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Top 5 Corporate Scandals of 2010

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I write this column with hesitancy. Is it really advisable to discuss the top five corporate scandals of 2010 when there are still 11 days to go?

Some of the biggest unpleasant surprises of past years have taken place in December, with Bernie Madoff's unwinding being the best example. The great Tsunami of 2004 took place on Dec. 26. Is a late-year corporate tsunami awaiting us?

In selecting this list of the Big Five Corporate Scandals of 2010, my aim was to select the ones that have -- or should have -- the most impact, and which point to a particular facet of corporate behavior. So, without further ado:

5. Yogurtgate: This burst on the corporate scandal scene only last week, and is an example of the oldest and most cherished forms of human chicanery: the snake oil salesman. Instead of worthless potions sold from the back of horse carts, we have a multinational, publicly traded company, Groupe Danone, selling worthless potions from millions of retail outlets around the world. Now, personally, I'm a fan of their Activia "probiotic" yogurt. But not the tactics they've used to peddle the stuff.

Dannon has been fibbing big time about its yogurt, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC said "Dannon claimed in nationwide advertising campaigns that DanActive helps prevent colds and flu, and that one daily serving of Activia relieves temporary irregularity and helps with 'slow intestinal transit time.' In television, Internet and print ads, as well as on product packaging, Dannon also stated that there was scientific proof to back up these claims." That's lying. That's fraud. So how come all Dannon has to do is cough up $21 million?

4. Hewlett-Packard Perma-Scandal (HPQ): Some companies aren't happy with simply making stuff. They feel the need to project their boardrooms' moral depravity on to the world at large. The best example of that is Hewlett-Packard, manufacturer of printers, toner and morally obtuse corporate executives. In August, CEO Mark Hurd quit amid allegations that he fibbed on his expense account and sexually harassed people. Now, if any of that were actually punishable, the jails of the nation would be filled with pinstripes.

Stock quotes in this article: HPQ, BP, BAC, JPM, WFC 

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