Wells Fargo, Meta, PG&E, Boeing, and Others Receive ‘Unique Event Treatment’ in JUST’s 2024 Rankings

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JUST Capital’s annual Rankings of America’s Most JUST Companies score corporate  performance of the Russell 1000 against the priorities of the American public. Throughout the year, we monitor any unique events not captured by our current metrics that should theoretically have an effect on a company’s score and rank. Our analysts identify those events as instances resulting from a company’s actions or inactions that are: (1) considered material to just business behavior as defined by the public, (2) have the potential to affect a company’s standing outside the normal architecture of our ranking process, and (3) are sudden, extreme, or unusual in nature. This year, ten companies received a unique event treatment.

Our team screens possible events that fit the above criteria. The methodology involves a formal process of monitoring media coverage related to companies under consideration through platforms such as RepRisk, as well as consultation with the public, independent specialists, and other neutral third parties.

The details of each event, and how a company has or hasn’t responded to it, determine the type of treatment given to the company’s Ranking performance. These treatments, in order of increasing severity, are Serious (I), Severe (II), and Most Severe (III). Each step of the process, including the final results, are reviewed by independent specialists and other neutral third parties.

This year, the screening process identified 36 incidents, which were cross referenced along geographical and legal considerations among the full Russell 1000. Independent specialists evaluated the incidents to identify events that meet JUST Capital’s definition of a unique event. From there, 10 incidents and their related companies qualified for unique event treatments and assigned one of the three treatments listed above. Further details on the screening process and evaluation criteria can be found in our 2024 Rankings Methodology.

The ten cases JUST executed the unique events protocol in the 2024 Rankings are as follows:

Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc

Hawaiian Electric is a holding company with its principal subsidiaries engaged in electric utility and banking businesses operating mainly in the State of Hawaii. In 2023, the island of Maui experienced a deadly wildfire that resulted in destroyed towns, burned homes, and killed many residents. Three lawsuits allege that power lines owned by Hawaiian Electric, the main energy provider for the state, should have shut down to avoid this outcome. Due to the alleged negligence of the company with respect to this event and the company’s response and offerings of aid to the communities affected, they received a Severe (II) treatment resulting in the lowest score for the Community Development Issue.

Norfolk Southern

Through its freight railroad subsidiary, Norfolk Southern is engaged in rail transportation and transport of overseas freight in the United States. Norfolk Southern’s train equipment in Ohio experienced a major derailment that affected the local community’s health and safety due to the hazardous contents spilled in the derailment. Upon further investigation, it was found that a pattern of negligence and disregard of safety warnings led to the derailment, according to reports by theNational Transportation Safety Board. Norfolk Southern agreed to take responsibility for the cleanup, which affected the community’s soil, air, and water. This event resulted in the implementation of a Severe (II) treatment, yielding the lowest score in the Pollution Reduction Issue in the Environment Stakeholder.

Fox Corp

Fox Corporation is a media and entertainment company that produces and distributes news, sports, and entertainment content. At least one lawsuit alleged that coverage of the 2020 Election by Fox Corporation included misleading and false information. Some shareholders allege that by not monitoring the defamation risk of these broadcasts, it opened up the company to great risk with respect to its profits and stock prices. The alleged spread of misinformation and its negative impact on shareholders of the company has resulted in a Severe (II) treatment resulting in the lowest score for the Ethical Leadership Issue.

3M Co

3M is a global technology and materials company with products in industrial, health care, electronics, energy, and consumer industries. A subsidiary of 3M, Aearo, manufactured military earplugs that did not meet the standards for protection required by the government. 3M had tried placing Aearo into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but a federal judge rejected that attempt in June, per reports.The company’s actions resulted in a Severe (II) treatment resulting in the lowest score for the Ethical Leadership Issue.

Tesla Inc

Tesla designs, develops, manufactures, and sells electric vehicles and energy storage systems along with installation, operation, and maintenance of solar and energy storage products. Tesla’s vehicle technology, specifically its driver-assistance system, has been involved in a number of crashes. This year it was found that the amount of crashes and fatalities related to the system is far higher than previously reported, which resulted in an investigation into possible fraudulent marketing, per reports Tesla recently recalled 2 million vehicles to address this technology specifically. Tesla will receive the Most Severe (III) treatment resulting in the lowest score in the Shareholders Stakeholder due to the role of company leadership in this issue.

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson makes a range of health and well-being products in three business segments: Consumer, Pharmaceutical, and Medical Devices. Johnson & Johnson has been subject to lawsuits since their talc baby powder was linked to various forms of cancer. A subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, LTL Management, was formed for the express purpose of holding legal liabilities, filed for bankruptcy. A court dismissed this filing. Johnson & Johnson halted the global sale of talc powder in 2023. They received the Most Severe (III) treatment, resulting in the lowest score for the Shareholders Stakeholder.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo is a financial services company that provides retail, commercial, and corporate banking services through branches, the internet, and other channels to individuals, businesses, and institutions across the U.S. and in other countries. Wells Fargo was found to have opened up millions of accounts without the authorization of the customers. A Wells Fargo executive pleaded guilty in 2023 to obstructing the investigation of the remediation of this fraudulent activity. The Bank’s history of labor and banking violations extended into recent findings on employee usage of personal messaging for legal matters. The Most Severe (III) treatment will be reflected by giving Wells Fargo the lowest score in the Shareholders & Governance stakeholder.

The final three cases are carried over from the unique rankings treatment in our 2023 Rankings. Altria, Meta, PG&E all received a Most Severe (III) treatment last year in our Rankings. 

Altria is a manufacturer and seller of cigarettes, machine-made large cigars and pipe tobacco, smokeless tobacco products, and wine in the U.S. We assigned a substantial penalty to companies in the Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) Tobacco Subsector, following results from our 2016-2019 survey research. Our survey research has consistently revealed that most Americans believe that companies that make and market tobacco products are extremely harmful, less just, and should be in the bottom quartile of JUST Capital’s Rankings. Altria  receives the lowest score in the Customers stakeholder.

Meta is a social media conglomerate with billions of active users worldwide and owns Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus, among other products. The company has faced growing reports of its involvement in the spread of misinformation, hate speech, and other discriminatory and incendiary content on its platforms. This event is reflected in the Customers stakeholder. Meta  receives the lowest score in the Customers stakeholder.

PG&E is the holding company for Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a public utility involved in the sale and delivery of electricity and natural gas in California. They became notorious nationwide in 2019 for the bankruptcy connected to its wildfire liabilities in California. In 2021, the state determined that PG&E’s alleged negligence sparked or contributed to regional wildfires that resulted in human deaths, widespread destruction of property, and endangerment of local communities. PG&E receives the lowest score in the Communities stakeholder.

Since our initial unique event treatment, there have been no substantial changes in business practices by any of the above companies that would result in the removal of this treatment. Barring any significant changes in business practices specifically related to these events, this treatment will remain in effect for a maximum of three years. If another event or development occurs after the three-year period, the event can be evaluated and, in appropriate cases, treatment can be reinstated.

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