Top 10 Business Blunders of 2011

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Businesses make mistakes all the time. Unfortunately, when they blunder, the reprecussions can be wide, from customer data being compromised to employees losing their jobs and shareholders getting wiped out.

Here's a look at 10 foul-ups of 2011.

PHOTO: Bank of America customers use ATM machines in New York City.
Mark Lennihan/AP Photo
1.
Bank of America: The $5 Fiasco

When Bank of America announced plans in late September to charge customers for using their debit card for purchases, customers expressed their outrage in dramatic fashion.

Over 150,000 people signed a petition asking the bank to cancel the $5 monthly fee and over 650,000 people joined Bank Transfer Day, shifting funds to credit unions.

The bank, still reeling from the mortgage meltdown, relented and announced on Nov. 1 the fee's cancellation.

2.
Netflix: Red Envelope Company Sees Red

DVD-rental company Netflix lost 800,000 of its 20 million members after it announced a new pricing plan and streaming service, Qwikster, in October. CEO Reed Hastings soon after canceled plans to split the service and apologized to customers, but the damage was done. Netflix's stock price, which was near $300 a share in mid-July and has a 52-week high of $304.79, recently traded at $70.

The company said it expects "to incur consolidated net losses for the year ending December 31, 2012," according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission dated Nov. 21.

In a ForeSee customer satisfaction survey released this week of the 40 biggest online retailers, Netflix fell 7 points to a score of 79 out of 100.

PHOTO: Activists believing that "Judgement Day" will happen on May 21, 2011, spread their word near Manhattan City hall in New York in this May 12, 2011 file photo.
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
3.
Family Radio: Doomsday Averted, But Not for Radio Station

Companies frequently miss forecasts but when Harold Camping, president of radio station Family Radio, predicted the end of the world twice this year, some may have breathed a sigh of relief.

Camping first predicted the end of the world for May 21, 2011 investing heavily with millions of collars in a national advertising campaign. After the world pressed on, Camping then changed his forecast to Oct. 21. Camping reportedly apologized for his failed predictions.

"I should not have said that, and I apologize," Camping said, according to San Francisco's KGO-TV. "God is merciful."

PHOTO: Blackberry smartphones
Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images
4.
RIM's Blackberry: Worldwide Outage

Outages for Canadian company Research in Motion's (RIM) Blackberry mobile device caused a stir after service in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia was knocked out Oct. 12.

David Yach, chief technology officer for software, said the problem originated in Europe and spread because there was a massive backlog of emails.

CEO Mike Lazaridis apologized in a Youtube video.

The company's shares fell more than 75 percent in 2011, with growing domination from smartphones with Google's Android software and the iPhone. The Wall Street Journal called 2011 a "disastrous" year for RIM and investors and analysts have called for the board to take stronger control of the company.

5.
Goldman Sachs: Occupy Losses

In October, venerated investment bank Goldman Sachs reported its second loss since its IPO in May 1999, missing estimates for the second consecutive quarter. The company reported a loss of $393 million in the third quarter compared with a $1.9 billion profit one year ago. Worries in both debt and equity markets caused softness in the bank's revenue, according to Janney Capital Markets.

Goldman Sachs and other large banks attracted the ire of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which launched on Sept. 17, for their role in risky bets in the subprime mortgage market that contributed to the country's near financial collapse.

PHOTO: A picture shows the headquarters of Japanese electronics company Sony in Tokyo in this May 13, 2010 file photo.
Toshifumi Kitamu/AFP/Getty Images
6.
Sony PlayStation: The Year of the Hack?

In April, Sony Corp. said the credit card data of PlayStation users may have been stolen in a hack that forced it to shut down its PlayStation Network for a week, disconnecting around 77 million user accounts around the world.

The company said there was no evidence that credit card information was compromised, but said it could not rule out that possibility, leading PlayStation users -- and their parents -- to take precautions with their data.

Several other companies confessed to data breaches, such as investment bank Morgan Stanley and online marketing firm Epsilon.

PHOTO: A sign is displayed in front of a Borders Bookstore in this July 18, 2011 file photo in San Francisco, Cali.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
7.
Borders: Bankruptcy, Liquidation

After bookseller Borders filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in February, the chain began liquidating bookstores and closed over 500 bookstores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico that it owned at the beginning of the year. Borders Group, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., announced 6,000 layoffs February 17 and 10,700 layoffs July 19.

Analysts say the model of large bookstore chains like Borders has a high-cost structure in a low margin industry that is migrating to electronic delivery rahter than bricks and mortar stores. Competitor Barnes and Noble acquired some of its assets including Borders brand trademarks and their customer list.

PHOTO: The parent companies of American Airlines and its regional affiliate American Eagle are filing for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection on Nov. 29, 2011.
Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo
8.
American Airlines: Friendly Skies of Bankruptcy

American Airlines' parent company, AMR, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Nov. 29, faced with rising fuel prices and high labor costs. While operations continued for customers, the airline said its employees would be the most affected.

The company, based in Fort Worth, Texas, was the only major U.S. airline that did not seek bankruptcy protection after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Unlike other carriers, American did not merge with a competitor, and it was the only major airline to lose money last year.

CEO Gerard Arpey stepped down and was replaced by Thomas Horton, formerly the company's president, to run the nation's third-largest airline. AMR shares plunged 85 percent to just 25 cents a share in trading that day. Yesterday the New York Stock Exchange announced that the company's shares would be delisted.

PHOTO: U.S. Postal Service city letter carrier Roy Sipe delivers mail to homes in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S., Nov. 30, 2011.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
9.
U.S. Postal Service: Shuttering Post Offices

The U.S. Postal Service had a dramatic last few years as post offices have closed in rural towns, and in 2011 the organization was near a default and faced a $9 billion deficit.

With the prevalence of e-mail and delivery competitors FedEx and UPS, the future of the postal service is very much in doubt.

On Sep. 15, the Postal Service announced it would begin studying 252 out of 487 mail processing facilities for possible closure but it has not yet confirmed closures of those facilities.

The Postal Service announced on Dec. 5 that it wants to cut an estimated $3 billion in costs to avoid a bankruptcy. The proposal includes the elimination of one-day delivery and closing half of its processing centers.

PHOTO: F Global Inc. signage is displayed at 60 East 53rd Street in New York, U.S., New York in this Nov. 11, 2011 file photo.
Stephen Yang/Bloomberg/Getty Images
10.
MF Global

The bankruptcy of the commodities trading firm MF Global on Oct. 31 was the eighth largest in U.S. history. About $1.2 billion in client money went missing as the company shut its doors. Jon Corzine, former senator and governor of New Jersey who resigned as CEO on Nov. 3, said he does not know where the money is.

After making risky bets on the European debt crisis, the company's bankruptcy has "devastated thousands of customers – including farmers, ranchers, grain elevators, small business owners and others," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. A Senate hearing about the missing money took place on Dec. 13, describing outrage from lawmakers and clients.

Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and other federal authorities are investigating who authorized the transfer of client money. MF Global may have transferred money to the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, a "middleman," which passed money to banks and other companies trading with the firm, the New York Times reported.

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