I’d be remiss for not pointing out their profit margin numbers from years past, I went back a few years just to demonstrate that oil companies haven’t been on some trek to screw the consumer. Between 2007-2000, their profit margin averaged between 7% and 10%. In 1999, it actually dipped to about 4%, evidently due to buying back shares of stock and other costs related to their merger with Mobil.

    So please tell me what I’m supposed to be schooled on???

  55. Trai_Dep says:

    When you have hundreds of billions in unmet externalities and infrastructure subsidies and tens of billions in corporate welfare and tax breaks, and when the industry is largely responsible for foisting an administration upon us that followed policies that resulted in doubling or tripling the bbl price of oil, then only looking at profit margin is simple-minded.

    It’s like those people saying nuclear energy is clean, ignoring the waste. You can make anything look good if you only look at a particular part of the elephant, as it were. Focusing solely on profit margin is doing exactly that.

  56. Trai_Dep says:

    And there are a number of American corporations that are creating genuine value and are lauded, rightly. They innovate – or I should say, innovate outside of the lobbying arena. It’s the ones whose best work is done on K Street that rightfully earn only our scorn.

  57. barty says:

    1) The subsidies and tax breaks amount to about $20 billion over the next 10 years. That doesn’t even pay the tax bill for a company like Exxon for one year. As it stands, they are actually one of the most heavily taxed industries in the United States.

    2) Please identify exactly which policies have DIRECTLY resulted in the run-up in the price of oil? If we really want to look at policies that have resulted in the surge in the price of a barrel of oil, who is it that keeps thwarting any attempt to drill for our own sources of oil? Or building new refineries on our own soil, many of which would be built in areas that are already developed for such activity? Who has proposed “Windfall profits” taxes or other anti-energy legislation under the guise of environmental protection that results in more regulation more taxes, both of which will be passed along to the consumer?

    Nuclear power is clean and we have an acceptable method of disposing of the waste. We’re buyring the stuff in an area that was previously a nuclear test range back in the 50s and 60s, in other words, an area that nobody will ever live in or near for probably the next 200-300 years. We let single instances of operator error (Three Mile Island, those operating errors have since LONG been corrected) or a reactor design that was a result of Communist inefficiency (Chernobyl…rest of the world doesn’t build plants like that, period) dictate our ability to build new plants 25-30 years later. Despite the advances in technology. Despite a near flawless operating record in the intervening period.

    Many of the countries liberals such as yourself laud as being “beacons of green power”, such as France, derive about 80% of their country’s power from nuclear energy.

    As much as I welcome innovation in alternative energy sources, the technology has not developed to the point where they are cost efficient yet. Nor are some technologies, such as wind and solar power, feasible for all areas of the country because of weather patterns. In order for our country to continue to grow and prosper, we must continue to have access to proven and cost-efficient sources of energy, while encouraging development of alternatives.

  58. JustaConsumer says:

    Exxon extorts people. DeBeers kills people. Choice is simple.

  59. techstar25 says:

    Can you imagine if Exxon owned ALL THE OIL IN THE WORLD, and then had SLAVES dying to bring it to market. And then marketed the hell out of it convincing the American public that they needed even more gasoline. Yeah, well then they’d be almost as bad as DeBeers.
    This is an easy choice.

  60. tqbf says:

    Ok, come on.

    Exxon is a bad company that is an inevitable byproduct of bad societal policy. We’re as much to blame as they are.

    DeBeers is bad PURELY BY CHOICE.

  61. Cap'n Jack says:


  62. cst says:

    To all voting for Exxon: With all due respect, you are very unfair! Exxon has nothing to do with current high oil prices. It’s completely outside of their control.

    You can blame many others: oil producing nations (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran etc..) for failing to keep up with raising demand, or developing countries for subsidizing gasoline prices, and thus, its consumption; or, by the way, ourselves for our crazy passion for SUVs and complete ignorance of the need for energy efficiency.

    VOTE: DeBeers