10. Jeff Brown
Vice president of public relations, Electronic Arts
Responding to criticism that it runs what amounts to a white-collar sweatshop, the video-game maker grudgingly agreed to pay overtime to its artists and developers. But Brown snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, threatening to outsource workers' jobs.
9. Maurice "Hank" Greenberg
Ex-CEO, American International Group
Greenberg couldn't quite hide behind his wife's skirt. Just when Eliot Spitzer's investigation into the insurer was heating up, Greenberg transferred $2.28 billion in AIG shares to his better half. He later succumbed to pressure from his lawyers and switched his shares back to joint ownership.
8. Bernard Ebbers
Founder and ex-CEO, WorldCom
Ebbers wept when he was sentenced to 25 years for orchestrating the biggest corporate accounting fraud in U.S. history. No doubt his tears were for WorldCom employees and investors who lost their life's savings in the $11 billion scandal.
7. Charles Knight
Head of compensation,
Morgan Stanley Board of Directors
Knight and the rest of Morgan's board did nothing while CEO Phil Purcell underperformed. When Purcell stepped down, the board rewarded him with $106 million. They also paid departing Purcell pal Stephen Crawford $32 million after just three months as copresident.
6. Glenn Tilton
CEO and chairman, United Air Lines
Tilton dumped United's $9 billion in pension obligations on the feds, leaving many of the airline's 120,000 current and former workers up in the air. But United somehow cleared Tilton's $4.5 million package for takeoff.
5. Robert McCallum
Associate attorney general,
Department of Justice
Delivering a kiss to his old buddies, McCallum, formerly an attorney for a law firm that represented R.J. Reynolds, allegedly ordered Justice lawyers to slash $120 billion in penalties from the federal racketeering lawsuit against Big Tobacco. After news of Justice's reversal, the stock of Altria Group, the maker of Marlboros, hit an all-time high.
4. H. Lee Scott Jr.
President and CEO, Wal-Mart
After firing vice chairman Thomas Coughlin for allegedly filing bogus invoices, Wal-Mart ousted VP Jared Bowen, who blew the whistle on Coughlin. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman charged that Bowen was part of Coughlin's scheme. Perhaps. But it's neither brave nor wise to shoot the messenger.
3. G. Richard Wagoner
Chairman and CEO, General Motors
Throwing a hissy fit over unflattering coverage, Wagoner pulled $20 million in ad spending from the Los Angeles Times. Blaming GM's problems on the media is not just cowardly, it's dumb: SoCal is the nation's biggest auto market, and the LA Times is its largest newspaper.
2. Norman Pearlstine
Editor-in-chief, Time Inc.
Is Time Inc. a journalistic institution or the maidservant to an entertainment behemoth, Time Warner? Pearlstine gave us the answer when he turned over Time reporter Matt Cooper's notes to the prosecutor investigating the CIA-agent outing.
1. Steve Ballmer
Talk about trying to have it both ways. Bowing to pressure from a minister, Ballmer took a stance of corporate neutrality on state antidiscrimination legislation supported by gay-rights proponents. Then he caved again, reversing Microsoft's position after the law failed by one vote in the state senate.
A version of this article appeared in the September 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.