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'Most Admired Companies' list welcome after scandals

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 commentator.

Dallas, TX – In these times of corporate scandals and shady accounting practices, it's nice to know that Fortune Magazine can still come up with a list of the "Most Admired Companies." I'm Maxine Shapiro with KERA Marketplace Middays. Well, after the Enron debacle reared its slimy head, Fortune magazine polled ten thousand executives, analysts and directors on what companies they still admired most. Heading the list is General Electric. I'm not allowed to say much about them since they help underwrite "Marketplace," but I think being Number One speaks for itself.

Second was our very own Southwest Airlines. Nice goin'. Though returns for last year were definitely down, from 1996 to 2001 returns averaged almost 34 percent. Where most companies wear blinders on all other concerns but shareholder value, these companies, and especially Southwest Airlines seem to give equal concern to customer satisfaction and employee relations. As someone who flies Southwest often (and would like that frequency to grow but can't because of that goofy Wright Amendment, which Southwest doesn't feel a need to fight since they're making plenty of money elsewhere), I enjoy the flight. And I haven't met one Southwest employee that doesn't glow when speaking of their employer.

Third on this list, no surprise, Wal-Mart. They give people what they want at discount prices. And still stack up amazing returns.

Fourth are the bad boys of Microsoft. See, I love the company – maybe because I can relate to their rebellious nature. But when you consider that between the Justice Department and every state suing them for something, last year their returns totaled 52 percent. Compare that with the S and P 500 being down, and you've got a company that can withstand any storm.

The rest of the list reads as follows: Fifth, Berkshire Hathaway, then Home Depot, Johnson and Johnson, FedEx, Citigroup, and Intel. It's not all bad and this list is a well-deserved and well-timed breath of fresh air. For KERA Marketplace Middays, I'm Maxine Shapiro.

Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 PM.